It occurs to me tonight, literally between the jigs and reels, that there’s a madness in the Irish, a wildness that inhabits our souls. We’re an island race, clinging to a rugged rock on the furthest Western shores of Europe. One coast facing an ancient friend and foe and the other shore looking out onto the endless, expansive, relentless abyss of the wild Atlantic ocean. Wave upon wave of invasions has resulted in the blood of Vikings, Celts, Normans and god knows who else coursing through our veins. How could it be any other way? It’s madness I tell thee.
By and large we manage to keep this madness at bay. Hidden deep within the recesses of our psyche, like the good oppressed Christians that we became, we like to keep this malady suppressed, pushed all the way down so as not to let the likes of it see the light of day.
However, to prevent unsolicited and explosive visits from our mischievous friend we‘ve learned that it’s best practice for us to collectively release the beast in a controlled environment, a cathartic exorcism for the masses.
From the pagan gatherings at Uisneach, to the céilís in the Whest of Ireland bothies, to the dancing at the crossroads, to the lads skulling big pint bottles of Smithwicks in Lisdoonvarna in the ’70s and up to today’s miscreants blowing their minds in the fields of Stradbally, the Irish have been cutting loose, releasing the pressure and letting the divil out for a dance since time immemorial. And sound tracking these essential freak-outs has been the pipes, whistles, fiddles and drums of our traditional music.
So when one of today’s practitioners of this fine noble tradition, Jiggy’s Eamonn De Barra asks tonight’s revellers in Whelans if we’re ready to party, the answer is a resounding, primordial and affirmative yawp.
Jiggy are here tonight to launch their debut album, Translate. And while they continue the tradition of their musical ancestors they bring a whole new exotic flavour to the table. More of a collective than an orthodox band, Jiggy’s mercurial line up mixes and melds Eastern instrumentation and vibes with Irish trad stylings. Underpinning it all and bringing it up to the here and now are the sweet beats and samples as laid down by Mark Murphy.
This synthesis of East meets West meets the ones and zeroes of electronica really gels and glistens on tracks like ‘Drowsy Maggie’. The introductory washed out dub providing a background to Mattu’s playing of the reel on an Indian sarode. Indian born but Dublin based, Koushik accompanies on mridangam drums as the other members of Jiggy on whistles, flutes, pipes and bodhran keep it firmly rooted in the Irish idiom. Heady stuff indeed as the multi-faceted, sonic tapestry carries the mind’s eye from the sacred shores of the Ganges to the banks of the broad majestic Shannon via trenchtown.
‘Skellig’ proves to be another highlight when the double attack of two flautists and two fiddlers threatens to lift the roof off the gaff. The force was awake within this one long before Lucas and crew turned the sacred rock into a tick the box, bucket list item for nerdy fan boys and girls of the far, far away franchise.
It’s obvious to onlookers that tonight’s performance is a labour of love for those on stage. There’s a joy and camaraderie emanating from the players that infects the audience, spreading and oozing through the congregation like a golden honeycomb left out on a hot summer’s day.
Leading the charge from behind is the force of nature that is Robbie Harris and Jiggy are at their most infectious when Harris steps up centre stage, propelling proceedings on at a clip with his relentless bodhran playing, cajoling and coaxing the audience, driving us and the players onwards.
At one stage there are thirteen people of various Eastern and Western nationalities grooving and manoeuvring around each other on the tight stage. If this isn’t an endorsement and reflection of our modern, multicultural Ireland then I don’t know what is. We’ve come a long way from Dev’s staid, sepia toned image of the comely maidens dancing at the crossroads – this is a full-on, full-tilt, multi-coloured, monster céilí boogie.
Given the various commitments of the members, Jiggy gigs are like hen’s teeth around this parish, all far too rare. For those of you unfortunate enough not to have witnessed this celebration of our life force and madness you could do worse then getting your mitts on Translate. Jiggy have managed to bottle their lighting with their debut. So do yourself a favour, pick up a copy, head home, put on the tunes, whack it up 11, push back the furniture and then it’s twice around the kitchen and mind the dresser.