Some people say protest music originates in Ireland. They trace it back to the arrival of Anglo-Norman colonists in 1169 and 1691 when the English Protestants took control of Catholic Ireland. Songs recounting the Easter Uprising of 1916 and Bloody Sunday are heard every St. Patrick’s Day. This week, we’ve pulled together an amazing mix of musicians with Irish roots performing traditional ballads and punk anthems as well as electronica and reggae to help you celebrate Irish culture and history with a feminist flare.
These songs can also be found here: Unsweetened: A Playlist for a Feminist Future on Spotify.
The Cranberries, “Zombie”
Known for their distinctive ethereal breathy vocals and crushing guitar fuzz, The Cranberries took a left-turn with the song, “Zombie.” The 1994 hit commemorates the lives of the two boys killed in the Warrington IRA bombings.
Fiffin Market, “Molly Malone”
This ode to a young lass who sells cockles and mussels dates back to the 1800s. You may be familiar with the Dubliners rousing edition, but we are partial to Fiffin Market’s melodic revisit.
Kelsey Waldon, “Dirty Old Town”
Kelsey Waldon, from western Kentucky, gets her inspiration for this honky-tonking tune from the Pogues’ punk anthem.
Anne Feeney, “The Men behind the Wire”
Cruising, “You Made Me Do That”
The Irish punk band, Cruising, is ironically named after an Al Pacino film about a serial killer who targets gay men. Their songs candidly embrace queer sexuality. “Say who you are and shout your name.”
Áine Cahill, “Blood Diamonds”
Áine Cahill, from Cavan, Ireland, has been compared to Adele and Lana Del Rey. In this song, she sardonically brings our attention to diamonds mined in war zones.
Wyvern Lingo, “Maybe It’s My Nature”
The trio from Bray, Ireland, have a soulful sound. In “Maybe It’s My Nature,” they address the ways women are stereotypically portrayed as lacking sexual agency.
Soulé, “What Do You Know”
With her Congolese heritage and penchant for electronic R&B, the Dublin singer Soulé encourages you to celebrate your independence.
The Wharves, “Unhand Me”
The Wharves bring their eclectic histories to their folk tinged psych rock. Fleet is English, Minogue is Irish, and Andrau is French. Their songs explore the ways history both confines us and creates us. “Unhand Me” could apply to the ‘grip’ of history or unwanted advances.
Hazel Dickens, “They’ll Never Keep Us Down”
The Irish inﬂuence on Appalachian music became more prominent after people escaping the potato blight in Ireland immigrated to the United States in the 1840s. To celebrate the Irish roots of Appalachia and the success of the Kentucky teacher’s strike, we recommend this song Dickens wrote for “Harlan County, U.S.A.,” a film about the deadly struggle to unionize.
Sinead O’Connor and The Chieftains, “The Foggy Dew”
The song, “The Foggy Dew,” was written by a parish priest, Canon Charles O’Neill, to chronicle the Easter Uprising of 1916. Sinead O’Connor’s mournful vocals call forth the history of protest in Éire.
Bonzai, “I Feel Alright”
Bonzai, who was born in Indiana and grew up in a village near Dublin, has her own style of energetic R&B, hip-hop electronica. You may also want to check out Big Freedia’s bounce mix up.
Tiger Hifi, “Sunday Bloody Sunday”
Tiger Hifi, a dub-reggae band from Berlin, covers U2’s hit song, “Sunday Bloody Sunday.” For them, the lyrics that recounts the tragedy of the mass civilian killing from the Troubles is not a rally cry for armed resistance. They maintain that it’s a plea for peace, unity and an end to the seemingly ceaseless violence. “How long, how long must we sing this song?”
Stay tuned for more great protest music from the Irish diaspora. If you like these songs, you will love the playlist!