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Celtic, as a music genre, is a broad grouping of musical inspirations that evolved out of the Folk music traditions of the Celtic people of Western Europe. It refers to both vocally delivered traditional music, as well as recorded music and the styles vary considerably to include everything from "trad" (traditional) music to a wide range of hybrids.


Celtic music means two things, firstly, it is the music of the peoples identifying themselves as Celts. Secondly, it refers to whatever qualities may be unique to the musics of the Celtic Nations. Many notable Celtic musicians such as Alan Stivell and Paddy Moloney claim that the different Celtic musics have much in common. These common melodic practices may be used widely across Celtic Music.

It is common for the melodic line to move up and down the primary chords in many Celtic songs. There are a number of possible reasons for this;-

  1. 'Melodic variation can be easily introduced. Melodic variation is widely used in Celtic music, especially by the pipes and harp.
  2. It is easier to anticipate the direction that the melody will take, so that harmony either composed or improvised can be introduced: cliched cadences that are essential for impromptu harmony are also more easily formed.
  3. The relatively wider tonal intervals in some songs make it possible for stress accents within the poetic line to be more in keeping with the local Celtic accent.
  4. Across just one Celtic group.

By more than one Celtic language population belonging to different Celtic groups. These two latter usage patterns may simply be remnants of formerly widespread melodic practices.

Often, the term Celtic music is applied to the music of Ireland and Scotland, because these lands have produced well-known distinctive styles which actually have genuine commonality and clear mutual influences. The definition is further complicated by the fact that Irish independence has allowed Ireland to promote 'Celtic' music as a specifically Irish product. However, these are modern geographical references to a people who share a common Celtic ancestry and consequently, a common musical heritage.

These styles are known because of the importance of Irish and Scottish people in the English speaking world, especially in the United States, where they had a profound impact on American music, particularly Bluegrass and Country music.

The music of Wales, Cornwall, the Isle of Man, Brittany, Galicia, Cantabria and Asturias (Spain) and Portugal are also considered Celtic music, the tradition being particularly strong in Brittany, where Celtic festivals large and small take place throughout the year, and in Wales, where the ancient eisteddfod tradition has been revived and flourishes. Additionally, the musics of ethnically Celtic peoples abroad are vibrant, especially in Canada and the United States. In Canada the provinces of Atlantic Canada are known for being a home of Celtic music, most notably on the islands of Newfoundland, Cape Breton and Prince Edward Island. The traditional music of Atlantic Canada is heavily influenced by the Irish, Scottish and Acadian ethnic makeup of much of the region's communities. In some parts of Atlantic Canada, such as Newfoundland, Celtic music is as or more popular than in the old country. Further, some older forms of Celtic music that are rare in Scotland and Ireland today, such as the practice of accompanying a fiddle with a piano, or the Gaelic spinning songs of Cape Breton remain common in the Maritimes. Much of the music of this region is Celtic in nature, but originates in the local area and celebrates the sea, seafaring, fishing and other primary industries.

Celtic Fusion

The oldest musical tradition which fits under the label of Celtic Fusion originated in the rural American south in the early colonial period and incorporated Scottish, Scots-Irish, Irish,Welsh, English, and African influences. Often referred to as roots music, American Folk music, or old-time music, this tradition has exerted a strong influence on all forms of American music, including Country, Blues, and Rock n Roll. In addition to its lasting effects on other genres, it marked the first modern large-scale mixing of musical traditions from multiple ethnic and religious communities within the Celtic diaspora.

In the '60s several bands put forward modern adaptations of Celtic music pulling influences from several of the Celtic nations at once to create a modern pan-celtic sound. A few of those include bagadoù (Breton pipe bands), Fairport Convention, Pentangle, Steeleye Span and Horslips.

On to the '70s, and Clannad made their mark initially in the Folk and traditional scene, and then subsequently went on to bridge the gap between traditional Celtic and Pop music in the '80s and '90s, incorporating elements from New-Age, Jazz, and Folk/Rock. Traces of Clannad's legacy can be heard in the music of many artists, including Enya, Donna Taggart, Altan, Capercaillie, The Corrs, Loreena McKennitt, Anúna, Riverdance and U2. The solo music of Clannad's lead singer, Moya Brennan (often referred to as the First Lady of Celtic Music) has further enhanced this influence.

Later, beginning in '82 with The Pogues' invention of Celtic Folk-Punk and Stockton's Wing blend of Irish traditional and Pop, Rock and Reggae, there has been a movement to incorporate Celtic influences into other genres of music. Bands like Flogging Molly, Black 47, Dropkick Murphys, Smokey Bastard, The Young Dubliners, The Tossers introduced a hybrid of Celtic Rock, Punk, Reggae, Hardcore and other elements in the 1990s that has become popular with Irish-American youth.

Today there are Celtic-influenced subgenres of virtually every type of popular music including Electronic Dance Music, Rock, Heavy Metal, Hip Hop, new-age, Latin, and Andean. Collectively these modern interpretations of Celtic music, plus the ones we mentioned earlier on, are sometimes referred to as Celtic fusion.

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