Words: Dylan Murphy
In the face of unprecedented obstacles, Ireland’s growing DIY scene found new ways to innovate in the past 18 months and we’re celebrating five of the labels and collectives moving the needle.
Given the disdain the government has shown for the arts during the pandemic, it’s hard to fathom the idea that once upon a time we could go to a club and dance away our worries. Likewise, going to a packed concert or festival feels like an alien concept and given the GAA has tens of thousands of fans heading to games in the next few weeks, you’d be forgiven for having a sore head trying to work out the logic behind those decisions.
While it would have been easier (and understandable) to take a step back, many collectives and labels across the country rolled up their sleeves in the absence of clubs and innovated online. Where previously the dance floor was a cultural disruptor that forward-facing groups sought to make safer for people to unite over a shared love of music, radio shows and live streams have come in clutch to fill the void the best they could.
Elsewhere, artists in Ireland have arguably excelled in the toughest time in recent memory making unprecedented moves in their respective scenes and it’s worth celebrating the people and labels behind them.
With that in mind, we’ve rounded up five collectives and labels from across the country that have continued to push the envelope during the pandemic.
It goes without saying that providing a platform for marginalised voices should be pretty high in the list of priorities for collectives and labels. Skin&Blister have made that their MO since day dot and in the absence of the kinds of clubs and spaces that democratise music, their role is more important than ever.
Whilst the pandemic scuppered their plans for in-person workshops the collective has been hard at work sharing the stories of female-identifying creatives working in the fields of music and the arts in the form of a monthly podcast. For aspiring artists, these relatable conversations provide vital knowledge about the industry, but in a more practical sense a shared sense of connection in a time where it is few and far between.
So far, the likes of photographer Molly Keane, rising DJ SoHotSoSpicy and Cáit have featured and following their virtual all-vinyl stream on International Womxn’s day from All City Records they more recently showcased a slew of new acts through their daily selector’s series.
It’s impossible to ignore the rise of hip hop and drill in Ireland and providing the springboard for its potential global takeover is the Dublin-based Trust It Entertainment.
As a label, Trust It Entertainment provides a home to the lion’s share of the artists pushing the envelope music in Ireland and subsequently it’s having a tangible impact on the wider culture. With acts like Sello making a splash with his brand of ‘Gaelic Drill’ and with Evans Junior pushing a unique blend of afroswing, trap and RnB, it’s become increasingly clear that the explosion of new music is here to stay.
This notion was validated earlier this year when Atlantic Records UK revealed they had signed an ongoing partnership with Trust It Entertainment.
The new joint-venture sees founder Solomun Adesiyan work closely with Atlantic Records UK, with the label investing in, signing and developing budding new artists. The gravity of this deal can’t be underestimated for an emerging scene and having access to sizeable resources and a wealth of knowledge is another step in putting a new wave of Irish music on the map.
Elsewhere, the label has linked up with MCD to host an event this December showcasing the best in Irish drill and hip hop in The Olympia Theatre in what promises to be a turning point for live hip hop and drill in Ireland.
Vintage beamers and dancefloor screamers.
Galway native Kettama wears his love for the west coast on his sleeve. He quickly established himself as a rising hitmaker pre-lockdown and while his tour dates around the globe may have been put on hold, he’s been busy behind the scenes developing new ways to bring his hometown to the world. Having launched VSN four years ago alongside Galway DJ Shampain and having been raised on a diet of Ireland’s clubs they’ve now joined forces to launch their own label G-TOWN Records.
Inspired in part, by what was missing in Ireland, the pair are determined to release the kind of music they want to hear on their own terms. The first record from the label GTOWN 001 saw three new cuts from Kettama and simultaneously opened a new chapter for the artist as a label head.
It’s hard not to get excited about two of the country’s best selectors setting up shop to put their stamp on the world via Galway.
999ire understand better than most that art flourishes when different mediums intertwine.
Dublin has a unique set of problems that require creative solutions and with this in mind, the party throwers, garm designers and music taste-makers keep collaboration at the heart of everything they do. It’s through a consistent pooling of resources and desire to push the needle that results in inspired events that platform affiliated creatives and evade the capital’s seemingly endless roadblocks.
In the absence of clubs, they’ve pivoted to putting their energy into a new monthly pop up in Tola Vintage in partnership with EMPORIUM and Tola itself.
The monthly pop-up showcases the next wave of creative talent in Dublin, featuring a selection of up and coming brands and creatives, retailing pieces from their most recent collections and hosting in-person workshops.
Chamomile Records acts Monjola and Aby Coulibaly have taken the past year by storm. Taking two slots in our Future of Irish Music feature, making noise with Boiler Room performances and releasing eight singles between them, their stock is steadily been on the rise.
Likewise, producer and label mate Moyo has been building a reputation as one of the island’s most exciting producers. With credits in each of the pair’s releases, it’s clear he’s a versatile producer with an ear for musicality and the skill to execute his vision, whether that be amongst the glimmering keys of Aby’s ‘Long Nights’ or the funk of Monjola’s ‘Smile’.
Even with ‘normal’ gigs still off the cards, there’s a tangible excitement about the trio and with respective EPs in the works you get the feeling that Chamomile Season is incoming.