There are many different views on what is truly "Traditional" (the Trad Fundamentalist view) and what is "Trad Influenced". I've listened to alot of new music by different artists that some folks say is "Trad sounding" but not really Traditional. How long does it take for a piece of new music to become traditional? What about the effects of intermingling other musical influences (Jazz, Folk, Rock, World, etc.) into Trad Music? Is there a definitive criteria for what is or isn't Trad Music?

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Would someone like to start by defining Sean Nos for me?

I'm a complete ignoramus on this subject and don't mind admitting it. I'm obviously familiar with Irish songs but have no clue whatsoever about what would constitute Sean Nos and what would'nt. Is it the song itself that would be described as Sean Nos or is the definition more tied up with the way that it is performed? - See - I'm completely ignorant - I was'nt kidding!!

Some of the fault for this lack of knowledge is due to the fact that I myself don't even sing in the bath. I can't hold a tune with my voice for love nor money and am deeply envious of those who can. A second problem I have is that I have neither a knowledge, understanding or aptitude for the Irish language. The net result of this being that much of the stuff I hear, that might well be categorised as Sean Nos, means no more to me than a collection of random musical syllables.

There will certainly be no pontifications from me regarding Sean Nos on this, or indeed any other thread. I would however like to learn. I would also like to be able to aquire enough knowledge of this subject to be able to offer comparisons with trad English singing. The English have a great singing tradition which pays particular attention to unaccompanied harmony as well as solo ballads. We also have a tradition for "working" songs in England, probably the "Sea Shanty" being the most famous and widespread manifestation of this. In fact, the traditions of English singing is probably the only branch of "English Trad" that has any real interest for me. I would dearly love to be able to draw comparisons between the singing of the 2 cultures, I think that would be an interesting and enlightening exercise for me.

So there you go, a purely selfish plea for enlightenment on my part - and I don't mind admitting that either!


I think this sums it all up pretty neatly :

cheers, Kees

One of the resources cited in the article sheds some more light:

I think the O Canainn quote in the Wikipedia article is a little over the top - you can have a good understanding of the Irish instrumental tradition without knowledge of sean-nos song - but on the other hand, if I know the song that goes with an air, I can tell whether a person playing it has the song, and it sounds better and more expressive to me if they do.

Kees Knegt said:


I think this sums it all up pretty neatly :

cheers, Kees

Hey Kees & Mike!!! The Wikipedia link posted here is a good start. However, it's even more complex than that (and at the same time much more simple). Visit the Sean Nos & Traditional Irish Singers group and read through all of the comments. In them, you will find some references & links posted by members. Also, click on each of the member icons and you may find some "sweet links" to performances, CDs, videos & audios posted by members that'll give you an idea of how vast a subject it is.

At one time last year, I boldly thought that I would present a blog here on TradConnect about Sean Nos Singing. After much research and interviews with a handful of Sean Nos singers (located here in the States), I quickly came to realize, "I'M NOT QUALIFIED TO DO THIS!!!! I ONLY KNOW WHAT I'VE READ,....AND EVEN THEN,....WHAT AM I READING????" Alot of what is part of THIS discussion concerning "What Is TRAD??" (as far as just the music) was even more argumentative when it came to "What is Sean Nos singing" (there's also Sean Nos dance,......ARRRGGGHHH!!!). Most could say what it is NOT, than what it IS. There are a number of YouTube performances, & sites that can take up your time and interests. All I know with certainty is that I love it in all of its forms. Also, I must say that I also enjoy the English singing of unaccompanied harmonies (That's for you, Mike!!! ;^)...  ) And now, back to the discussion at hand........



Cheers gents,

I'm going to go quiet now (no doubt to echo's from the rest of you of "thank goodness for that"). I need to absorbe some of this info. Thanks for all the pointers.



Couldn't agree more Enda, for me as long as it can be played along with other older tunes, in the same set, and as long as when labelled "reel" it sounds like a reel, follows the structure and is likely to be danced to, then it is trad.

Trad is like a language, it evolves with time, gets new words added, or dies and becomes folklore.

Following the move keeps the music alive, because then the music stays close to us, to what we feel, what we want, what we fear. It adapts to today's environment. Staying close to the people is what makes a music Trad.

Enda Seery said:

It is certainly an interesting discussion here. What is TRAD? Well I for one have to agree that our music is a living entity and is open to change and traditional irish music has went through changes as already outlined. I would worry though about too much change. Remember our music in Ireland is ultimately a dance music. That's why audiences tap their feet, people dance at ceili's and other dances etc.... A lot of contemporary tunes are being composed now but are they truly traditional? Or could you dance to these tunes at a ceili or for a set dance competition? 

I am open to broadening the horizon but I would always stick to the traditions of rhythm and dance. I compose traditional music and thankfully people have commented that my tunes sound traditional. This means that you could dance to them be it jigs, reels, hornpipes, polkas etc... When I compose, I always try to think could I play another older traditional tune along with my new composition? Again I am not saying that I am totally against more contemporary compositions with unusual structures but it's important that we remember where the tradition started. 

The tradition is enough for me and I love the way our tunes be it older tunes or newer traditional tunes are open to expression, variation and creativity. 

Thanks lads for the great links by the way, very interesting indeed!

Trad is like a language, it evolves with time, gets new words added, or dies and becomes folklore.

Following the move keeps the music alive, because then the music stays close to us, to what we feel, what we want, what we fear. It adapts to today's environment. Staying close to the people is what makes a music Trad.

I think that sums it all up pretty neatly....

cheers, Kees

There is a great quote on the sleeve notes of the new Kilfenora Céilí Band album called Chapter 8 that I am presently listening to that states

" Tradition, we are told by American folklorist Henry Glassie, has the wonderful capacity of simultaneously connecting people with the past and the present while building the future.  And, while some see tradition as something that is static, it is an actual process that not only survives, but thrives on innovation and variation, while at the same time, firmly retaining its roots with the past"

This is as good a quote as I have come across.

Hey Tony!!! Great quote!!! We may now have reason to stop this discussion here and now!!! ;^) Slainte,


But then again,......What about Ceili Bands??? What about Comhaltas Rules??? Let's hear/read more about this stuff!!!

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