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Celtic music has a merry yet morose melodic quality to it that puts one in the mood to tune in, tune out or turn it up, lending itself to a wide spectrum of moods.
To me, even a sad ditty can relieve the stress of a particularly long week, as long as I ignore the lyrical references to The Troubles and Bloody Sunday. With a jovial evening on my mind, I headed to Bennigans Amwaj last weekend to check out their new Celtic fusion act, The O’Dwyers.
At first I thought that I was going to check out a family band, formed by the eponymous O’Dwyers, a misconception seemingly confirmed when I saw three generations of musicians step up to the stage.
While Joe Dalton,40, on bodhrán, Martin Parker on mandolin and acoustic guitar, and John Jaworski on violin, may not be a family by blood, they definitely played like one.
If bodhrán sounds alien to you as it did to me, it’s an Irish frame drum with a head made of goatskin tacked to one side and open-ended on the other for one hand to be placed against the inside of the drum head to control the pitch and timbre, played skillfully by Joe with a cipín (tipper). And the best part is, with an Irish accent or enough Irish coffee, the word sounds like Bahrain!
The trio have been entertaining Irish enthusiasts all over the island for the last four years, having performed at most of the Gaelic venues across the kingdom, including the Gaelic festival held annually at the Bahrain Rugby and Football Club.
Having lived here for a good portion of their lives, they each found their own way to the genre, Joe by choice and John and Martin by association, now doing it part-time on the weekends. They describe themselves as an “eat-and-greet” band since they often get to intermingle and get familiar with their fans between sets.
Beyond its despondent cheeriness, the other thing I enjoy about Irish music is that 80 per cent of it is participatory and as the night gets louder, so do the singalongs. Perhaps musical talent tends to shine when infused with liquid courage or perhaps it’s about being in close quarters with a rambunctious rabble but the clap-alongs got more spirited and the voices grander as we enjoyed beverages in Bennigans’ Celtic corner.
As the crowd sang along to The Old Triangle Went Jingle-Jangle, we checked out the menu, finding a decent offering of Irish fare and chatted with Ibrahim Abdo, the general manager of Bennigans, who ‘found’ the band, said: “We want to see how the O’Dwyers fit in at Bennigans so we have brought them in for Friday evenings until 8pm, with the in-house band taking over then.”
The O’Dwyers play at Bennigans Amwaj every Friday from 5pm to 8pm. Check them out to get your Celtic fix!
– Naman Arora