Celtic music was derived from the Celts, who were originally known as the galli or keltoi, meaning barbarian, in the 7th century. The agrarian civilization was also known for their skilled combat capabilities. Celts were also religious, believing in several gods as well as a firm belief in an afterlife.
Their presence was spread primarily throughout central Europe in ancient times and have gradually disappeared as a cultural group, but their roots are still present today, primarily in Ireland and Scotland.
Celtic traditions and culture are most often associated with Ireland and Scotland, but the list of 6 Celtic nations also include Brittany, Cornwall, Wales, and The Isle of Man.
Many Irish consider themselves to have Celtic roots, and roughly 87,000 in Scotland have varying degrees of Gaelic proficiency. The Gaelic region is primarily the composition of the Scottish and Irish, with both sharing similar languages and music.
A Hard to Define Genre
Celtic music is a rather broad category, as it isn’t strictly limited to certain elements such as other genres. It tends to be have different interpretations, which makes it difficult to clearly define within any semblance of boundaries.
In general, it typically refers to traditional music that is associated with the Celtic nations such as Ireland and Scotland. Celtic music is often associated and even identified with traditional Irish music. Contemporary compositions typically revolve around soothing and dreamy sounds with unique harmonies and melodies intertwined.
Celtic music tends to repeat a similar melody, and oftentimes musicians will incorporate different instruments during a performance for the enjoyment of the crowd.
Celtic music incorporates a wide variety of instruments such as the bagpipe, flute, and harp. They are most commonly utilized in the composition of rousing dance numbers like the jig or more soft, romantic, or even morose and heartfelt melodies lamenting difficult times and ordeals.
The fiddle has also become very popular, riding the popularity of dance music as it began to be incorporated into folk songs, providing an infusion of fresh and upbeat tunes.
Some popular Celtic artists include Enya, The Pogues, The Chieftains, and The Coors.
The Riverdance was an extremely popular theatre attraction that featured Celtic elements in Irish dance and music, and has been a source of inspiration for different acts and performances.
Music festivals known as Celtic sessions celebrate Irish music, and many older musicians use these events to pass on their traditional music knowledge as a legacy to the future generation of Irish musicians to keep Celtic music fresh and alive.
Celtic Music Abroad
As Irish and Scottish immigrated to the U.S to escape from their unfortunate predicaments, they brought along with them their culture and their traditional music, ranging from folk to contemporary.
During the years between 1845-1850, over 604,000 Irish immigrated to the US during the Irish famine, brought on by a fungus that ravaged their most prized commodity, potatoes. The US presented itself as an opportunity, a promising new country where they could utilize their labor skills to build a new life.
In the 18th and 19th centuries, around 170,571 Scottish Highlanders were forcibly removed from their homes and land during the Scottish Clearances, which led to the extinguishment of the traditional clan society that the Highlanders were built on. Forced to work on sheep farms or unsustainable fishing trade, many of them had no choice but to immigrate to other parts of Scotland, with many embarking towards Canada and the U.S.
Due to its presence and establishment in several countries, Celtic music also has had large influences on other music genres. According to Celtic Life, “The most significant impact of Celtic Music on American styles, however, is undoubtedly that on the evolution of country music, a style which blends Anglo-Celtic traditions with “sacred hymns and African American spirituals”.
A Trio of Celtic Pride
Digging deep into their roots to keep Celtic music and tradition alive, Affiniti is a classical crossover group comprised of soprano Emer Barry, violinist/composer Mary McCague, and harpist Aisling Ennis. According to their official website, Affiniti is described as “the lovechild of Classical and Rock with Celtic blood.”
All three are professionally trained and accomplished musicians, having been decorated with several honors and awards. Prior to the formation of the group, the Irish trio actually performed as wedding singers under the name of Celtic Rose, building up their incredible chemistry and common roots.
Their music features various elements of pop, classical, and rock. Hailing from Ireland, the group recompose contemporary music with a classical twist and homage to their Celtic roots. In another nod of deference to their Celtic backgrounds, they agreed on the modified spelling to come up with Affiniti.
Affiniti composes fresh takes on many popular hits and infuses them with Celtic flavors to promote and being traditional Irish music to the spotlight for mainstream audiences to enjoy a piece of their Celtic culture.
One of their most acclaimed hits was their Celtic rendition of the popular “O Holy Night”. The charity hit release became the #1 track on Irish download charts during Christmas 2014, and has been viewed nearly 1.3 million times so far on YouTube.
They also spread Celtic cheer and festive spirits during the 2017 US Celtic Christmas Tour alongside Howard Crosby, performing traditional Christmas tunes enriched with their unique takes to sold out audiences.
Affiniti continues to proudly display their Celtic roots, having released several albums and giving critically acclaimed performances across the globe. Although the Celts as a civilization may not be around anymore, groups like Affiniti ensure that their tradition and legacy lives on through their music for the world to appreciate.