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On the Music Trail at Other Voices in Dingle: bursting at the seams with Irish talent

Dozens of acts playing across west Co Kerry town in eclectic mix of venues

It’s hard to think of a more engaged audience, and one invested in the discovery of Irish talent, than at the Other Voices winter festival in Dingle. The Music Trail is a day-and-night arm of the event, with dozens of acts playing across the west Co Kerry town in an eclectic mix of venues.

On Friday evening the crowd squashed into a small room at the back of McCarthy’s bar for a gig from the rapper Nealo, who performed tracks from his latest album, November Medicine. The atmosphere was a mix of headiness and tenderness, with Nealo’s lyrics a document of encouraging empathy and opposing oppression, and touching on fatherhood, self-growth and resilience. Backed up by the rapper Wallfella, who also has an arrestingly gentle singing voice, and featuring a guest performance by the rapper Rebel Phoenix on What Colour Would Our Friendship Be?, the feeling in the room may have been sweaty, but the ambience was wonderfully chilled out. Shedding one’s ego can be an unusual stance in hip hop, but Nealo does it without posturing, his earnestness steering away from the saccharine, and created a house party vibe to huge applause.

Cut to KhakiKid at the marquee in Geaney’s Yard later that night, and chaos was unleashed as the rising star plunged into the crowd attacking his rambunctious tunes that veer around the fringes of alternative pop-rap. His energy and charisma are undeniable, but he’d excel with a little more cohesion throughout the performance to avoid deconstructing tracks that may be less familiar to newcomers – not that those with their phones in the air, surrounding this born performer, seemed to care. This sort of enthusiasm is infectious.

Joshua Burnside drove down from Belfast at 4am on Saturday for a gig at Foxy John’s preceding the Banter sessions, and it was a wonderful salve: beautiful guitar-playing, stunning vocals and the type of softness that eases one into the day.


The neo-soul newcomer Morgana played a daytime set at Geaney’s Yard on Saturday, backed by an excellent six-piece band. Singing in Spanish and English, Qbanna has presence and obvious talent. The songs themselves, however, have a slight opacity, with melodies and structure evaporating a little has they hit the air. Still, a perfectly pleasant gig to sway to.

Out the road at Dingle Distillery there was barely an inch of space for Morgana’s performance on Saturday. This half of Saint Sister recently performed at another Other Voices event, at the Guinness Storehouse in Dublin, holding her own among The Streets and Mahalia. And you can feel the 10,000 hours behind her. Her voice is extraordinary, and she’s a hugely sensitive performer. Perhaps most importantly, the songs are there. Car Lot in Montana, especially, is a heart-shattering piece of song-craft. A highlight of the weekend.

Parts of the Music Trail were bursting at the seams. Many venues were full to capacity, which made it hard to dip into a gig spontaneously. I was out of luck trying to get into performances by Eoghan Ó Ceannabháin and Maija Sophia, and access to others took some negotiation.

The Music Trail is also a place to get spotted. Promoters, management and other industry figures were at various shows, with an endless flow of information-sharing and recommendations at Benners Hotel every evening. Other buzzed-about shows were by the Belfast punk-rock band Problem Patterns, Chubby Cat, and Chalk. Other Voices was once an unofficial music-industry Christmas get-together; the growth of the Music Trail offers an excellent opportunity to gauge what’s emerging in the Irish music industry, north and south, and which acts have potential to break through.

The weekend was rounded off with an incredible treat for those still with stamina on Sunday night: a secret set by Annie Mac, the world-class DJ and party wrangler. Her love of connection with a crowd is exactly the kind of tonic those in Dingle never lose a thirst for.

Una Mullally

Una Mullally

Una Mullally, a contributor to The Irish Times, writes a weekly opinion column