Irish rebel music

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Irish rebel music is a subgenre of Irish folk music, with much the same instrumentation, but with lyrics predominantly concerned with Irish republicanism and nationalism.


Republican Prisoners have used music as a form of protest during The Troubles in Northern Ireland.

The tradition of rebel music in Ireland dates back many centuries, dealing with historical events such as uprisings, describing the hardships of living under oppressive British rule, but also strong sentiments of solidarity, loyalty, determination, as well as praise of valiant heroes.

As well as a deep-rooted sense of tradition, rebel songs have nonetheless remained contemporary, and since 1922, the focus has moved onto the nationalist cause in Northern Ireland, including support for the IRA and Sinn Féin. However, the subject matter is not confined to Irish history, and includes the exploits of the Irish Brigades who fought for the Republican side in the Spanish Civil War, and also those who fought during the American Civil War.

Over the years, a number of bands have performed "crossover" music, that is, Irish rebel lyrics and instrumentation mixed with other, more pop styles. Damien Dempsey is known for his pop-influenced rebel ballads and bands like Seanchai and the Unity Squad and Beltaine's Fire combine Rebel music with Political hip hop and other genres.[citation needed]

Contemporary music[edit]

Irish rebel music has occasionally gained international attention. The Wolfe Tones' version of A Nation Once Again was voted the number one song in the world by BBC World Service listeners in 2002.[1] Many of the more popular groups recently such as Saoirse, Éire Óg, Athenrye, Shebeen, Glasnevin, Mise Éire and Pádraig Mór are from Glasgow. The Bog Savages of San Francisco are fronted by an escapee from Belfast's Long Kesh prison who made his break in the September 1983 "Great Escape" by the IRA.

Music of this genre has often courted controversy with some of this music effectively banned from the airwaves in the Republic of Ireland in the 1980s. More recently, Derek Warfield's music was banned from Aer Lingus flights, after the Ulster Unionist politician Roy Beggs Jnr compared his songs to the speeches of Osama bin Laden.[2] However, a central tenet of the justification for rebel music from its supporters is that it represents a long-standing tradition of freedom from tyranny.[3]

List of notable artists[edit]

List of notable songs[edit]


Sunday Bloody Sunday[edit]

U2's 1983 hit, "Sunday Bloody Sunday", contrary to popular belief, is "not a rebel song" as lead singer Bono would say during their War Tour before they played the song. Its lyrics describe the horror felt by an observer of The Troubles in Northern Ireland, mainly focusing on the Bloody Sunday incident in Derry where British troops killed 14 innocent civil rights marchers. The song suggests, not that Northern Ireland should become its own state, or that the British continue to rule, but that they should find a solution to the dispute without violence.

In response, Sinéad O'Connor released a song with the title of 'This is a Rebel Song' as she explains in her live album How About I Be Me (And You Be You)?.[citation needed]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "The Worlds Top Ten - BBC World Service". Retrieved 24 June 2015. 
  2. ^ "Not Found -". Retrieved 24 June 2015. 
  3. ^ "Irish Rebel Songs". Globerove. Retrieved 24 June 2015. 
  4. ^ Christy Back home in Derry
  5. ^ "The Clancy Brothers and Tommy Makem". Retrieved 24 June 2015. 
  6. ^ "Celtic Wonder Beads". Retrieved 24 June 2015. 
  7. ^ Rory Warfield. "The Wolfe Tones' Official Site". Retrieved 2012-12-22. 
  8. ^ "Ballad Of Gerard Casey". 1989-04-04. Retrieved 2012-12-22.