Irish folk band, Beoga was formed in 2002 after the original four members had a jamming session at the All-Ireland Fleadh. Though based in Co. Antrim, the band was completed when Limerick native and one of Ireland’s premier young talents, Niamh Dunne, joined the set in 2005. Since then, the band has firmly established the foundation of their sound as being traditionally Irish. However, Beoga are not ones to shy away from incorporating motifs and styles of other genres into their music, creating an altogether unique and innovative sound. Airs of bluesy riffs and New Orleans jamboree vibes along with a plethora of other styles can be heard in a good number of their tracks, while still maintaining the traditional Irish form.
Living up to their name – Beoga being Gaelic for ‘lively’ – The Wall Street Journal has described them as being “the most exciting traditional band to emerge from Ireland this century.” Since their first album, Beoga has continued their rise to global recognition, being listed in many notable publications such as Hot Press Magazine and The Boston Globe. The band has even been nominated for a Grammy Award for Best Contemporary World Music Album. Along with their well-well deserved recognition on a worldwide scale, Beoga continue to add to their impressive list of venues, performing in Australia, the US, Austria and Germany to name but a few.
With all this success under their belt, it’s no surprise that, coming up to the release of their fifth studio album, they have announced the collaboration with superstar Ed Sheeran. Sheeran recently disclosed that the band lived and jammed with him whist working on his upcoming album, ‘Divide’. Speaking on BBC Radio 1, the global star announced “They’re called Beoga… when I was hanging out with these guys I realised… folk music is in all of us.” Sheeran expressed his excitement at the collaboration, admitting “I’ve always wanted to do this but I’ve never really known a really good folk band… It’s amazing having musicians of that calibre living in your house” and adds “They’re always playing music and always want to have a jam and sit round and drink Bushmills whiskey, and fiddle… they’re really good.”
Niamh Dunne plays the fiddle in Beoga and is also the main vocalist. Speaking about the collaboration, she says “we did two songs with Ed…we jammed on one song and we co-wrote another which was amazing. The whole thing came naturally. I’d say the songs could be described as folky.” According to the band, the collaboration came about quite organically with both sets of artists sitting down and just playing what came naturally to them. Beoga’s bodhran player, Eamon Murray, says “our pal and fellow Northerner, Foy Vance is on Ed Sheeran’s record and they’d been listening to a couple of tracks on tour. When it came to making a new album, Ed himself reached out and asked us to get involved, and we said ‘aye’!”
The partnering of Ed and Beoga’s music was put together in a rather unusual way. Instead of setting up in a studio, Niamh, Eamon, Sean Og, Damian and Liam travelled to Suffolk to stay with Ed and two record two tracks. One song is about Galway and the other about Wexford, where Ed has strong roots himself. “We went over and the weather was gorgeous and we just had a great time” said Niamh. “We had a few beers and it was just very relaxed… it was just like getting to know a fellow musician really. He was great craic.”
Sheeran is already well-known for his love of Irish trad and folk music and with his paternal grandparents being Irish, it is, of course, a great honour for Beoga to be included on his new album. “We just feel massively privileged to have a break like this. We’ve always made a living from music so who knows where this will take us.” said frontman Eamon. However, Ed himself has no doubt that the tracks will be received very well in Ireland. “[One song on the album] is really gonna explode… It would be something to do with the county Galway.”
It looks to be onward and upward from here for Beoga who released their 5th studio album in 2016 and is sure to be just as well received as its predecessors. For this album, recording was done in live takes where possible, resulting in a fresh sound that almost seems like it comes naturally, without thought. Niamh Dunne revealed “after playing together for 13 years, we tried a new creative process this time and it worked great… we’re delighted with the whole album”. Be sure to keep your ears open for the work Beoga have done on Ed Sheeran’s new album ‘Divide’ which is on pre-sale now. This is no doubt the start of something special for Beoga who have already done so much amazing work to be proud of.
Article by: Ali Molloy
Photography by: Lizzie Doe
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