"DO YOU like jazz?" is a question that usually has aficionados scratching their heads. They could indulge the enquirer, or, if they want to be difficult, they could ask in return, "Do you mean ragtime, swing, bebop, Gypsy jazz, trad jazz, acid jazz or do you just go for a bit of crossover jazz?"
Jazz means many things to many people and that is becoming more and more true of Irish traditional music. The time has surely come when we are going to need a new vocabulary to describe the new music being made as musicians and composers.
You have the avant garde from the extreme case of John Cage’s Roaratorio, an Irish Circus on Finnegan's Wake to the likes of Caoimhín Ó Raghallaigh; you have trad music and orchestras as with Sean Davey, Niall Vallely and even Beoga had the Prague Philharmonic Orchestra on their album Mischief; there are combinations of trad music and, er, jazz, cajun, rock, reggae and then there are bands who simply defy description like Ensemble Ériu or even Francesco Turrissi’s Tarab.
The breadth of Irish traditional music is something that comes to the fore during Féile an Droichead, the week-long feast of music and culture curated by Claire Kieran which starts next week in a variety of venues.
"Every year we try to present something out of the ordinary," says the Armagh-born arts director at An Droichead, "but at the same time to show off all that is best about the tradition that has been part of the musical heartbeat of our lives for generations"
It definitely won’t become a new genre but traditional-music-on-the-camino is what is happening at the Ulster Museum next Thursday at 8pm when Camino na Sáile rows into town.
Over three spells in a three-year period, five people did the camino in the Kerry version of a currach, called a naomhóg, going from Dublin to the coast of Wales and Cornwall, then onto Brittany; from there they went to the Basque country and for the third spell, the travelled to A Coruña before taking the naomhóg inland to Santiago de Conpostela.
Needless to say, the crew suffered hardship on the high seas but found the inner strength to battle it. One of the ways they did this was through music and song, and that is what will be at the heart of the concert in the Ulster Museum.
Talking part will be renowned musicians Glen Hansard and Breanndan Ó Beaglaoch, author Danny Mac an tSíthigh, artist Liam Holden and Breandan O Muircheartaigh in what is going to be an unforgettable night.
The following night at the Black Box sees another show with a difference when the sound of three great exponents of the uilleann pipes will play tunes while art is created live as a backdrop to the music.
The mysterious event is called The Pipes, The Pipes – and it has nothing to do with Danny Boy.
Commissioned by The Dock in Carrick-on-Shannon, the show has been put together by DJ Donal Dineen, probably best known for his TV show No Disco, but also a man who has a long pedigree in the visual arts.
On the night, pipers Maitiú Ó Casaide, John Tuohy and Leonard Barry will play energetic, passionate and graceful music while Dineen and French digital artist Lionel Palun respond to the music by creating artworks which reflect the music as it is being played.
"It’s a very unusual approach to traditional music but I think it’s brilliant that different artforms can come together like this to create a unique atmosphere.
"The show has been getting great reviews from Leitrim to Paris and it’s great that its coming to Belfast," says Claire.
However, Féile an Droichead is not all about breaking new musical ground and this year, it will be celebrating one of the jewels in the crown of traditional music – Donegal fiddle playing – when Altan take to the stage at An Droichead on August 27.
Even thought the band have been around for over 30 years, their loyal followers and the constant stream of new fans mean the 'House Full' signs are always on the doors of an Altan concert.
With Mairéad Ní Mhaonaigh backed up by Ciaran and Martin Tourish, Ciarán Curran and Mark Kelly (and Daithí Sproule, when he’s available) there are few surer guarantees of a great night out.
The last concert is on Saturday August 28 when Clare-born fiddler Josie Nugent launches her brilliant new album, Modal Music.
The concert is at 1pm in the Belfast Barge and afterwards you can head up to Botanic Gardens for the annual Mela, where Irish music and Indian music will keep you entertained until 6pm – and don’t forget that the likes of Jason O’Rourke and Conor Caldwell will be playing in St George’s Market between 10am and12pm on the Saturday and Sunday.
:: Full information is available from Androichead.com/whats-on/