Kilkenny Arts Festival: Finding music in our secret spaces

Small is beautiful said the enlightened economist E.F. Schumacher. He’d have approved of the intimacy on offer at this years’ festival where we’ll be making the most of the city’s secret spaces to get you up close and personal with the festival artists.

Small is beautiful said the enlightened economist E.F. Schumacher. He’d have approved of the intimacy on offer at this years’ festival where we’ll be making the most of the city’s secret spaces to get you up close and personal with the festival artists.

The atmospheric Hole in the Wall plays host to two very special performances, with a maiden solo show from the laterally minded Irish drummer Sean Carpio and the remarkable Austrian Matthias Loibner, who has rewired the fundamentals of one of Europe’s most enigmatic instruments, the hurdy gurdy. Our other solo offering is with Steve Cooney, an artist of many facets, with great tunes and well travelled wisdom.

I am always on the lookout for the killer groove and the natural high, and this year it comes to us in The Set, via Marrakesh and Paris, courtesy of Morocco’s Aziz Sahmoui. He brings us the trance music of the Gnawa, and trust me, this is some of the most physically compelling, rhythmically arresting stuff a human can experience. They call it trance music for a reason. From elsewhere in Africa, the charismatic Solo Cissokho will bring us into the poetic world of the griots, to find common ground with the rich tradition of the Irish North West, with Gweedore’s Fidil. Also in The Set, the wild man of Bulgarian wedding music Ivo Papasov will be showing you why he is the great patriarch of Balkan music, and possibly the world’s most virtuosic clarinet player.

Whatever your persuasion, you are never far from a church in Kilkenny, and we’re making the most of them. We usher in the final day of the festival with a very rare performance from close harmonised Voice Squad in St John’s Priory, and we close it in St Canices with DAN, a spectacular gathering of traditional musicians from Ireland, UK, Scotland and Brittany.