Shantalla: when is traditional not traditional?

The perception of traditional Irish music is that it was all written in the Middle Ages. But that’s forgetting that many musicians write in traditional mode, creating new songs in a recognisable trad style. This is true of Cesaria Evora and indeed of the Stray Cats (jumping genres). This fact was underlined at the recent concert of Shantalla in Brussels on January 30.


Shantalla are a six-piece traditional Irish band that had considerable success across Europe and recently reunited after a gap of several years. From reading past reviews, I can see that what made them stand out then is as true today: their remarkable energy and cohesion. Within the cosy confines of the Théâtre Molière, they played a first half of songs that mixed mid- and up-tempos. Helen Flaherty’s singing was introduced, revealing the stories behind the songs.

This was the revelation of sorts. Many of the songs – even the jigs and reels – are contemporary, written by the members of the band or Irish and Scottish songwriters. They fit seamlessly into the traditional playlist – but then, what does it mean to be “traditional” when you are singing songs that refer to Srebenica? Many of the traditional songs handed down to us covered political issues. So it’s hardly surprising that contemporary traditional Irish music should do likewise.

The group finished with some rousing jigs and reels. They have plans to appear on RTBF’s “Le monde est un village” radio show soon, with an album to follow. Follow our Twitter feed for news or visit Shantalla‘s website.

One comment to “Shantalla: when is traditional not traditional?”
One comment to “Shantalla: when is traditional not traditional?”
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