The Rise and Fall of the Irish Muse
Question: Why do so many successful artists come from Ireland?
Gavin Friday: That's a tough question. We don't have a long of natural resources as a country; we have a very beautiful country. Visually, I mean, everyone goes on about it's green, it's the mountains and the rivers and it's clean and it's not that populated. It is stunningly beautiful, but we've no oil. We've no coal. We've no money. We just have Ireland. But a weird theory I have is we come from a suppressed culture. We're one of the most invaded countries ever. I think the British started it very early, it could be like 800 that decided to come and show us out; and the Danes in the north. We've had a tough time and pretty much a similar culture would be the Jewish culture; they had a pretty hard time. They were being kicked around for a long, long time.
So when that happens, and when people try to take your culture away from you, your essence of your culture becomes stronger. It's like even in Africa. When you see African-Americans, they're stronger because of what they've gone through. It's even subliminal; I think it becomes in their genes. But our language was even taken from us. The Irish Gaelic language was outlawed and the religion was outlawed. Hence the religion later being stronger; stronger to a negative point of view. But our venge was -- I mean if you listen to Irish language, it's very complicated but it's very poetic. To say hello in Ireland is ****, which translated means "Sunshine of God on you." That's a lot nicer than "Hello". Do you know what I mean? And goodbye is ****, which means "It's a wave and may the road rise with you," which is a very well-known phrase. That's a really nice way to say goodbye.
So there was engrained poetry and then when you look back at our history and in the 20th century, the last century, probably the greatest writers of the 20th century were Irish. You go from Beckett to Joyce to **** to Shaw to Oscar Wild; you just go "Jesus, what's going on here?" All these guys and the most famous book in the world could be Ulysses, after the Bible. But that was almost like our revenge on how dare you take our culture from us. So it became our only weapon, was our poetry, our music. And if you listen to Irish music, I think we've -- they say that kilts came from the middle east. So really I'm an Arab. If you listen to the way they -- listen to the way someone like Sinead O'Connor sang. It could be Muslim. You know that angst that sort of ****. That wail. I think it's in our genes. I think certain stuff is in our genes, like nobody can dance like a black guy. It's in their genes. So we don't have oil, but we have poetry.
Question: How has the Celtic Tiger economy changed Ireland's art scene?
Gavin Friday: I am not a huge fan of the Celtic Tiger; I was so glad that you could see people being prosperous, that you didn't see people begging, that the city started looking good, that people had jobs. But it was almost like if you have such a hard time for so long, then you turn around and give a kid a check for a million quid, they're going to go nuts. And we went a bit nuts, we went up our ass. Suddenly every one started sounding very American which freaked me out. The "Oh my God" syndrome kicked in really quick and I got a freight. The bubble has burst. Time tells; time tells everything. We blew it too quickly, but it wasn't totally our fault because the big boys that run those banks they messed up America, they've been up Europe, they've messed up the world. Really it's the start of the 21st century. We've got to re-think things.
Socialism and Communism don't work, but neither does straightforward capitalism. We've got to get a new way of thinking and working. We blew it so there was good and bad about the celtic tiger. But we're tiny. There's four million in the country, do you know what I mean? We're tiny. Four million in a country, how many is in New York? Seven? Ten? But we're strong, so hopefully we pull through. And you never really know until you get perspective a couple of years away. But I really disliked the fact that our culture is what make us and made us and will make us. And when money came in, we rejected it so quickly. Not even rejected, we didn't think. We just got lazy and all the girls started getting fat and that's not good is it?
Recorded on: October 1, 2009
Sure, the Celtic Tiger has been great for Ireland's economy--but what has it done for Irish culture? Musician Gavin Friday is not optimistic.
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