How Irish folk music is taking over the world

By Patricia Hului
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Téada founder and fiddler Oisin Mac Diarmada.

There are no such things as borders when it comes to music, especially during the three-day Rainforest World Music Festival (RWMF).

Bringing an Irish flavour to the wide variety of musical heritage at RWMF was Teada, a band that came to the national attention in Ireland in 2001 through Flosc, a local television series.


Samantha Harvey laying down some moves of Irish step-dancing during RWMF workshop.

Téada, (which means “strings” in Gaelic) performed the vibrant music of Ireland, introducing some Irish step dancing along the way.

Band founder and fiddler Oisin Mac Diarmada introduced their style of music as Irish traditional music, sometimes referring to it as Irish folk music.

According to Mac Diarmada, music in Ireland plays a huge part in their daily lives particularly in the rural area over many hundreds of years.

“When we play our music I supposed the context originally for this music was rural people looking for some fun and entertainment at night time in their own homes.”

He added that it was typical for Irish music to be fun and freeing.

In later years, Irish folk music moved from the rural areas, gaining recognition in clubs and bars.


Tristan Rosenstock playing the bodhrán or Irish flame drum joining other drummers during RWMF ‘Make a Noise!’ workshop.

Mac Diarmada also attributed the spread of Irish music to The Chieftans, one of the most famous Irish groups in the 1960s to start touring the world.

“Interestingly today, there are more people playing Irish music outside Ireland than in Ireland itself,” he said.

“There are so many people playing and learning Irish music all over the world.”

Initially, part of the reason for the spread of Irish folk music was the immigration of Irish people to countries like the US, Australia and throughout the United Kingdom.

“For the last 20 or 30 years, we have people with no connections with Ireland in terms of genealogy but they are embracing Irish music and culture,” Mac Diarmada said.

“It is a beautiful thing for someone who does not have a direct link to Ireland but fascinated by the music and begins to learn it.”

He believed that Irish music was increasingly becoming a music found all over the world.


Seán McElwain on guitar and Harvey during their RWMF performance on Aug 5.

Nonetheless, Mac Diarmada admitted like all traditional music, Irish music has changed a little bit over the years.

“The music we play in Téada compared to Irish traditional music a hundred years ago; it’s changed a little of course.”

According to Mac Diarmada, the fact that the band has been together 15 years meant success as they were able to continue coming and playing together.

“Irish music is something that you will find people playing in all different generations, people playing from four or five years of age to age of 90,” he said. “It has multi-generational aspects that would be an aspiration to keep on playing and keep it original for generations.”

Téada has taken over the stages in the US, Canada, Mexico, Europe, Africa, Russia, Middle East and Australia.

Before RWMF, the band’s first performance in Malaysia was during the Penang World Music Festival in 2008.

Other members of the group performing during the festival were Paul Finn (button accordion), Damien Stenson (flute), Seán McElwain (guitar) and Tristan Rosenstock (bodhrán) as well as Samantha Harvey (piano and dancer).

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Tristan Rosenstock (bodhrán)


Paul Finn (button accordion)

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Seán McElwain (guitar)

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Damien Stenson (flute)


Harvey step-dancing to Irish music.

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