Shane McGowan once maintained in an interview in Record Collector
“There are a lot of musical connections between Irish music and reggae. A few old Irish tunes are very close to reggae rhythms, and there's a huge Irish influence in the Caribbean”
Maybe this is what helped many irish emigrants to be down with the West Indian sound. In his seminal work on the history of reggae "Bass Culture –when reggae was king", Dennis Bradley talks about the early blues dances (called after the gramophone not the music) in West London in the late 50s and how the only others to attend these illegal events along with the Jamaicans were the irish. In fact most of the venues they were held in became known as shebeens.
Vague in “Getting it straight in Notting Hill Gate” outlines that when the
British fascist Oswald Mosely ran for election in 1959, he addressed a meeting
in Ladbroke Grove where
“he provided people with instant solutions; scapegoating theblacks and Irish, telling people that it was their fault that we had poor housing…”.
this didn't stop Mosely finishing last in the ensuing election.
However, Irish traditional music and reggae do not have a huge shared history on record. From the irish trad side of things Sharon Shannon had one album Out the Gap which included reggae musician Dennis Bovell. Not strictly on a traditional tip but Belfast band Breag have been recording reggae for over a decade now as gaeilge. They are part of a small but loyal reggae scene here- in the last month there is even an album of dub brought out by a Tralee bassist James Kennedy. More recently Sinead O Connor followed up her album of traditional irish material with well received album of roots classics with Sly and Robbie on musician ship duties. Limerick comedian Jon Kennys back in the 80s recorded a comic reggae version of ‘Spancil Hill’ which charted in Ireland. Some Irish traditional songs have also got the reggae treatment from Jamaican artists (fill me in on anything I’m missing via the comments section below)
As Irish cities go Cork once again will claim to be the
reggae capital and for once it is a title well deserved. Back in the 80s the
presence of Man Ezeke, on pirate ERI with a weekly show of reggae and calypso
was an influence. Groups like Belsonic Sound incorporated reggae and venues
like the Donkeys ears and Issac Bells all had big reggae nights. The Friday
night dub sessions in the former were legendary as were some of the special
once offs in Sir Henrys. In recent years Revelation sound and bellyman have
kept the reggae flag flying. The latter has his own record shop roots records
In the history of cork reggae however I think it is unlikely that anyone could have predicted the clash of cultures that occurred when eek a mouse visited last month. Visiting the Sin E, to celebrate his 50th birthday Eek a Mouse joined in on a traditional session that was going on. Thankfully someone taped it. More details here on blood and fire board.