Trad musician John Carty talks the international language of the fiddle
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Trad musician John Carty talks the international language of the fiddle

THE traditional music scene in Ireland is fantastic at the moment, according to fiddler John Carty.

“The market is well-flooded with great players”, he admits, but a result though, it’s getting harder to make a living out of it, meaning that many great Irish musicians are taking their instruments overseas where there is popular uptake.

“It’s always been the way,” the musician explains.

“I was in Japan this year. I did about ten days.”

Who knew that traditional Irish music has an audience in Japan, but Carty insists. And they don’t just listen to Irish music, they play too!

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“There’s a big scene there,” says Carty.

“People have been visiting Japan now for over 20 years I would say, with good Irish music, so they can really play.”

“You might not be able to talk to them in Japanese but you can sit down and play tunes all afternoon together, it’s amazing.”

He adds: “I went into a bar there - the finest of Irish traditional music playing, and this guy he showed me my own CD’s that I have made. Then he took out the fiddle and played me a tune.

“And he was no slouch, he was a lovely player. We played tunes and drank sake.”

So, the international language of Irish music is truly alive and well!

Born to Irish parents in East London, Carty grew up listening to Irish music and going to trad sessions.

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His father, also John Carty, from Boyle, Co. Roscommon, was a member of the Glenside Ceili Band in London in the 1960’s.

Carty remembers the excitement of going along to traditional Irish music sessions as a child in The White Hart in Fulham Broadway.

“You’d walk down this long corridor which was wood panelled and when you get to the end of it this world opened up,” he recalls.

“Top class Irish music, the whole place was just bustling.

“I’m sure there’s the likes of jazz dens in New York that were kind of similar, but this was really great traditional Irish music.”

There would be great musicians playing, such as the likes of Roger Sherlock, Raymond Roland and many others.

Carty picked up the fiddle himself when he was around ten or eleven, under the tutelage of famed Irish traditional music teacher Brendan Mulkere, and hasn’t looked back since.

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He now lives in Boyle, Co. Roscommon with his wife Maureen - the “backbone” of the family - and was awarded TG4’s Traditional Musician of the Year in 2003.

He is currently the Sligo Traditional Artist in Residence and also teaches in the University of Limerick once a week - it was a former student of his who invited him out to that memorable trip in Japan.

This week he’ll be playing the Blásta Music Festival in London for the first time, alongside Matt Molloy, the legendary flute player from The Chieftains and Brian McGrath on keyboard.

Music very much runs in the next generation of the Carty family too.

His son, James Carty, has released a debut solo album, Hiding Daylight in Dark Corners, which features John Carty on flute and fiddle.

It is his second collaboration with one of his children, after the release of Settle Out Of Court, a duet album with his daughter Maggie Carty in 2016.

There are not many other bucket list items to tick off for Carty, except for perhaps a holiday. But it wouldn’t be a holiday without the fiddle.

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“One of the greatest trips I have ever had was cycling around Ireland with my brother and a few of us. And we’d bring the instruments,” says Carty.

“Anything like that. I would love to do trips like that. Just tear off, throwing a fiddle on my shoulder.”

Blásta Music Festival runs from November 9-30 at the Irish Cultural Centre, Hammersmith. Matt Molloy, John Carty and Brian McGrath perform within the festival on November 22. For tickets click here.