Lots of teens get together to form bands in high school. Not many are still playing together 25 years later. Polish-Celtic band Carrantuohill hit that milestone last year, and released their latest album – tidily named 25 – to celebrate.
“We are Polish, living in the south of the country where the Silesian folk culture is dominant, although we spend most of our time on our tour bus,” explained bass guitarist Adam Drewniok as the band took a break to chat to Celtic Life Intl. “As teenagers we got interested in different styles of music, continuously looking for something that would meet our taste. We all found it in Celtic music. One thing led to another and 25 years later we are among the top European Celtic music bands.”
“Somehow Celtic music represents everything we look for in music — our hopes, dreams and longings are mirrored in the Celtic spirit,” added violinist Maciej Paszek.
What makes Carrantuohill’s longevity more surprising is that, of the six band members, only Paszek had formal music lessons.
Irish folk is a strong influence on their sound and the band has visited Ireland many times. “We’ve had the chance to acquire musical skills from the source,” said acoustic guitarist Bogdan Wita. “It was a priceless education that helped us get the original Celtic sound and character.”
“On our album 25, we included the studio versions of our newest numbers and a live recording of one of the anniversary concerts we played in Warsaw,” explained multi-instrumentalist Darek Sojka. “It was a special night for us as we played with the Irish singer-songwriter Eleanor McEvoy, who is a great star across the globe. It went so well that we have begun working together on a few projects.”
When the band first formed, they named themselves after the highest mountain peak in Ireland and copied Celtic music styles, but today they write their own numbers.
“When we started playing, it was more like a reproduction of the traditional Celtic and Irish songs but, after a while, when we got to know so much about Celtic music and how to play it, we realized that we were ready to start creating our own versions. And now, the majority of what we play are original numbers,” said drummer Marek Sochacki.
As well as performing all over Poland, the band is often seen at Europe’s big events, such as France’s Roches de Celtique Festival and Ireland’s Dancing with Lunasa.
“As well as the big festivals, we love to play the pub gigs; it’s so much more intimate, it’s the chance to show people what Irish music is all about,” said Wita. “There’s no boundary between the band and the audience.”
This March, the band members hosted their fifth annual Green Island – Silesia, a two-week ecological event blending workshops, performances and a concert that they began in order to educate children and teenagers about ecology in an entertaining way. For the final concert this year, they were joined by Polish stars such as accordionist Marcin Wyrostek, singer Stanisław Soyka, the Salake Irish dance group and event host movie star Olgierd Łukaszewicz.
Sojka is pleased that today it is so much easier to learn about Celtic culture. “We live in great times when it comes to satisfying your knowledge. Twenty-five years ago, it wasn’t easy to get any information, especially in Poland. Everything came through the grapevine — a friend of a friend went to Ireland and brought us a whatever… And now, there are entire associations that deal with Celts, web pages, blogs and Facebook sites. A lot is going on, as it is in plenty of other subjects, cultures and sub-cultures. It’s amazing, and so refreshing after the years of mainstream slavery.”
Not that anyone’s getting complacent; there will always be fresh ways in which to explore Celtic culture. “Carrantuohill is surrounded by young, creative minds — people who come up with amazing ideas all the time. It’s important to go forward and try new things,” added Sojka.