Inishowen Uncovered: Further Strands of the Donegal Fiddle Tradition

Liz Doherty

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapterpeer-review

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationCrossing Over: Fiddle and Dance Studies from Around the North Atlantic 3
PublisherUniversity of Aberdeen
Pages184-199
ISBN (Print)978-0-954-56826-9
Publication statusPublished - 2010

Bibliographical note

"In the early 1960s Seán Ó Riada propagated a notion of ‘32 counties and 32 styles’ (“Our Musical Heritage”, 1962); this represented a gross oversimplification of the reality even then, and is certainly untenable now. Accordingly, this article challenges the commonly accepted category of ‘Donegal style’, at least as it is applied to the instrumental tradition of the north-eastern peninsula of the county. It demonstrates, by means of case-studies, that traditional music, in this instance, can only be properly understood in terms of individuality: in fact, classification of practitioners according to geographic location risks obscuring a multiplicity of nuances. The literature since Ó Riada seems uncritically to have adopted a terminology foregrounded during the 1980s and ’90s as part of a wider agenda to promote and preserve the traditions of a small number of communities in the south-west of the county. But by its widespread usage, even in inappropriate contexts, this terminology has gradually come to be accepted as a descriptor for all of the traditional music emerging from Donegal.

This article is the first to articulate in this context the need to re-examine regional labels in light of understanding of what are inherently much more complex socio-musical, rather than geographically defined, practices. By placing the individual at the centre of the conversation, shared spaces and musical experiences _may_ converge in a way that makes regional categories useful; even in such cases those categories are unlikely to map easily onto administrative or geopolitical borders, as the case of Inishowen is here shown to prove. Rather, regional styles need to be re-examined with the individual participants at the core; the humans rather than the geography."

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