Saturday, 22 January 2011

'We try to surprise people. We love it when the people who get dragged along against their will get into it. It's very satisfying' - The Irish Times - Sat, Jan 22, 2011

"BACKSTAGE PASS: Beoga mixes blues, Cajun rhythms and jazz into catchy Celtic melodies to create a spirited sound, writes TARA BRADY

BEOGA TRANSLATES as lively. Of course it does. If you didn’t know as much before, a quick blast of the spirited Antrim five-piece, who go by that name, will soon set you straight. These skilful practitioners in new traditional music have been raising the roof ever since the gang first converged at a reputedly fierce 2002 All-Ireland Fleadh session.

“Myself and Seán Óg Graham, the accordion player, grew up together,” says percussionist and four-time All Ireland bodhrán champion Eamon Murray."

“Seán knew the other two guys Liam [Bradley] and Damian [McKee] before. I had heard of them but that fleadh was the first time we got together. Niamh [Dunne] joined a couple of years after that and her vocals and fiddle really completed the sound.”

Happily, Niamh Dunne, the daughter of Limerick piper Mickey Dunne and an accomplished recording artist in her own right, didn’t need long to adjust to the joint-hopping pace or to become an “honorary Nordie”.

“When I was young, music was a big part of growing up,” she says. “You came home from school in the evening, you did your homework and then you practised the violin. For years I thought that’s what everybody did when they came home from school.”

Her bodhrán-playing colleague hasn’t always been quite so lucky: “I think I was a bit embarrassed about the whole Irish thing growing up,” says Murray. “I played in a lot of rock bands when I was younger. But as I got through the teen years I realised it was okay. I didn’t have to be wielding a six-string guitar. I did get respect from other kids at that stage. And it’s definitely cooler now than it was.”

Three albums and several international tours later and Beoga have attracted critical wows everywhere from the Wall Street Journal to Hot Press .

The secret, they say, lies in the diversity of their influences. Sure enough, it’s hard to argue with the eclectic extravaganza of New Orleans blues, kicking Cajun rhythms and Astor Piazzolla jazz lurking around their exquisitely catchy Celtic melodies.

“Each of us has our own thing,” says Murray. “Liam, on the piano, and myself, love anything that sounds hyper or off the wall.”

“We change things around a lot,” adds Dunne. “We never dwell on one type of tune or one type of signature. Because we play a lot of our own compositions and arrange around those compositions it’s less likely to be any particular style. We just go with what we like and what excites us. And when our accordion players go, they really go.”

As Beoga gear up for album number four and a stint at Temple Bar’s TradFest, the band’s wildly distinct boom continues to win unlikely converts.

“We try to surprise people,” says Murray. “We love it when the people who get dragged along against their will get into it. We get a few of those and when they come up afterwards it’s always very satisfying. You know you’ve done something right when you’ve done something that isn’t necessarily for the hardliners. And sometimes you hear an ‘ooh’ or an ‘ah’, because people didn’t see what was coming. That makes it all worthwhile.”

Beoga play the Button Factory on January 27th as part of Temple Bar TradFest, 2011:

see templebartrad.com for details

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