This Saturday, Bennigans Bar will host the Balkan Alien Sound and act as a going away party before they hit the road to embark on their tour of Poland.
The gig will also give the band the opportunity to showcase a new line-up with added instruments and promises to be a great party atmosphere.
We met up with the Balkan Alien Sound’s Martin Coyle who plays the bouzouki in the band. No, we don’t mean the rocket launcher… that’s bazooka. The instrument may not be familiar to most people outside of Irish folk, but Marty tells me about what made him take up this Irish adapted version of its original Greek counterpart. “It’s kind of a new instrument for Irish traditional music in a sense. It came to Ireland back in the sixties with Andy Irvine from Planxty and it fitted in easily into Irish music.
“At the time they were throwing eastern European influence into their sound and that’s what pricked my ears up. I got really obsessed with Andy Irvine when he toured eastern Europe in the seventies and that’s what actually took me out there myself when I went travelling. I went on to meet so many musicians and found so much music that I ended up bringing those experiences home along with the Bouzouki.”
Speaking about Saturday night’s show he said “Bennigans will be our first stage gig with the new line-up so we’ll be test driving some of the new material.
“For the past year or so we have been playing as a five piece which was electric bass, drums, bouzouki, violin and vocals. Our trip to Poland is more or less an experimentation project where we have added the uilleann pipes and Irish DADGAD guitar into the mix.
“It means that we will be bringing more Irish sounds on-board while still being able to blend it with the eastern European and Balkan stuff. It’s going to be exciting.
Marty and the band are very much looking forward to unleashing their new sound as they partake in not only concerts during their eleven day tour of Poland, but also workshops. “Towards the end of last year we started to get a lot of interest from Poland and we got approached by an English language school there who have connections with the Nerve Centre and they wanted us to come out and take some workshops.
“There are three different aspects to this trip, firstly we are bringing in the pipes for a more Irish feel, secondly providing workshops to give a brief overview of Irish music and we will also be producing an English language add on to that also. It’ll be for kids aged around 10 and 12 and then the plan is to have them perform with us as our chorus band by the end of the workshop.
“We’ll be playing a few festivals and hooking up with a few bands out there too. We’ll be performing in five cities in eleven days and playing with some Roma Gypsy bands, polish punk brass bands and taking part in the St. Patrick’s Day festival so we have a lot of things to cram in during those eleven days.”
I wasn’t actually aware of this, but St. Patrick’s Day is a pretty big deal in Poland too as Marty tells me “St. Patrick’s Day concerts are huge out in Poland now and they can actually go on for one week. There is a new generation of Irish Poles coming through now, what with many Polish people that may have come over here, got married and then went back home, so they want to keep that connection alive and strong and St. Patrick’s Day is one way that they do that. So we're kind of going out there as ambassadors for Irish music.
“We did one of these projects last year with a band from Catalonia. We went over to Barcelona to play and then they came over to Derry to perform. We actually performed together as an eleven piece which was a mix of Irish, Catalonian and Balkan music all within the one set and it went down great.
"As we run the Gypsy Folk Klub in Bennigans, we are hoping to bring the bands that we will meet in Poland back here to Derry to host them which would be great.”
You can join in the Balkan party at Bennigans Bar on Saturday 5th March from 9.30pm. There will be support on the night from Jonny Nutt and Kev Quigley. £5 in.