Western Star

A Conversation with Muireann Nic Amhlaoibh

Episode #6

In this episode of “The Language Question,” I am joined by Muireann Nic Amhlaoibh, a traditional Irish musician, singer and broadcaster. We chat about her upbringing in Dún Chaoin in the West Kerry Gaeltacht, as Muireann shares her family’s journey to becoming native Irish speakers and the importance of community and culture throughout her childhood. Muireann talks about her own experience as a musician travelling the world and we explore, among other topics, the strong connection between language and music in Irish culture.

Podcast Notes

Journey to the Gaeltacht

Interestingly, despite neither of her parents originating from a Gaeltacht region or being native speakers themselves, Muireann found herself growing up in Dún Chaoin in the West Kerry Gaeltacht. Early in this episode, Muireann shares the journey of what got her there and how her own use of the language was impacted through her experience.

Importance of Community and Music

Muireann discusses the importance of community, which has shaped her outlook on life and music. She talks about the significance of intergenerational communication in music, sharing her own experiences of music being a massive part of community gatherings where everyone got involved.

Transition to a Solo Music Career

Though, surprisingly, Muireann’s entry to the professional music world was somewhat of an accident, she ended up spending 13years touring with Irish band Danú. During our conversation, she talks about that journey and how she eventually transitioned from travelling the world as part of a band to settling down back in the Gaeltacht with her family and becoming a solo artist, and broadcaster.

Language and Music

Our conversation, naturally moves from here to discuss the connection between language and music and how they are inextricably linked in the Irish culture.

The Burden of Responsibility

With changes in the Gaeltacht and the threat to survival of these communities, Muireann discusses how the burden of responsibility seems to have been placed on Muireann’s generation to save the language. A possibly impossible feat. On a more positive note, however, she shares how the new generation of Irish speakers appear more confident when using the language and are not afraid to create and make mistakes, that would have at one time been frowned upon.

From here we chat about the revival of the Irish language outside of the Gaeltacht and what could be done to potentially protect the more endangered regions from decline. I thoroughly enjoyed this conversation as I am sure you will too.  Be sure to listen in full above or download the transcript below.

More on Muireann Nic Amhlaoibh

Muireann Nic Amhlaoibh

A renowned artist, Muireann Nic Amhlaoibh is a multi-award winning traditional singer and musician from Dún Chaoin in the West Kerry Gaeltacht. Muireann is a leading exponent of the sean nós style and has enjoyed a successful career as a touring artist, with over thirteen years experience as lead singer and flute player with the Irish traditional supergroup Danú, as well as a many years performing as a solo artist.

Muireann is also a popular television and radio presenter, having hosted a range of programmes for Irish and Scottish TV and Radio over the past 15 years, and currently presents her own music programme “Folk on One” on RTÉ Radio 1.

You can find out more about Muireann and download her music here.

And, you can connect with Muireann on social here:

Free Irish Learning Resources Guide

Whether you are just starting out or have already begun your language learning journey, I have compiled a collection of resources that should help you along the way.