Celtic music is a broad grouping of music genres that evolved out of the folk music traditions of the Celtic people of Western Europe.It refers to both orally-transmitted traditional music and recorded music and the styles vary considerably to include everything from "trad" (traditional) music to a wide range of hybrids.
Celtic music means two things mainly. First, it is the music of the people that identify themselves as Celts. Secondly, it refers to whatever qualities may be unique to the music of the Celtic nations. Many notable Celtic musicians such as Alan Stivell and Paddy Moloneyclaim that the different Celtic music genres have a lot in common.
These following melodic practices may be usedwidely across the different variants of Celtic Music:
These two latter usage patterns may simply be remnants of formerly widespread melodic practices.
Often, the term Celtic music is applied to the music of Ireland and Scotland because both lands have produced well-known distinctive styles which actually have genuine commonality and clear mutual influences. The definition is further complicated by the fact that Irish independence has allowed Ireland to promote 'Celtic' music as a specifically Irish product. However, these are modern geographical references to a people who share a common Celtic ancestry and consequently, a common musical heritage.
These styles are known because of the importance of Irish and Scottish people in the English speaking world, especially in the United States, where they had a profound impact on American music, particularly bluegrass and country music.The music of Wales, Cornwall, the Isle of Man, Brittany, Galician traditional music (Spain) and music of Portugal are also considered Celtic music, the tradition being particularly strong in Brittany, where Celtic festivals large and small take place throughout the year, and in Wales, where the ancient eisteddfod tradition has been revived and flourishes. Additionally, the musics of ethnically Celtic peoples abroad are vibrant, especially in Canada and the United States. In Canada the provinces of Atlantic Canada are known for being a home of Celtic music, most notably on the islands of Newfoundland, Cape Breton and Prince Edward Island. The traditional music of Atlantic Canada is heavily influenced by the Irish, Scottish and Acadian ethnic makeup of much of the region's communities. In some parts of Atlantic Canada, such as Newfoundland, Celtic music is as or more popular than in the old country. Further, some older forms of Celtic music that are rare in Scotland and Ireland today, such as the practice of accompanying a fiddle with a piano, or the Gaelic spinning songs of Cape Breton remain common in the Maritimes. Much of the music of this region is Celtic in nature, but originates in the local area and celebrates the sea, seafaring, fishing and other primary industries.
In Celtic Music: A Complete Guide, June Skinner Sawyers acknowledges six Celtic nationalities divided into two groups according to their linguistic heritage.The Q-Celtic nationalities are the Irish, Scottish and Manx peoples, while the P-Celtic groups are the Cornish, Bretons and Welsh peoples. Musician Alan Stivell uses a similar dichotomy, between the Gaelic (Irish/Scottish/Manx) and the Brythonic (Breton/Welsh/Cornish) branches, which differentiate "mostly by the extended range (sometimes more than two octaves) of Irish and Scottish melodies and the closed range of Breton and Welsh melodies (often reduced to a half-octave), and by the frequent use of the pure pentatonic scale in Gaelic music."
There is also tremendous variation between Celtic regions. Ireland, Scotland, Brittany, Wales, and Cornwall have living traditions of language and music, and there has been a recent major revival of interest in Celtic heritage in the Isle of Man. Galicia has a Celtic language revival movement to revive the Q-Celtic Gallaic language used into Roman times.Most of the Iberian Peninsula had a similar Celtic language in pre-Roman times. A Brythonic language was used in parts of Galicia and Asturias into early Medieval times brought by Britons fleeing the Anglo-Saxon invasions via Brittany. The Romance language currently spoken in Galicia, Galician (Galego) is closely related to the Portuguese language used mainly in Brazil and Portugal. Galician music is claimed to be Celtic. The same is true of the music of Asturias, Cantabria, and that of Northern Portugal (some say even traditional music from Central Portugal can be labeled Celtic).
Breton artist Alan Stivell was one of the earliest musicians to use the word Celtic and Keltia in his marketing materials, starting in the early 1960s as part of the worldwide folk music revival of that erawith the term quickly catching on with other artists worldwide. Today, the genre is well established and incredibly diverse.
There are musical genres and styles specific to each Celtic country, due in part to the influence of individual song traditions and the characteristics of specific languages:
The modern Celtic music scene involves a large number of music festivals, as it has traditionally. Some of the most prominent festivals focused solely on music include:
The oldest musical tradition which fits under the label of Celtic fusion originated in the rural American south in the early colonial period and incorporated English, Scottish, Irish, Welsh, German, and African influences. Variously referred to as roots music, American folk music, or old-time music, this tradition has exerted a strong influence on all forms of American music, including country, blues, and rock and roll.In addition to its lasting effects on other genres, it marked the first modern large-scale mixing of musical traditions from multiple ethnic and religious communities within the Celtic diaspora.
In the 1960s several bands put forward modern adaptations of Celtic music pulling influences from several of the Celtic nations at once to create a modern pan-celtic sound. A few of those include bagadoù (Breton pipe bands), Fairport Convention, Pentangle, Steeleye Span and Horslips.
In the 1970s Clannadmade their mark initially in the folk and traditional scene, and then subsequently went on to bridge the gap between traditional Celtic and pop music in the 1980s and 1990s, incorporating elements from new-age, smooth jazz, and folk rock. Traces of Clannad's legacy can be heard in the music of many artists, including Enya, Donna Taggart, Altan, Capercaillie, The Corrs, Loreena McKennitt, Anúna, Riverdance and U2. The solo music of Clannad's lead singer, Moya Brennan (often referred to as the First Lady of Celtic Music) has further enhanced this influence.
Later, beginning in 1982 with The Pogues' invention of Celtic folk-punk and Stockton's Wing blend of Irish traditional and Pop, Rock and Reggae, there has been a movement to incorporate Celtic influences into other genres of music. Bands like Flogging Molly, Black 47, Dropkick Murphys, The Young Dubliners, The Tossers introduced a hybrid of Celtic rock, punk, reggae, hardcore and other elements in the 1990s that has become popular with Irish-American youth.
Today there are Celtic-influenced subgenres of virtually every type of popular music including electronica, rock, metal, punk, hip hop, reggae, new-age, Latin, Andean and pop. Collectively these modern interpretations of Celtic music are sometimes referred to as Celtic fusion.
Outside of America, the first deliberate attempts to create a "Pan-Celtic music" were made by the Breton Taldir Jaffrennou, having translated songs from Ireland, Scotland, and Wales into Breton between the two world wars. One of his major works was to bring "Hen Wlad Fy Nhadau" (the Welsh national anthem) back in Brittany and create lyrics in Breton. Eventually this song became "Bro goz va zadoù" ("Old land of my fathers") and is the most widely accepted Breton anthem. In the 70s, the Breton Alan Cochevelou (future Alan Stivell) began playing a mixed repertoire from the main Celtic countries on the Celtic harp his father created.
Probably the most successful all-inclusive Celtic music composition in recent years is Shaun Daveys composition 'The Pilgrim'. This suite depicts the journey of St. Colum Cille through the Celtic nations of Ireland, Scotland, the Isle of Man, Wales, Cornwall, Brittany and Galicia. The suite which includes a Scottish pipe band, Irish and Welsh harpists, Galician gaitas, Irish uilleann pipes, the bombardes of Brittany, two vocal soloists and a narrator is set against a background of a classical orchestra and a large choir.
Modern music may also be termed "Celtic" because it is written and recorded in a Celtic language, regardless of musical style. Many of the Celtic languages have experienced resurgences in modern years, spurred on partly by the action of artists and musicians who have embraced them as hallmarks of identity and distinctness. In 1971, the Irish band Skara Brae recorded its only LP (simply called Skara Brae), all songs in Irish. In 1978 Runrig recorded an album in Scottish Gaelic. In 1992 Capercaillie recorded "A Prince Among Islands", the first Scottish Gaelic language record to reach the UK top 40. In 1996, a song in Breton represented France in the 41st Eurovision Song Contest, the first time in history that France had a song without a word in French. Since about 2005, Oi Polloi (from Scotland) have recorded in Scottish Gaelic. Mill a h-Uile Rud (a Scottish Gaelic punk band from Seattle) recorded in the language in 2004.
Several contemporary bands have Welsh language songs, such as Ceredwen, which fuses traditional instruments with trip hop beats, the Super Furry Animals, Fernhill, and so on (see the Music of Wales article for more Welsh and Welsh-language bands). The same phenomenon occurs in Brittany, where many singers record songs in Breton, traditional or modern (hip hop, rap, and so on.).
Since the early 1970s, Brittany has experienced a tremendous revival of its folk music. Along with flourishing traditional forms such as the bombard-binou pair and fest-noz ensembles incorporating other additional instruments, it has also branched out into numerous subgenres.
Galician traditional music is a traditional highly distinctive folk style, located along Spain's north-west Atlantic coast, mostly Galicia and Asturias, that has some similarities with the neighbouring area of Cantabria. The music is characterized by the use of bagpipes.
The Celtic Revival was a variety of movements and trends in the 19th and 20th centuries that saw a renewed interest in aspects of Celtic culture. Artists and writers drew on the traditions of Gaelic literature, Welsh-language literature, and so-called 'Celtic art'—what historians call Insular art. Although the revival was complex and multifaceted, occurring across many fields and in various countries in Northwest Europe, its best known incarnation is probably the Irish Literary Revival. Irish writers including William Butler Yeats, Lady Gregory, "AE" Russell, Edward Martyn, and Edward Plunkett stimulated a new appreciation of traditional Irish literature and Irish poetry in the late 19th and early 20th century.
The modern Celts are a related group of ethnicities who share similar Celtic languages, cultures and artistic histories, and who live in or descend from one of the regions on the western extremities of Europe populated by the Celts.
Alan Stivell is a Breton and Celtic musician and singer, recording artist, and master of the Celtic harp. From the early 1970s, he revived global interest in the Celtic harp and Celtic music as part of world music. As a bagpiper and bombard player, he modernized traditional Breton music and singing in the Breton language. A precursor of Celtic rock, he is inspired by the union of the Celtic cultures and is a keeper of the Breton culture.
Pan-Celticism, also known as Celticism or Celtic nationalism is a political, social and cultural movement advocating solidarity and cooperation between Celtic nations and the modern Celts in North-Western Europe. Some pan-Celtic organisations advocate the Celtic nations seceding from the United Kingdom and France and forming their own separate federal state together, while others simply advocate very close cooperation between independent sovereign Celtic nations, in the form of Irish nationalism, Scottish nationalism, Welsh nationalism, Breton nationalism, Cornish nationalism and Manx nationalism.
Celtic rock is a genre of folk rock, as well as a form of Celtic fusion which incorporates Celtic music, instrumentation and themes into a rock music context. It has been extremely prolific since the early 1970s and can be seen as a key foundation of the development of highly successful mainstream Celtic bands and popular musical performers, as well as creating important derivatives through further fusions. It has played a major role in the maintenance and definition of regional and national identities and in fostering a pan-Celtic culture. It has also helped to communicate those cultures to external audiences.
Dan Ar Braz is a Breton guitarist-singer-composer and the founder of L'Héritage des Celtes, a 50-piece Pan-Celt band. Leading guitarist in Celtic music, Dan Ar Braz has recorded as a soloist and with innovative Celtic harp player Alan Stivell. He represented France in the Eurovision Song Contest 1996.
Emma Christian is a prominent artist in the recent revival of traditional Manx folk music.
Susana Seivane Hoyo is a Galician gaita (bagpipes) player. She was born in Barcelona, Spain, into a family of well-known Galician luthiers and musicians, the Seivane family, whose workshop is the Obradoiro de Gaitas Seivane. She started her musical career at the age of three. Guided by her father Álvaro Seivane and influenced by skilled bagpipers such as her grandfather Xosé Manuel Seivane, Ricardo Portela and Moxenas, she is notable in the bagpipe world and the world of traditional Galician music for synthesizing the "enxebre" style of the ancient bagpipers while creating her own style including other musical influences.
Celtic fusion is an umbrella term for any modern music which incorporates influences considered "Celtic", or Celtic music which incorporates modern music. It is a syncretic musical tradition which borrows freely from the perceived "Celtic" musical traditions of all the Celtic nations, as well as from all styles of popular music, it is thus sometimes associated with the Pan-Celtic movement. Celtic fusion may or may not include authentic traditional music from any one tradition under the Celtic umbrella, but its common characteristic is the inspiration by Celtic identity.
The Celtic nations is a cultural region and collection of geographical territories in Western Europe and the North Atlantic where Celtic languages and/or cultural traits have survived. The term "nation" is used in its original sense to mean a people who share a common identity and culture and are identified with a traditional territory.
The Festival Interceltique de Lorient (French), Gouelioù Etrekeltiek An Oriant (Breton) or Inter-Celtic Festival of Lorient in English, is an annual Celtic festival, located in the city of Lorient, Brittany, France. It was founded in 1971 by Polig.
The Pan Celtic Festival is a Celtic-language music festival held annually in the week following Easter, since its inauguration in 1971. The first Pan Celtic Festival took place in Killarney, County Kerry, Ireland. Its aim is to promote the modern Celtic languages and cultures and artists from all six Celtic nations: Brittany, Cornwall, Ireland, Isle of Man, Scotland and Wales.
The Interceltic Festival of Avilés (FIA) is a summer arts festival held annually in Avilés, and the surrounding area in Asturias, Spain since 1997. The festival is held to promote the cultural traditions, and developments, of the Celtic nations, especially music and dance, as well as painting, photography, theatre, sculpture, traditional craftsmanship, sport and gastronomy. It is organized by the Cultural Association Esbardu, located in Avilés.
Renaissance de la Harpe Celtique or Renaissance of the Celtic Harp is a 1972 record album by the Breton master of the Celtic harp Alan Stivell that revolutionised the connection between traditional folk music, modern rock music and world music.
Traditional Gaelic music is the folk music of Goidelic-speaking communities in Ireland, Scotland, and the Isle of Man, often including lyrics in those languages. Characteristic forms of Gaelic music include sean-nós and puirt à beul singing, piobaireachd, jigs, reels, and strathspeys.
Celtic music in Poland becomes more and more popular in culture inspiring artists to perform this type of music.
Ruth Keggin is a Manx Gaelic singer-songwriter and activist who was awarded a grant by Culture Vannin to produce her debut solo album, Sheear (‘Westward’), a collection of traditional and contemporary Manx songs praised as "bringing new life into the language with her music." Keggin's album has held popularity in the Celtic genre, becoming album of the week on Celtic Music Radio and listed as number one in Japan’s ‘Top 10’. In 2011, Keggin as a member of Nish As Rish, won with the group the Best Newcomers category at the 2011 Festival Interceltique de Lorient in Brittany, France.