A Peak into Ireland’s Trad Music Scene
Program Semester and Year
I’ve been itching to listen to live traditional Irish music (a.k.a. trad music) ever since I landed in Dublin Airport about three weeks ago. After spending a week and a half settling in and exploring our new home Dublin, I finally got the chance to go to a pub that plays live trad music every night (5pm from Monday to Friday, from 2pm on weekends) called the Cobblestone which describes itself as “a drinking pub with a music problem.” In addition to this pub being mentioned first on the list of two different “Best Traditional Music Pubs in Dublin” articles (Publin.ie and DublinLive.ie), the Minister for Irish Culture personally recommended this pub to my friend. So, it had to be good.
It was less than a 10 minute walk from our residence in the Liberties; just on the other side of the Liffey in northwest Dublin. When my friends and I got there around 8 pm on a Saturday, it was already packed with people — the space was much smaller than I had expected. We wiggled our way through the crowd to the bar to order a pint of Guinness (clearly I was there to get the most Irish experience possible). Now the challenge was making our way back to the cozy corner with red walls next to the entrance where the musicians were playing their instruments to the thumps of feet and the Woo-ah!’s of the audience. Three flutists, two violinists, one man with a pear-shaped guitar, and one man with an instrument that resembled a bagpipe (I looked it up; they’re called the Uilleann pipes). The musicians’ ages ranged from the twenties to the sixties, all with a pint of beer in front of them. Every single person at the pub was either laughing and having conversations with strangers they just met or clapping along to the sounds of the Celtic instruments.
After standing squished in between people for an hour, we scored seats right in front of the musicians. I had never really listened to Irish trad music before but there’s something about live music that draws me in, regardless of the genre. I listened, I danced, I sang along, and I observed. What I found the most fascinating in my observations was that the musicians didn’t seem to know each other from before, but they were playing one song after another perfectly in unison without saying a word to each other in between sets. It was like they had this unspoken magical connection that permeated through all the trad music performers. Truthfully, they made me want to throw away all my life responsibilities, move to Ireland, pick up the Uilleann pipes, and play with them every night, just so that I could have a part in performing the simple yet so mesmerizing sound of Irish trad music. Realistically, I can’t do any of these things; but I do know that I’ll go back to the Cobblestone again soon for that good old craic.
10/10, I recommend.