Ceol’s back, but it’s only now that we can say it’s better than ever. For those unaware, Ceol is an annual compilation of songs by predominantly Irish musicians, translated and sung by the original artists in Irish, and Ceol 2018 was recently released, bursting with a new relevance.
It’s mind-blowing to think that the first editions of Ceol, started back in 2006, featured translations of songs by artists such as Mundy, the Corrs, Bell X1, Paddy Casey, Luan Parle and Declan O’ Rourke. Those songs felt unique to Ireland, naturally giving themselves over to translation and fitting into a warm and homely collection of songs. Ceol 2018 couldn’t be more different. Revived by Eoghan McDermott, the latest editions are in tune with Irish music listening in real-time, and Irish as a language is in something of an updraft with a new generation of Gaelgeoirs trying to find new ways to bring Irish into fashion. What better way for these two things to dovetail than to translate the coolest and most popular tunes into Irish like an upscale Coláiste Lurgan?
“Revived by Eoghan McDermott, the latest editions are in tune with Irish music listening in real-time”
It’s clear from the offset that Ceol 2018 is on another level. An Irish spoken word intro by Saoirse Ronan and Macklemore, really stretching his purported heritage here, seamlessly transitions into the undeniably rousing “Is Sinne Óg”, a translation of “When We Were Young” by Picture This. It only gets bigger and brighter from there, with the glittering stadium-pop of Kodaline’s “Ag Fadú d’Aidhme” (“Follow Your Fire”) and Gavin James’ “I gConaí” (“Always”), as well as the effervescent indie of Delorentos’ “In San Nóiméad” (“In the Moment”) and The Academic’s “Do Chroí Anocht” (“Bear Claws”).
Whatever is said about the unashamedly transatlantic leanings of Irish pop music at the moment, it makes Ceol 2018 simmer with life; these are huge, shiny songs that can headline festivals, soundtrack shopping trips in Dundrum, even be played in a club, if you can imagine such a thing. Wild Youth’s “Can’t Move On” is a song in the same shiny funk vein as Sexual by NEIKED and Maroon 5’s new sound, and it sounds like it should be similarly huge.
“these are huge, shiny songs that can headline festivals, soundtrack shopping trips in Dundrum, even be played in a club, if you can imagine such a thing.”
Chasing Abbey’s “Labhair Liom” (“Talk To Me”) is an undeniable bop, as is John Gibbons’ “Sunglasses in the Rain”, which brings in rising Irish popstar Soulé on this version, titled “Spéaclaí Gréine sa Bháisteach”. This edition more than any before sees the compilation bringing in artists from outside the Emerald Isle to colour some of the most popular songs in the world with a Fenian shade, inducting them forever into the pantheon of amhráin as Gaeilge. Parson James’ tropical-house smash “Stole the Show” appears here, as does the anthemic “September Song” by JP Cooper and, most surprisingly, a cover of Wheatus’ undying 90s alternative hit “Teenage Dirtbag”, translated hilariously to “Stócach Brocach”.
“[a] winning combination of huge songs, special non-Irish guests, and the surge of youthful interest in keeping the language in vogue”
If there’s another reason the Ceol series should thrive it’s because non-English language music is having a moment. Christine and the Queens is an alt-pop sovereign at this stage and released her sublime new album Chris last month with versions of the songs in English and her native French, the latter of which people listen to most because it just sounds so much better. Then there’s k-pop, proving extremely popular among young people with pristine pop bands like BTS, Blackpink and Loona birthing a new era of devout stans. There’s no reason Ceol can’t achieve the same level of relevance, albeit on a smaller scale, especially with the winning combination of huge songs, special non-Irish guests, and the surge of youthful interest in keeping the language in vogue. Ceol 2018 sets a good precedent, and may it continue. Is tonn é.