From the Great Wall of China to a packed stadium in the Holy Land and more recently being the first Irish band to perform at the greatest music festival in the world, Rock in Rio, Dervish have come a long way in ten years.
Formed in 1989 the first album release was The Boys of Sligo. The name of the band means, according to a Persian race, the Sufi, 'the sill of the door into enlightenment'. Ten years since first coming together and with four of the original members still at the helm, Dervish are more in demand than ever. Their colourful career has taken them to every corner of the world and has seen then share centre stage with such names as James Brown, The Buena Vista Social Club, Oasis, Sting, REM, Beck and many more.
Has it been a long ten years?
Kathy Jordon: "Sometimes! Sometimes it feels like twenty and other times it feels like only a couple of years. Actually it's only been about five years since we started touring to the extent that we are nowadays. Its about five years since we gave up the day jobs and started touring."
Is it true that Dervish only started out as a bit of craic?
Liam Kelly: "In 1989 a couple of us were still living in London and we came home for the All Ireland Fleadh which was being held in Sligo and there was a local record shop owner who wanted to bring out a tape of Irish music with musicians from the area. So he contacted a few of us and we got together and threw together an album. We weren't thinking about forming a band or anything. It was only a few years after that we started getting enquiries from festivals."
Over the past number of years Irish traditional music has been enjoying somewhat of a revival.
Tom Morrow: "I think we have seen that Riverdance and Lord of the Dance have raised the awareness level in world standings. This year we ended up playing at the Rock in Rio festival, which is the biggest rock and roll festival in the world. In fact we are the first Irish band to do so. I think that's because Irish music has gained awareness around the world in the same way as African music has in Irish circles.
Kathy: "It's kind of a novelty value as well. You are never a novelty at home. About five percent of what we do as a live band is in Ireland. That's because there are so many sessions all over Ireland and people sometimes cannot see the difference between the session and the live band in a concert situation. When we go abroad because it's so rare, there is a huge novelty factor. I think people have a genuine love for the music abroad."
Is there a common thread between Irish trad music and trad music of other countries?
Kathy: "Absolutely. It's the indigenous music of an area and it comes from the people initially and reflects the history of the particular country. We are all ethnic bands from our own countries."
The live performance for Dervish is very important.
Liam: "You cannot beat the buzz of a really good gig especially at festivals. You get to see other bands perform before you and then it's your turn. It can be nerve-racking when you see the other bands going down really well and then you think 'how the hell do we follow that!'"
Tom: "Yes, then you go on and it's crazy and magic. It's the kind of feeling that keeps you playing because the travelling is awful."
Is there any part of the world that's a favourite for the band?
Kathy: "Brazil is one that's for sure. Israel is another and Estonia. Belgium crowds are fantastic. All over Europe really."
Tom: "Europeans are open to all kinds of music really. They would open a newspaper and say 'I'm going to see that band tonight' and this is without having actually hearing the band. In Ireland it seems that you have to be told by one of your best friends that this band or that band are worth checking out."
The new Dervish CD, Decade, is much more that just a compilation of their work to date. It is a celebration of Irish music and its role in world music. It is out now on Whirling Records.
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Last updated 30 April 2002
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