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Altan

With their Northern Ireland-style twin fiddling and accordion melodies accented by acoustic guitar and bouzouki, Altan has grown into one of the top traditional bands in Ireland. The inspiration for Altan was sparked when Donegal-born fiddler and vocalist Mairéad Ní Mhaonaigh met Belfast-born flute player Frankie Kennedy. Ní Mhaonaigh had learned the traditional style of fiddling from her father, Francie, who had learned it from his mother, Roise. Influential Irish fiddler Dinny McLaughlin, who frequented her childhood home, added to her knowledge of the instrument. Kennedy, who studied flute as a youngster, was extremely interested in Irish music and made several trips to Ireland during school vacations. Meeting during an informal jam session, Ní Mhaonaigh and Kennedy began to play together at every opportunity. Although they both took jobs as trainee teachers at St. Patrick's College in Dublin, music remained their shared passion.

In 1979, the two musicians made their recording debut as accompanists for Gaelic singer Albert Fry on his self-titled debut album. Two years later, Ní Mhaonaigh and Kennedy graduated from college and were married. Together with bouzouki player Donal O'Hanlan and Mairéad's brother Gearóid Ó Maoinaigh, who played guitar, Ní Mhaonaigh and Kennedy formed a band, Ragaime. Although they recorded for RTE, the group disbanded by the time that Gael-Linn released Ní Mhaonaigh and Kennedy's debut album, Ceol Aduaidh, in December 1983. One track on the album, "An Clar Bog Dell," featured Enya, then known as Eithne Ní Bhraonáin, on Prophet-5 synthesizer.

In 1987, Ní Mhaonaigh and Kennedy recorded their second album as a duo, Altan, named after a lake in northwest Donegal. Produced by Dónal Lunny, the album featured accompaniment by Ciarán Curran on bouzouki, Mark Kelly on guitar, and Mairéad's sister Anna Ní Mhaonaigh, then a member of the all-woman group Macella. Shortly after the completion of the album, the musicians agreed to continuing working together. During the summer of 1988, Altan began work on their first album as a band, which now included Paul O'Shaughnessy on twin fiddle. Produced by Phil Cunningham and released in 1989, the album, Horse with a Heart, featured a more dynamic sound than its predecessors.

As the band's touring schedule expanded, O'Shaughnessy and Kelly were forced by their day jobs to restrict their activity with Altan to recording and performances close to home. During the band's U.S. tours, their places were taken by Daíthí Sproule on guitar and Ciarán Tourish on fiddle. Altan reached top form with their 1990 album Red Crow, which received a NAIRD award as Best Celtic Traditional Album. Their next album, Harvest Storm, released in 1992, received the award as well.

All news was not good for the band, however. In 1991, Kennedy was diagnosed with cancer. Although he was hospitalized the following year, he recovered sufficiently to rejoin the band's tour. On September 19, 1994, he succumbed to his illness and passed away. Altan has continued to bring their music to the international stage. Accordion player Dermot Byrne, who had played on Red Crow and on Altan's 1993 album, Island Angel, joined the group formally in 1994. 1996's Blackwater and 1997's Runaway Sunday were released on the Virgin label before the group jumped to Narada for 2000's Another Sky. Numerous compilations and collections followed, as well as Blue Idol in 2002 and Local Ground in 2005, again for Narada. ~ Craig Harris, Rovi
full bio

Selected Discography

Comments

So glad I discovered Altan!! They are really traditional and authentic like the Chieftains. I like that they don't mix a modern sound with their music like Celtic Woman. I like Celtic Woman, but I also want my Irish music going all the way back to its roots! :)
hjmunson
I have been in Irish dance for 4 years so sometimes I find myself dancing to the music that's playing!!!:) P . S . I'm 12 years old.
I dont understand the uncle rat song, but it is really pretty. I love Irish music and I like how none of there songs are n-a-s-t-e-e! Anyway, love this group.:)
I love it. Irish songs r so BEAUTIFUL and catchy I can listen to it everyday it lifts my spirit :D ahaha
so cool.
I have never been yo lrland but I want yo see it. Its soooo wonderful in pics. Now its time to see it in real life. Some day in the future:)
Bouzouki???? ?
How COOL can u GET??? :-D :-D :-D!!!
I am LOVIN THIS!!! :-D :-D :-D!!!
My New Favorite Band love
nunnayobiz42 0
i love it also! TY! :)
serana...may b e you like it 'cause it's REAL music..and very fine. and it's not about money or being cool..I could go on..but..goo d for you.
Im only 11 and people are always saying eww why do you like this music i personally love it
Give me Natalie (MacMaster), Dervish and Altan . . I am a content auld sod!
Altan is epic :D
good music
xfmr_expert
I love this song!!!!!!!! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! !
xfmr_expert
This song is really awesome!!!!! ! ! ! ! ! ! !
lmichelebowe s
Love it!
amazing , luv celtic music
Have a friend from Donegal. Someday I want to vacation in Ireland as I am of scotch and Irish ancestors.
they are, indeed, very fine!
woodsnwater1
Wonderful performance! Love the lilt and fun in Mairead s beautiful Irish Celtic voice!
a beautiful album. I love the name. Uncle rat is my favorite song, although I can't really tell whats going on.
Shame not paddys da I wud buy em a pint.
Love it!
woodsnwater1
Absolutely great Celtic music from these most excellent artist performers!
Cool just found this station lol
What a jolly good sound!
jq_lthm
woww!!! loveee!!!
Saw them once somewhere... I was too drunk at the time to remember but they were great!
pianoprayert r a c y
Marvelous. I want to dance!
this is amazing....i ' d love to watch them play this
These guys fail to let me down. :D
Phenomenal!
My first Celtic love and the best Celtic Band ever!
The storm is sorta what?! I junk it to the one.. Don't know what they're saying, but it's beautiful! :) hehe
love these guys from my ancestrial home in Ireland
DIDN'T SHE ALSO PERFORM WITH CELTIC WOMAN?
Just love this song as I too must carry on
no idea what their sayin but their good
great band used to love watching them in dec mcs bar in baltimore and can't wait to see them in irish fest in harriot island mn
Brings back wonderful memories of my trip to Ireland. Makes my feet move under my desk while woking.
ssalter33
Just saw Altan at the Birchmere in Alexandria, Virginia this week. Great showmen, great musicians and one great voice has Mairead. The Birchmere is a small enough spot that we were about 20 feet from the stage, and they serve Guiness. There was nothing not to like.
great voice, great group,
terry-anders o n
Very nice
katzmyth
I love it!!! Makes your feet want to move.
Got something stuck in your throat there, Gareth?
I'm sure what you were trying to say is that Altan belongs right beside the Chieftains, Planxty, and the Bothy Band in bringing about the tremendous revival in Irish traditional music over the past 40 years.
One of the best.
heyeuchh
This is good. My toes are a tappin' while I'm typin'!! :)
lopezderoman
¡Excelente música! Me encanta.
Ditto
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