Writings and Reviews
A Musical Journey by Eoghan Burke – Published in Voice of the Traveller Magazine Autumn 2013
When offered a place in a Masters Course in Community Music at the Irish World Academy, Limerick, last August, I was presented with the opportunity of discovering new musical genre’s, people and culture’s. I set a goal at the start of my year’s study to open my mind to as many music and musical practices I was exposed to. As a mature student with over ten years experience performing and recording my own music with my act Fia Rua, and performing in a variety of genres from trad to metal, going back to school was quite a change, and quite a challenge.
Having always possessed a fascination with the culture, history and music of the Traveling people, I decided to write my semester one research paper on the music of the Traveling people from a “community music” perspective. As fate would have it, I discovered there had been a lot of research work and projects already carried out at the Irish World Academy in the area of the Traveling people. A tutor (Róisín Ní Galloglaigh), who was teaching me some songs associated with the Traveling People, mentioned the NOMAD project, which had been a project associated with the college and the music of the Traveling people. I was blessed to find a whole room in the college library dedicated to the area. Needless to say, I spent many hours, and learned much about the Traveling people in that little room, from pipers to fiddler’s, Dorans to Furey’s, and of course the great singers like Maggie Barry and Pecker Dunne.
For my work placement in semester two i was delighted to be asked to work alongside Tracy Friel with a group of young Traveling people in my adopted home town of Galway. The Delaney family have been based in the Cúl Trá halting site in Salthill for many years, the project took place on the site. The idea was to conduct a 15 week music based program with 25 young Travelers between the ages of 7 to 25. Tracy had been working on the project before I came along, and had a lot of the foundation work in place. Although there was nerves on my first day, I was also aware of the opportunity I had been presented as someone from the settled population to help improve the understanding between settled and traveling people in Ireland. We decided to split the participants into two groups, splitting the younger kids and the older participants. Each child in the first group brought me a song, which we sang together, I was delighted with the remarkable improvements each week. The kids choose their own songs, which gave them ownership of the process. Some choose American country songs, others choose Irish ballads (in some cases associated with the Traveling community). The older group as well as learning songs, also took classes in guitar and accordion. Each week brought more connection with the participants and myself, and we had lots of fun through music, a great way to break down boundaries.
Towards the final weeks of the project, myself and Tracy invited guest’s including family members of the participants to attend a concert on the site. I was filled with pride as I watched each child and young adult sing and play with confidence in front of the audience. Performance seemed to come natural to many of the kids. The following week we went to the local parish church in Salthill and recorded an album! With the help of sound engineer Will O’Conner, each of the participants recorded a song or a tune and brought home they’re very own cd.
The project reminded me of the power and importance of music and song, especially amongst the Traveling community. It is also a great example of settled and traveling people coming together and mutually learning from each other, through music. I hope to continue the friendship’s I have built with the children and adults at Cúl Trá going into the future, and am confident the music will continue to live on.
Gig Review/Interview – Spectrum Magazine Switzerland
„Everybody needs magic“
Irish Singer-Songwriter Eoghan Burke a.k.a Fia Rua is playing the Banshees’ Lodge this weekend. Spectrum met the musician and talked to him about magic in Fribourg and the difficulty to persist as a musician in Ireland.
„Salut Fribourg“ welcomes Fia Rua the fully packed cellar of the pub Banshees’ Lodge at the beginning of his concert on Thursday night. He starts off with a couple of songs off his new EP, among them „Little Sally Saucer“. A sinister piece, which fits well between the century old walls of the cellar. „The screams of Sally Saucer / they made ripples in the water / if she gets another chance / There’ll be an awful slaughter“. Nevertheless, the vibe stays good; the audience welcomes Fia Rua with loud applause.
Three hours earlier. Eoghan Burke sits opposite me in the Banshees Lodge and drinks tea with honey. His throat is a little sore – the cold fog in Fribourg. Eoghan Burke is Fia Rua, Fia Rua is Eoghan Burke. An Irish one-man-band: He manages himself, produced his last EP all on his own and directs his own videos. Yesterday and saturday night he’s being supported by Christophe Capewell on the fiddle, melodica and tambourine. They know each other since a couple of years and it’s not the first time they play Fribourg together.
From Kildare to Fribourg
How did the Kildare-born Singer-Songwriter manage to get a gig in Fribourg? “A couple of years ago I toured with a Traditional Irish Music group through Switzerland”, recalls Burke. They also stopped at the Banshees Lodge in Fribourg: “Back then I told innkeeper Brigitte about my work as a solo artist and gave her my cd.” Brigitte Mouthon was enthusiastic about his music and invited him, to have a solo gig. “It’s the sixth time I’m back in Fribourg now. The people keep coming back to see me here – my music seems to work very well here”, says Burke.
It seems to work on Thursday anyway. Before the concert, the crowd was still chatting away; but keeps quiet as church mice as Fia Rua plays the rather sad song “Darkness, Darkness”. A little later, people clap and scream euphorically as the musicians dance through the cellar to “Hop up the Road”.
A pond full of musicians
“The landscape here in Switzerland is fantastic”, says Burke before the concert. He tells me that it does him good to get out of his home country for a couple of days: “Ireland is a little depressing at the moment”. Life as a singer-songwriter in Ireland is not easy – competition is very hard. Burke compares the situation with a pond filled with too many fishes: “If you manage to jump out of the pond into the sea, you’ll have greater chances to be noticed as a musician.” That’s why he tries to play more concerts on the continent; in Germany or France.
To this end he aligned with a couple of other musicians to the “Urchin Collective”. The collective enables the musicians to have a more professional appearance. But still, Fia Rua doesn’t earn loads of money. Money comes second anyways: Burke provides a free download of his album and EP. “It is more important to me that lots of people listen to my music then that I gain lots of money with it.” Music is not his only foothold. Burke also plays theatre, works for a radio station and studies at the Irish World Academy in Limerick.
A unique voice
The music that Fia Rua plays seems to be influenced by traditional Irish music as well as American folk singers. A Woodie Guthrie cover fits well into the set list on Thursday. The two musicians play it with verve and Burke sings this one with an American accent. Still, Fia Ruas’ music stays distinctive. It is carried by the intense voice of Burke. Does he stand out of the crowd of singer-songwriters because of that? Burke considers that this is a pretty hard undertaking to stand out anyway. But: “I do think, that I have something special; a unique voice. And that I have something more, something different to say then all the others”.
Where does he get his inspiration from, how do his songs develop? “Life, people, my family, places, death, mortality” says Burke. “Or I get inspired by small stories, that develop into songs”. It’s a difficult question: suddenly he seems to be a little confused. “My thoughts go into loads of different directions right now”.
On Thursday night, the audience lets Fia Rua go only after an encore. His albums sell like hot cakes afterwards. On Saturday the Irish musician plays the Banshees again – why should people come and listen to him? “There’s magic in the air when Fia Rua plays the Banshees”, says Burke. Refering to one of his songs, he says: “Everybody needs more magic!”
© by Nadja Sutter
Fia’s Jukebox (3 Songs I like)
Top 3 Tracks of 2011
1. Sinead O’Conner – Real VIP – Sinead has a realness thats hard to find in the x factor generation. I heard her do this song at Electric Picnic and it reminded me of her power and importance. Maith an Cailín!!!
2. Pearse McGloughlin – Spherosphere – Pearse is probobly my favorite lyricist at the moment. His songs feel like novels. His first album was really special, with a unique flavour, rare in these days of albums being no more than a collection of tracks. This track is taken from his latest EP Twine.
3. Morcheba – Run Honey Run – I never really listened to Morcheba. But then I heard this cover of a John Martin song from his debut album London Conversation. Its everything that good music should be…inventive, soulfull and dynamic.
A Night Of Alt Folk Type Stuf in Roisin Dubh
A great night of original songwriting and folksy vibes is coming to Roisin Dubh Galway on Thursday June 2nd when three acclaimed dynamic acoustic acts take to the stage.
Described as “a fantastically enjoyable chilled out mesh of musical culture” by London Music Blog, Harry Bird and the Rubber Wellies have been touring Europe continuously since the release of their 2009 LP “Long Way To Be Free”. They have a show that combines intimate rootsy performances, joyful sing –a-long choruses and general participatory fun.
“Long Way to be Free” is a home grown collection of songs exploring love, faith and displacement in a contradictory world of loss and laughter. Their self-produced album was recorded over five months in five different countries and was released on their own label, Hot Drop Records.
Also playing on the night is Galway based Fia Rua who’s recent album “Falling Time” was described as “contemparary and timeless…a folking brilliant piece of work” by Hotpress. Fia Rua (Eoghan Burke) has been also touring Europe and tracks from the album have received airplay in Australia, Germany and Switzerland. Fia Rua’s recent live show has been described as “raw and powerful..a must see”.
Last but by no means least is former Galway resident Sweeney Lee who recently released her album “Sugar Bombs and Shooting Stars”. She has spent time performing in Australia and Bilbao and is influenced by many different cultures, artists and experiences.
It promises to be a great summer night of folk and fun, it all begins at 8.30pm and admission is free.
5 Things i Like (from interview with mutantspace.com)
1. Off The Ball on Newstalk Radio
Whenever the conversations in my head are getting scary I reach for the oul’ wireless. I love the radio. It seems more alive than the telly. The brain seems to work more and the presenters seem closer. If there’s a heaven then it will have loud speakers with lads talking shite about sports 24 hrs. The thing is I would rather listen to the lads on ‘Off The Ball’ discussing cricket or golf before i would actually watch a game, which says alot about how brilliant the show is.
Oh coffee, you can count yourself lucky your on my love list. As well you well know, my love for you can change very quickly. I tell myself each morning I can carry on without you. I have my Super Value sugar – free muesli and juice and pretend I’m not thinking of you. I go into town and your scent finds me. And I’m yours again…for now.
3. Rivers and Canals
I grew up in Kildare where there was a canal and a river within cycling distance of my house. I course fished on the canal and game fished on the river. In the summer my friends and I would cycle to the shop, buy 27p bottles of score cola and head down to the river for a swim. I often went fishing alone when I was very young. I would day – dream into the dark deep water of the canal. It held secrets and danger that kept me well back, but I left childhood there anyways. There’s no canals in Galway, apart from a few small ones in the city. Ive grown close to the Clare River in Clare – Galway, its a narrow river that flows into Lough Corrib. It seems willing to tell stories and bring me on a journey so I’m hoping to discover her allot more soon. I wish we had more river walks in Ireland.
4. Hill of Allen
Mythological home of Fionn and his army the Fianna, protectors of Eireann. It stands looking over the plains of Kildare and I often wonder does anyone ever look back. Roadstone have been quarrying the hill for over fifty years to use the stone to make roads. Over half of it is gone. Governments talk about tourism and culture, its bullshit, we have a deep wonderful culture and history, no government has ever valued it over a few jobs and a few quid.
I go every year, like Johnny Logan goes to Germany. Crowds gather at the airport to welcome me back. I turn on the radio and their playing my songs, the billboards say Fia Rua, the children sing Fia Rua and McDonald’s do a special Fia Rua Meal. I love Switzerland.
Interview With Motion Magazine (UK)
I had a chat with Eoghan himself, to ask a few questions about album Falling Time, and life as Fia Rua…
You’re known to many people as Eoghan Burke, what made you decide to go under the name of Fia Rua?
“The name Fia Rua means Red Deer in Irish, there was no deep thought about changing the name, I just got tired of being another singer-songwriter on the list so when I saw this name on a nature poster I thought it looked good.”
When would you say you discovered your musical side – where did it all begin?
“Well I played drums as a teenager then started to mess around with the guitar, and played my first gig when I was about 22.”
What would you say was your biggest musical influence?
“Biggest musical influences…The Cure, The Smiths, The Pogues, Bob Dylan…”
Are there any challenges you’ve faced as an unsigned artist?
“It’s good that I can advertise myself on the internet and just about afford to make a record but it’s very difficult in Ireland because there so much great music there. I feel part of something at moment which mainly happens in a few clubs in Dublin. There’s nights like Glor in the International Bar and Brownbread Mixtape in The Stags Head that combine Poetry, music, sketches, whatever. It’s a cool bohemian underground scene that gets great crowds.”
How your album has been received by folk back home in Ireland?
“The album got a great review in Hotpress Magazine which is the NME of Ireland. I’ve got some great reviews from bloggers in Ireland, and have also received national airplay on RTE radio. Internationally, I’ve got radio play in Australia Germany and Switzerland.”
What inspired you for the songs on Falling Time, and what is the meaning behind the title ‘Falling Time’?
“I wrote the song Falling Time just as the economic boom in Ireland turned into a bust… it’s a song that doesn’t really mention these issues directly but I liked how it sounded so I called the album Falling Time. I generally don’t have a plan when I start to write a song, whatever comes out, comes out. I like to be honest and come from the heart.”
Favourite place you’ve played so far whilst being on tour?
“My favourite place to play is Switzerland, I’ve done 4 tours and it just gets better and better, not sure why, but the Swiss seem to get my music more than the Irish.”
Where are people able to access your music?
“My album is on iTunes which can be accessed from my website at: www.fiarua.com.”
Hill of Allen Feb 06 2011
The Hill of Allen (Cnoc Alúine in modern Irish, Cnoc Almaine in older), is a hugely significant hill standing parallel to the ancient Bog of Allen (largest bog in Ireland) . It is located near the village of Miltown, about five miles from the town of Newbridge Co. Kildare. The Hill was associated with the legands of Fionn Mc Cumhail and is documented in Irish folklore as being the the home or base of Na Fianna (Fionn’s army), the protectors of ancient Ireland.
Since the early 1960’s a Roadstone quary has caused the destruction of more than half of the original hill. The dynamite continues to blow, and the hill continues to dissapear. Weather this is legal or not is very unclear. It seems a group set up to protect the hill a few years ago discovered corruption and illegal activity involving Roadstone and Kildare County Council.
We live in a time where we have a chance to stop and look at ourselves and what we value as a nation. Is this new era going to be remembered for something other than the glutonous, materialistic, money obsessed society we associate with the boom? We, and our political leaders must finally see that we have valuble possesions on our island that does not need to be bought. And if its money and jobs your after then consider the tourism and educational possibility’s of a guided tour trough the wood surounded path up sacred Cnoc Alúine.
Eoghan Burke (Fia Rua)
Liam Clancy Tribute 04 Dec 2009
I was minding my own business in my local supermarket, with a box of mince pies in my hand when the news of the death of Liam Clancy came over the airwaves.
The Clancy Brothers were a huge influence on my music. I love the songs Liam sang, I loved his theatrical story telling style, his honesty, his power. Like The Pogues in London, The Clancy Brothers first took off abroad. They went to America and brought Irish and Scotish ballads to the tv screens, stages and minds of the new world. The songs they sang had been sung before, but never with such drive and passion. I grew up thinking the songs of Liam Clancy were learned when my parents went to school, they were everywhere, it was as if we got the okay from the yanks to sing our songs. Allot of people tire of the same old ballads being sung over and over, but every time I heard Liam Clancy sing, it felt like the first. Besides I believe the reason allot of songs become popular is because their good…or even great, especially when Liam sang them!
Eoghan Burke (Fia Rua)
Mobile Phones At Gigs 24 July 2009
Took my second trip to the new Point Depot or the 02 as the owners would like us to call it, last night. Leonard Cohan….brilliant, blah blah blah
What i want to talk about is the bastards taking pictures, recordings and calling people on their fucking phones. I know the place has mobile phone adverts all over the gaf but can yee not turn the bloody things off for a few hours!
Ok i don’t want this to turn into the Joe Duffy show….anyways there was no announcement at the start about turning off the phones, there should be. There was a lady beside me who felt it was nesesary to call a different number on her poxy phone for every song…I noticed she called Seamus for So Long Marriane. The light on her big screen was tempting me to do very bad things. Then another lady in front of me sticks the phone in the air and starts making her little movie. Listen folks if you want to see a video of Leonard Cohan, Bob Dylan or whoever, go to youtube, or fucking buy a dvd. Leave it to the professionals. Ok I’ve said my piece.
Enjoy the gigs…but no need to call a friend ..tell them after, I’m sure they’ll forgive you.
Eoghan Burke (Fia Rua)
Interview With Jimi McDonnell (Galway Tribune) Jully 2008
Fia Rua the stage name for Kinvara based songwriter Eoghan Burke, brings his heartfelt folk with an edge to Roisin Dudh on Monday, August 27th.
The gig marks the launch of his bewitching new single More Magic. The kildare native has been playing music since he was a teenager, but his emergence as a front man took a few years.
“I started with the drums” he recalls. “I used to write the lyrics for the band I was in. I never had the confidence to sing, or didn’t know I could sing, but I knew the singer was crap!”
Burke picked up a guitar and taught himself some traditional songs. Then, at the age of 21, he began to write his own. “I was always writing poetry and lyrics, so it was just a matter of adding the guitar to that” he says. “It was a gradual process, but you dont get any confidence in yourself until you get a few gigs and people start to say it’s okay. The first time I giged in the Hapenny Inn in Dublin, I was really nervous. Afterwards people said “your good” I taught the were taking the piss!”
Burke moved to Galway in 1998 and a meeting with Niall Hughes, who sadly passed away this year, led to the singer getting a start in his new hometown.
“That was my first time moving out of Kildare” he remembers. “Niall heard me sing and asked me to a gig in the Gob Fliuch (now the Goalpost). He wouldn’t judge you on how cool you were or how many gigs you’d done, if he liked your stuff he threw you on the stage.”
Fia Rua has also opened for Jinx Lennon, playing support to the Dundalk troubadour on his regular visits to Galway. Lennon’s inimitable style initially caught Burke off-guard. “The first time I met Jinx I was launching my album in Dublin, and he was on the same line up, playing after me. All the crowd were there to see him. I didnt understand it all, he was dressed up in a suit and I’d never heard anything like him”.
He was not immediately enamoured with Lennons music, but a phone call shortly after the gig changed things.
“He said ‘howya my name is Jinx Lennon, would you like to support me in the Taibhearc?’” Burke recalls. “I heard him doing his soundcheck and I suddenly just got it and taught “this is fantastic’, Ive talked to alot of people who shied off of it the first time they see him. Its shocking to the system but the second time they go, songs start to come into their head.
“I dont think there’s anyone in the world like him” Burke adds, “I think he’s a really important artist. He’s saying things that need to be said.”
In 2003 Burke went in to 6YO Studios, run by his friend Ross Rooney to record his debut album Feeding The Hunger. “I got to the stage where id done a couple of demos and I just thought that the next process had to be an album otherwise I wouldnt be taken seriously” he says. “I had no buisness plan as such, I just wanted to release it. Im really proud of it, I just didn’t have the money to push it”.
Fia Rua started to get restless earlier this year and decided it was time to return to the studio. “It’d been too long” he says, “four years since my album and two since my last EP.”
Fia Rua’s new single More Magic, was recorded in Clarinbridge, where 6YO Studios is now based. Explaining the reason he has teamed up with Rooney again Burke says:”We just have a good working relationship. I like having someone in charge in the studio. Ross is the man as regards leting me get on with the performance.
“I wanted more of a live feel to these recordings, and he understood that. I brought in a fiddle player and I played cajon myself, its a Spanish snare thing.
“It has a folky feel” Burke says about his new recording, “but also a darker dubby sound that Ross does on the bass. Its a nice contrast.”
While some musicians feel confined in the studio, it has reinvigorated Fia Rua and has given him a new lease of life when playing concerts. “The last couple of gigs Ive done Ive really enjoyed” he says. “You can bring the ideas you get in the studio to the live situation. Thts really good fun.
“As soon as I go into the studio I feel like my music is getting put up on the mantelpiece a bit more and its not scattered around the fireplace, like Im taking it out for gigs and trowing it at people randomly. I feel like its more structured when I come out of the studio.”
Burke is looking forward to the launch in Roisin Dubh. “I wanted to do a nice big gig and Roisins was the place that came to mind for the sound that I wanted, with a full drum kit behind me” he says. Having a drummer as part of the Fia Rua show is a new experience but Burke has enjoyed reconnecting with the rock influence of his youth.
“I played the Carman Fair festival in Kildare last month and that was my first time playing with a kit. I’d practised with (drummer) James Haughey before and I got frustrated, I taught my sound didn’t suit the drums.
“Then we just sat for two days in a room and just worked and worked. When we got it right it just felt amazing. It felt like I was going back to my rocky roots.
“I realise now that Ive got a rock backround and a folk backround. It adds a bigger sound to the whole thing and I just love playing with the kit now. That gig in Carman Fair was like a wake up call. I had a 19 year old bass player with me that day. It was just like being in a Nirvana cover band again.
Little John Nee will be doing MC at the launch of More Magic and Fia Rua is a great admirer of his work. “I love what Johnny does” he says. “He keeps reminding me of what a great place Galway is. He wakes me up when I feel like Im sick of it. I don’t think you’d find him in Dublin cos its just not that kind of place.
“Galway’s a good place to base yourself” Burke concludes, “we can get conplacent-but you can write about getting complacent and make some good art!”
Theres nothing laid back in Fia Rua’s on stage demeanour and his stirring live performances make this a show well worth catching.
Niall Hughes/Rivers Tribute 03 Feb 2007
At time of writing I’m making arrangement’s to attend the funeral of Niall, so its all very fresh, but I wanted to do something, so here it goes.
In 1998, when I was 21, I left my family in Kildare to live in Galway. I lived in a hostel on Eyre Sq at first and worked in a factory. I didn’t know anyone and I was a very shy, unconfident, fearful young man. My cousin Cormac was also in Galway. Cormac played music and his world revolved around his guitar and songs. I had not played my music to anyone yet. Niall was good friends with Cormac, as they both came from Moath. Niall was organizing crazy eclectic nights in O’Sheas wine bar, I remember the smell of incense, hash, and wine, it was very exiting and challenging. I could feel a hunger and a itch to play my music and say my thoughts but I had no confidence. One night in Nialls gaf he was singing Bob Dylan songs and Cormac was singing his songs. There was a guy from Australia there too who always said “and Jesus wept”. After a while they started asking me to sing. I was shitin it and put up my hand refusing the guitar, but eventually I agreed to do one. I closed my eyes and squeezed the first chords and words out, a million thoughts went trough my head, I new this was either going to make or break me, in regards to my confidence in my music. When I finished I opened my eyes and faced the silence not knowing what they taught, then the Ausi says “jesus wept you sound like Neil Young. “Deadly” I taught.
In 2001 I came back to Galway from Australia after doing a few slots, I had a real belief in my music and was back in Galway in the hope of progressing in some shape or form. I signed on the dole for the first time in my life and and got a gaf in town. I met Niall on the street and he told me to come down to a small wine bar on Wednesday night as he was doing a weekly session there. I came along and sang a few songs, Niall was well into them and asked me if I would do a headliner for a club called Ceilura he was doing every Thursday in An Gob Fluich. “Deadly” I taught. My first headliner. I put up posters and got really nervous. The gig went well and Niall gave me a few quid, I was in dreamland. The whole summer of 2001 revolved around the Ceilura nights, Niall was always organizing the craziest fuckers and chancers that fell into the town to go up on stage, myself and people like Paul Cully, Ciaran Cunigham and Flossy would spend the night takin the piss out of the place, but we always ended up there on Thursday nights in the hope of getting to play.
When I was launching my debut album in 2003 in Galway, I decided to ask Niall to do the mc. It was great to give something small back to the person who gave me my first gigs and was so good to me, and so many other artists.
I did a gig for him at his recent club in De Burgos last summer and as always he was the most outrages dancer in the place, and them clothes he used to ware..jazis.
The last time I saw him was before Christmas in Javas coffee shop, he said he’d see me in Moath over the Christmas, I didn’t end up going to Moath but I wished i had. Galway will be a much more boring place without Niall “Rivers” Hughes.
CEILURA MO CHARA
Eoghan Burke (Fia Rua)