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Altan: passionate trailblazers for Irish traditional music

By Alison Hird

Altan are without question one of Ireland's great traditional music groups. They talk to RFI about The Gap of Dreams, their 13th studio album, why no two reels are the same, and giving their all whether playing to huge crowds or just one man. "Music is like eating and drinking," says Ni Mhaonaigh, "it’s part of what we are".

Founded by Mairéad Ní Mhaonaigh and Frankie Kennedy some three decades ago, the five-piece band has packed out the world's biggest concert halls and played for American presidents. But they remain modest, confident in their skills as consummate musicians. 

And the tradition of passing songs and music down through families in their native County Donegal continues. Ni Mhaonaigh's daughter Nia has composed "Nia's Jig" for the album and guitarist Mark Kelly's son Sam "The Beekeeper".

"They’re getting the bug," Ní Mhaonaigh laughs.

 

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