Dónal Ó Ceallaigh was born in the Gaelic speaking part of west Donegal, Ireland. At the age of eight or maybe nine, he had an experience which would have a profound influence on his life.
He woke up one morning to the magical sound of the incredible fiddle playing of the legendary Irish fiddle player John Doherty, who dropped in for breakfast. He was a travelling musician and would play one or two tunes in exchange for some breakfast. Upon hearing this fiddle music Dónal jumped out of bed faster than he ever did before, for he knew it was music of an incredibly high caliber, tunes which were complicated but really melodic and he knew this music had been sprinkled with magic, as if it were touched by the hand of the fairy folk themselves.
From that moment on he had developed a great love for Irish traditional music. He was drawn into the magic. This was the “call to adventure” if you like.
On growing up in Ireland he was troubled having one ear on the country’s traditional music and fiddle playing of his Gaelic ancestors on one hand and in the other ear the exposure to pop culture pouring in from across the water. High up in the hills of Donegal he was able to tune in the old family radio to pick up foreign radio stations like Radio Andorra in Spain and hear new kinds of music that was not available in the lower lands. But both of these music forms had no way to blend together at that time. It was like a musical schizophrenia. Torn apart by these to kinds of music which he loved and by the disharmony between them he searched for a way to unite them, a way to make peace between them.
While always involved with music, art and creativity Dónal Ó Ceallaigh found an interest in Irish mythology which led him to explore that hidden world of the collective Gaelic unconsciousness. Traces of this can be found in his songs, where he always reverts back to that deeper level of the Irish psyche. While at the same time, his work is full of light-hearted moments and non serious excursions. You could say that this is a uniquely Irish trait in some ways. As he says “It’s the tons of bricks and the floating feathers together, the profound, the deep and the witty weightlessness together which makes the great balance and Irish people seem to be able to dance in and out between them as if they were all Lords of the Dance”.
In this CD he draws these two worlds together and harmonizes them, the old world of his ancestral past and the modern world now walking hand in hand in the present. That had been his aim for many years and it now finds fruit in this CD. He was always one to break the rules and was forward thinking.
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