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Dervish: from the northwest of Ireland to the World

Updated: Jun 7, 2022

There are many ways to discover new bands, many times by friends' suggestion or by listening to them on the radio, in the "old times" we used to find some gems on record stores, nowadays Spotify's algorithm will suggest what fits you the best. This is a recent technology that mesmerized me when I first discovered around the year of 2005, time when things were starting to get better for listeners of different music. It was really hard to find this music in stores or on the radio and we relied on questionable downloads from eMule kind of sites.

On this treasure hunt for some quality irish music, the aforemetioned website suggested me a band with a weird name, not because it is in Irish but because it is the name of practitioners of a curious Sufi rite in Turkey in which men in white skirts and red hats go into a trance whirling like whipping tops for a long time. The music wasn't Sufi, which is very interesting by the way, but was irish and very good!

by Collin Gillen

That's how Dervish came into my life, and it hit my heart harder than the step on my foot I would take years later from that same band's lead singer, Cathy Jordan.

One of the things that caught my attention at the beginning was precisely her, a native of Roscommon, with a very precise voice with a characteristic timbre and dramatic interpretations very connected to the stories of the songs, and she also plays the bodhrán, felt in love at first sight!

Another thing that caught my attention was the care taken by the group with the style and arrangements. While the style, very lively and full of energy, is very characteristic especially from Sligo and Leitrim counties, where most of the members are from, the arrangements are very careful and fresh, sometimes almost progressive, I would say, and both things come together very cohesively and effortlessly.

This is probably due to the more than 30 years on the road in addition to the previous years in which four of the original members, Shane Mitchell (accordion), Liam Kelly (flute/whistle), Brian McDonagh (mandola/mandolin) and Michael Holmes (bouzouki), they were already playing together in sessions.

Shortly after the group's first album, which at the time was called Boys of Sligo, Cathy Jordan, the vocalist, and violinist Tom Morrow joined the group, thus closing the line-up that is there until today.

by Collin Gillen

There were 13 albums, works with important artists and many concerts on tours around the world, including Brazil. Dervish was the first Irish traditional music group to play at Rock in Rio, in the third edition, in 2001, a show that had approximately 250,000 people.

In 2019 they were awarded by the BBC Folk Awards and some say they are the heirs of The Bothy Band or even The Chieftains. I like to think that there is a place for each of the gods in this pantheon.

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