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  • New books published: “After the Flood” on post-war Irish America, “Musical Traditions of Northern Ireland and its Diaspora”

    Friday, July 17th, 2009

    Two books published this week will surely be of interest to scholars of the Irish diaspora.

    “After the Flood: Irish America 1945-1960”, edited by James Silas Rogers and Matthew J. O’Brien, takes a fresh look at the Irish-American experience during the post-war period. The publishers say:

    The essays in this volume examine diverse aspects of the Irish-American community during the postwar years and cover both the immigrant community within the US – which witnessed a surge in immigration from Ireland – and the subsequent expressions of an Irish identity among later generation ethnics. Essays consider both social and political history, such as ethnic anti-communism and American responses to Partition, and significant representations of Irish life in popular culture, such as The Last Hurrah (1956) or The Quiet Man (1952). The study shows that the Irish-American community was lively and, in many ways, dissimilar from “mainstream” American life in this period. The supposedly deracinated descendants of earlier immigrants were nonetheless well aware that the larger culture perceived something distinctive about being Irish, and throughout this period they actively sought to define – often in deflected ways – just what that distinctiveness could mean.

    “The Musical Traditions of Northern Ireland and its Diaspora: Community and Conflict” is as much about the North’s cultural dynamics as it is about the music itself. From the publishers:

    For at least two centuries, and arguably much longer, Ireland has exerted an important influence on the development of the traditional, popular and art musics of other regions, and in particular those of Britain and the United States. During the past decade or so, the traditional musics of the so-called Celtic regions have become a focus of international interest. The phenomenal success of shows such as Riverdance (which appeared in 1995, spawned from a 1994 Eurovision Song Contest interval act) brought Irish music and dance to a global audience and played a part in the further commoditization of Irish culture, including traditional music.

    However, there has up to now been relatively little serious musicological study of the traditional music of Northern Ireland. Northern Ireland remains a divided community in which traditional culture, in all its manifestations, is widely understood as a marker of religious affiliation and ethnic identity. Since the outbreak of the most recent ‘troubles’ around 1968, the borders between the communities have often been marked by music. For example, many in the Catholic, nationalist community, regard the music of Orange flute bands and Lambeg drums as a source of intimidation. Equally many in the Protestant community have distanced themselves from Irish music as coming from a different ethnic tradition, and some have rejected tunes, styles and even instruments because of their association with the Catholic community and the Irish Republic. Of course, during the same period many other Protestants and Catholics have continued to perform in an apolitical context and often together, what in earlier times would simply have been regarded as folk or country music.

    With the increasing espousal of a discrete Ulster Scots tradition since the signing of the Belfast (or ‘Good Friday’) Agreement in 1998, the characteristics of the traditional music performed in Northern Ireland, and the place of Protestant musicians within popular Irish culture, clearly require a more thoroughgoing analysis. David Cooper’s book provides such analysis, as well as ethnographic and ethnomusicological studies of a group of traditional musicians from County Antrim. In particular, the book offers a consideration of the cultural dynamics of Northern Ireland with respect to traditional music.

    For more information:

    Belfast Telegraph says RTE should listen to North

    Monday, February 18th, 2008

    The Belfast Telegraph has weighed in on the continuing controversy over RTE’s move to shut down its medium wave service – a move that will affect those in the North as well as emigrants in Britain and beyond.

    In its editorial, titled “RTE should listen to this signal”, the newspaper says that the RTE should be expanding its offerings to the North, not cutting them. It adds:

    Although RTE is discomfited by the negative publicity over the ending of medium wave radio transmissions, the company must be privately pleased that so many of its listeners are concerned.

    See the entire article.

    Irish News highlights medium-wave shutdown in North

    Monday, February 18th, 2008

    The Irish News, a newspaper based in the North, has been running substantial coverage of the recent announcement by RTE that it will be shutting down its medium wave service.

    On its first day of coverage run nearly six pages of articles on the RTE shutdown of medium wave. The coverage includes a front-page article, an editorial, and four pages of articles on inside pages.

    Thanks to the Irish News for allowing us to link to the PDF versions of the following articles:

    Update: February 13

    Reader comments: Move sparks waves of controversy.
    Give us the power to rule on broadcasting, say MLAs.

    Update: February 15

    RTE committed to entire island

    Update: February 16

    Alliance concern at RTE move

    Update:  March 3

    RTE radio to move frequency in battle for listeners

    Visit the Irish News at

    Dail and Stormont committees to examine RTE move

    Thursday, February 14th, 2008

    In a front page story, the Irish News reports today that the issue of RTE’s medium-wave shutdown will be examined at Dail and Stormont committees. The paper notes that Sinn Fein, the SDLP, Fine Gael and Labour have all their concerns over the shutdown, which is scheduled for March 24.

    RTE has pledged to find a way to extend its FM coverage throughout the North before the end of its MW transmission.

    There have been no reports on any plans to address the loss faced by emigrant communities.

    Read the entire article on the Irish News (subscription required).
    See Spirit in the sky on medium wave.
    See also Labour joins opposition to RTE plan.
    Watch the video: RTE FM Switchoff

    Blog roundup: RTE medium wave move

    Monday, February 11th, 2008

    The controversy over RTE’s decision to shut down medium wave – a move that will affect Irish emigrants in Britain and beyond, as well as people in the North – has been reflected in a variety of blog postings around the Internet. Here are some of them, from a variety of sources, including political parties, media commentators and others.