Like so much else in modern-day Belfast, the city’s music scene is rousing proof of its recovery from decades of turmoil. Northern Ireland’s capital has long been home to outstanding Irish traditional music (‘trad’), and a nascent rhythm ‘n’ blues movement led by a young singer/ songwriter named Van Morrison in the 1960s, which put Belfast on the world’s musical radar. Then came The Troubles, Northern Ireland’s 30-plus-year conflict between Nationalists and Unionists that divided the country until 1998. Belfast bore the brunt of sectarian strife, but walking through its cheery City Centre and Cathedral Quarter — both brimming with lively arts scenes, thriving small businesses and celebrations of cultural heritage — proves the resiliency of the Northern Irish spirit. It’s no surprise that music has been at the heart of the city’s artistic revival, so much so that Belfast was awarded the prestigious City of Music status from UNESCO in 2021, the first city on the island of Ireland to receive the accolade. THRIVING HISTORY Trad music dates back 2,000 years to the arrival of the Celts. In Gaelic Ireland, which existed until the early 17th century, groups utilized at least ten instruments, while contemporary ensembles use fiddle, tin whistle, flute, Uilleann pipes (a form of bagpipes) and the occasional accordion or concertina. The simple act of hearing (and perhaps dancing to) trad in a Belfast pub is to find yourself immersed in Irish culture, and you’re almost certain to find an invigorating trad session as you wander any of the city’s cobbled alleyways. An authentic way to experience ‘the craic’ (Gaelic for lighthearted conversation and the simple enjoyment of life) is via the Belfast Traditional Music Trail. Accompanied by a pair of professional musicians, you’ll stop at charming pubs like the 17th-century White’s Tavern, The Dirty Onion and the Duke of York for Irish tunes, songs and stories — and a local beer, Guinness or whiskey, of course. You’ll also learn about the instruments, language, customs and history that contribute to Belfast’s thriving cultural tapestry. continue...



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