Podcast Episode 23: Culture Night 2020

The IIMS podcast brings you the latest ideas in music from all over the world.

The Irish Institute of Music & Song (IIMS) podcast hosts conversations with performers, academics and educators from all over the world. The podcast is curated by Dónal Kearney in Dublin, Ireland.

Culture Night is a nationwide festival that was founded in 1982 as the Temple Bar Festival. Since then, it has grown into an all-island festival and has even spread its wings overseas, demonstrating the cultural reach of Irish arts and heritage.

At the IIMS, we were planning for Culture Night for months; in the end, we curated an exciting programme of musical performances. Indeed, it was the only musical event taking place in all of Fingal as part of the festival. Balbriggan is a town brimming with fascinating stories, historical sites and cultural gems - and we wanted to share this knowledge with the world!

In episode 23 of , we spoke to some of the visitors about their experience of Culture Night on our campus. You might notice that our podcast has some new background music, thanks to our producer, 93 Acres (Hugh Clarke).

Culture Night at the IIMS included a heritage tour of the new IIMS campus, the historical Georgian & Victorian buildings on Balbriggan's oldest street. Visitors were able to:

  • stand in Balbriggan's original courthouse

  • experience the newest musical facility in the country

  • see the Japanese-style "pod" accommodation

  • hold court in the brand-new amphitheatre

  • behold the unique tree sculpture, An Crann Ceoil

  • step into the world's largest Guitar

RTÉ News featured our event on RTÉ Radio One Morning Ireland (listen at the link), the Six One News, and even held a live broadcast from the Amphitheatre on the Nine O'Clock News with Arts Correspondent Sinéad Crowley.

On Culture Night, we also commemorated the Sack of Balbriggan and displayed an original artwork by English artist L.S. Lowry.

Centenary of the Sack of Balbriggan

To commemorate the Sack of Balbriggan on 20 September 1920, a new song has been commissioned and will be premiered as part of the Culture Night festival at the Irish Institute of Music and Song. The brand-new piece of music is entitled "Clonard Street" and remembers those people whose homes and lives were impacted by the violence surrounding that day. Written for piano, voice, fiddle and low whistle, this piece was recorded by the production team at the Irish Institute of Music and Song. The song was composed by Dónal Kearney and Michael T. Dawson, co-founders of the Irish Institute of Music and Song. The commission was supported by Our Balbriggan and Fingal Arts.

Original Lowry on display for Culture Night

Balbriggan is a historic town with countless incredible stories. It is said that Queen Victoria would only wear stockings made by Smyth & Co Ltd. of Balbriggan, Co. Dublin. The famous English artist LS Lowry, who died in 1976, immortalised the Balbriggan factory when he paid a visit to Ireland in 1970. The street depicted on canvas is Railway Street, where Smyth & Co hosiery factory operated in Balbriggan for 200 years (from 1780 to 1980).

For Culture Night, we hosted the following performances:

  • Lady Barbalade - Ireland's premier female barbershop quartet and current national champions Lady Barbalade have performed across Ireland & the UK and collaborated with top International quartet, The Newfangled Four. 

  • Rhthym Africana - The Rhythm Africana band brings you a variety of traditional songs from Africa and covers of popular songs. The group’s members come from Uganda, Zambia, Congo, Nigeria and Ireland and are all based here in Dublin. This is a high-energy band that uses their music to promote social justice and inclusion. On Guitar, we will have Terence Mungwande (Congo), on the Conga and Djembe drums, Segun Akano (Nigeria), and Justine Nantale (Uganda) on vocals.

  • Irish Traditional Music Ensemble - Made up of teachers from the Irish Institute of Music & Song

  • St. Patrick's Brass & Reed Band Balbriggan - Founded in 1883, this brilliant band is one of the longest running Brass & Reed bands in the country.

  • Other performers - Including students of the Irish Institute of Music & Song

In this podcast, we spoke to founder of Rhythm Africana, Justine Nantale and Segun Akano. Segun from Rhythm Africana started his musical journey in an Adura Church on the outskirts of Lagos, Nigeria where he was born. Being the son of a choir mistress, he began playing woodblocks aged 6 before moving up the ranks to eventually become the church drummer. He was nicknamed "the drummer boy" in school after performing as the drummer boy in Wole Soyinka's play "Trails of Brother Jero". Since moving to Ireland in 2002, Segun  has performed in numerous African ceremonies, events and musical festivals such as World Festival of Cultures, Electric Picnic, Cork Jazz, Limavady Jazz and SeaSessions festivals, to mention a few. He founded Dublin Afrobeat Ensemble, Yankari and Groove Oshuka musical groups. He describes his playing style as "West African styled drumming that warms the spirit of the listener".

Culture Night at the IIMS was featured in the Best of Offline section in the Dublin Gazette and we were also listed in the Top 4 things Selected Highlights for Culture Night in Dublin.

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