Heady Irish cream

Martin Hayes and Dennis Cahill gave Chennai a taste of Irish folk music recently.

January 01, 2015 07:15 pm | Updated 07:15 pm IST

Martin Hayes and Dennis Cahill .  Photo: V. Sabarinathan

Martin Hayes and Dennis Cahill . Photo: V. Sabarinathan

While the city was resonating with Carnatic music, Martin Hayes and Dennis Cahill – an Irish fiddler and an American guitarist - added a flavour of Irish folk music to the Margazhi festival with their scintillating musical odyssey.

The duo performed at various venues across Chennai as a part of their India tour. For the proud ambassadors of traditional Irish music, who dearly love Indian music, it was a chance to make the two worlds shake hands!

“Carnatic music is very complex and difficult. We were wondering if we would receive acceptance, but the Chennai audience really seemed to like it,” says Dennis. True to that, at the pinnacle of their repertoire one could easily spot air fiddlers and tap dancers among the audience, soaked in musical ecstasy.

The core of Irish music is melody, which is repeated like a chant over and over again. As the music gets intense, it becomes an unconscious thing, the musician shares the capacity to make subtle variations of the melody. One has the scope to hold a note a little longer, to shape another one or to put a new twist on the phrase.

“One needn’t necessarily improvise because feeling is everything. As long as the feeling continues there are no obligations”, points out Martin.

Back in Ireland, the duo is part of the band ‘Gloaming,’ which was the No.1 selling band across all genres. They sing ancient music and are also open to contemporary musical ideas. The duo feels very much a part of Irish consciousness as the youth feels connected with their ancient music.

So, what is their stand on innovation? Over a course of time, every music had to undergo innovation and gradual evolution. “In order to move forward, one doesn’t have to lose things. The challenge is to bring forward all the richness you have and not lose that. Its OK to add to it,” explains Martin. He reminds one that to be able to add concepts and ideas that are complementary to what has already been done, one has to understand the technique, but more important, grasp the quality of tradition and its spirit. One has to listen, judge and feel with one’s heart and not with one’s head. “All traditions have strong pillars to hold them together with delicate balance. If I mess with it, I hurt the music”, adds Dennis.

At the Russian Cultural Centre, the duo performed in memory of Mandolin Shrinivas, whom they have heard live twice with John McLaughlin. They feel humbled as he was a maestro who had ‘incredible virtuosity and breathtaking musicianship’.

Martin and Dennis collaborated with Karaikudi Subrahmanian (veena) and sarod player Mattu Noone in a musical journey titled ‘Samadharshana’ at the Egmore Museum Theatre. Collaborations with Indian musicians have been rewarding for them, as they managed to come together without significantly altering and compromising their music, and by finding a commonality. “I can still play my Irish music in conjunction with Indian music”, concludes Martin.

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