Doolin is famous for its association with Irish Traditional Music and has even been referred to as the Home of Irish Music. From the nightly sessions in all the pubs to the Doolin Folk Festival, let us take you on a little tour of what makes Doolin the best music destination in Ireland.
Roots of the Music
Music has always been an integral part of life in Doolin. Other traditions such as the Irish language, storytelling and dance were preserved as well, certainly because of Doolin’s remote location. As a result, this isolation strengthened community ties and thus the local folklore.
Doolin’s musical and storytelling heritage was first recorded in the 1920s/1930s by Séamus Ó Duilearga, a famous collector of folklore. Other music collectors followed in the next decades to record the unspoiled music that flowed through the village’s veins. Musicians such as Micho Russell and his brothers Packie & Gussie, along with other local musicians, became the focal point of Doolin. These recordings were broadcasted on radio and subsequently attracted more music fans and visitors to our village.
Doolin’s Famous Irish Traditional Music Sessions
Musicians and listeners come to Doolin from all over the world to experience the magic of the sessions. These informal gathering of musicians, sitting around a table and playing tunes and songs, create an atmosphere that is the heartbeat of Doolin. In other words it is the soul of its nightlife.
Sessions are always unique and can be very different from one night to another. But they always offer a great experience. From a wild session with 10 musicians to an intimate duet playing beside the fire on a cold winter’s night, Irish traditional music is still thriving in Doolin. The pubs all have nightly sessions for most of the year, and in the winter you will always find a few tunes and songs in one of them as well.
One of our favourite sessions is the Monday night in Fitzpatrick’s Bar at Hotel Doolin (only 10 mins walk from the Rainbow Hostel – see our 10 tips). This session happens all year round and there are always a few visitors joining the local musicians. They play great tunes and plenty of songs in a friendly atmosphere. We also love when Blackie O’Connell (uilleann pipes) and Cyril O’Donoghue (bouzouki/voice) play in McDermott’s and McGann’s Pub. Kevin Griffin (banjo) and Noel O’Donoghue (flute) are some of our favourite musicians too. They always put in a great, lively performance and are very welcoming.
Music Festivals in Doolin
There are many festivals in Doolin throughout the year. There are two in particular that we love and that are focused on music. The Russell Memorial Weekend and the Doolin Folk Festival.
The Russell Memorial Weekend takes place every year on the last full weekend of February. It is a wonderful time of the year as all the musicians and locals are bursting for a good session. Therefore the festival generates a great buzz around the village. That weekend really kickstarts the season here in Doolin. The festival itself consists of a couple of concerts and some workshops. However it is mostly the exciting pub sessions that are at the heart of this festival. The festival pays tribute to Micho, Packie and Gussie Russell, and also to the other local musicians of past times.
The Doolin Folk Festival is a bigger festival that takes place on the second weekend of June. It is organised by Hotel Doolin and runs for 3 days, with many concerts on two different stages. We love the great mix of traditional and folk music of the festival programme. Some of Ireland’s top musicians have performed there, for instance Sharon Shannon, Martin Hayes, Paul Brady, Lankum, Finbar Furey & many more.
Tunes From Doolin
If you are interested in finding out more about Irish Traditional Music from Doolin, we highly recommend getting in touch with Tunes From Doolin. It is a project run by Charles Monod, a local musician here in the village. Charles has been promoting Irish Traditional Music in Doolin and archiving traditional tunes from the area since 2011. Together with his musical partner JB Samzun, Charles released an album in 2020 called “Aughavinna”. The album features local tunes played on concertina and fiddle. If you’d like to support our local musicians make sure to order a copy of their album here!