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KíLA - Mind the Generation Gap
"Irish music is like a river into which different pebbles are thrown"
is how Sean O'Riada, one of Ireland's greatest musicians, described this Irish tradition. One very important pebble for the band called KíLA was an unexpected birthday present.

In an effort to encourage a bit of culture in her son, Mrs. Ó Snodaigh bought him a Chieftains album. Not exactly what Top of the Pops fan Rossa was expecting. He was not impressed, but instead of using it as a frisbee, he listened to the record. He liked one tune, so he listened to it a few more times and found that he began to like the rest. Two years later, he learnt how to play the tin-whistle at school and his attempts to be like the musicians on the album, along with those of his brothers Ronan and Colm, laid the ground work for KíLA, the hottest thing to happen to fiddles, bodhrans and whistles in quite a few years.

Rossa himself has recovered well from that early trauma and plays a list of traditional instruments too long to list here. After only two albums, "Mind the Gap" and "Tóg é Go Bog é", the band are now filling venues around Ireland and receiving a reaction normally reserved for the hottest rock bands.

Speaking about the band in Dublin's famous Bewley's Café, Rossa has the relaxed demeanour of one who is succeeding in something he enjoys and has nothing to prove. Visually, he is the typical Irish eccentric with his mad hair and enthusiasm. As we sat and drank coffee, Rossa proved he also has that legendary Irish gift of the gab as he listed the band's other influences.

"Top of the Pops was a big influence in knowing what not to do to music. Cos, all those bands were fucking butchering music."

On the other side, Lance and Brian (the second set of brothers in KíLA), their biggest influence was probably their father.

Their father, Larry Hogan Snr, was in a band called "We Four" who had a hit single in the 60s. He brought the Lance and Brian to play on tour with him and their cousin around Ireland and Europe. They've been in a few rock bands as well. "They're more influenced by popular music than anything else."

Fiddle player, Dee Armstrong, has a far more 'respectable' music background.

Her parents were classical musicians and she was going to lots of classical shows. She was in the Youth Orchestra as well, for a while, but not now.

"Myself and herself are more into world music, she's seriously into gypsy music at the moment. Ronan, my brother, who sings a lot, he's started getting into African music."

While all these influences explain the diversity and experimentation in their music, it is their traditional influences which showed the band that traditional music could be used in a modern way. Influences include all the bands Donal Lunny has played with (Emmet Spiceland, Planxty, Moving Hearts, among others) - "he's been brilliant", Mushroom - "big hippies with fucking huge hair and massive bell-bottoms", Horselips, the Bothy Band and Moving Hearts - "massive, they just blew us away any time we put it on."

[image: Psycho-KíLA; qu'est que ce] At the time they started playing as a band at school, they simply played the same tunes the Bothy Band played. Then one of the members of the band decided that they weren't going to arrange the songs the same way as the Bothy band, as that had already been done. They wanted to do their own thing so they started to write their own tunes. It soon became the policy of the band to write their own material instead of playing traditional songs.

"If you think about it, jigs and reels are Irish. You can put any instrument on them. If you've got a chair, you can paint it as many colours as you want, it's still a chair. It's just instruments that we like, want to play and tunes suit them."

They found their experience of going to an All-Irish school very enriching, leaving them with an experience that very few other people in the country have had. They learnt "stupid little songs like Dillin O Damhas that no-one else in the world knows." They were encoured to play music, and not Irish music alone.

"We put on a concert once and we had a jazz band, a rock band, two pop bands and two traditional bands playing, a poetry launch and a classical pianist. The emphasis was Irish, but people weren't discouraged from being anything else."

Rossa wasn't surprised by the success of their single "On Taobh Tuathail Amach" which was a big hit in the Irish charts.

"I mean, it's sung in Irish, but there's no remnants of any traditional idiom in it at all. It's an Irish song because it's sung by an Irish person, but it's got a lot of percussion. In fact the only Irish percussion piece on it is the bodhran. When Colm wrote this album people said 'it won't sell 'cos it's in Irish. But, the Gypsy Kings are massive and they sing in Spanish. I'm in no doubt about Irish music or Irish lyrics. It's not a hindrance, it's just record companies' concepts that make it a hindrance."

While KíLA are relatively new to the music scene, some of them have experience playing with one of the most popular bands playing ethnically influenced music, Dead Can Dance. Rossa's brother, Ronan, and Lance Hogan played as part of their rhythm section on two tours and recorded with them on the live album, "Toward the Within", and their latest studio album "Spiritchaser". They also played with Lisa Gerrard's solo band. When KíLA lost their bass player they nabbed the bassist from Brendan Perry's solo band.

Not only did Ronan and Lance play with the band, but they added something extra to the music. "Lance tells me that while Brendan was the choreographer, everyone else had their input."

The band have been dubbed the Riverdance of traditional music, a tag that Rossa doesn't give much credence to. Rossa's not quite sure if KíLA are going to bring the music to the same heights as Riverdance brought dance. He considers it an attempt by people to label their music.

"What Riverdance has done is that it's given employment to a lot of skilled dancers, we're not giving employment to that many people. If you're saying we're going to bring Irish music to the heights Riverdance has brought Irish dancing, I don't know."

Nor does he think that what they are doing is as new to music as what Riverdance has done in dance. "I think Moving Hearts (the '70s traditional music collective featuring Donal Lunny, Davy Spillane and Christy Moore among others) blew a hole bigger than has been or will be. So there's a whole structure of bands coming up, so we're not the first people to be a band in traditional music. Whereas, Riverdance was really the first mega-show."

When any band tries to do something new in traditional music, there are always protests from music purists who make accusations of bastardising the music. This tends to be very strong when, as in KíLA's case, commercial success comes with the changes. However, Rossa's reaction is short and not so sweet.

"I don't consider purism in any form, so I don't give a shite."
Kíla - Lemonade & Buns
Kíla - Tóg é go bog é

by Donnacha DeLong