- Film And TV
- 10 Nov 23
Director Ciara Nic Chormaic discusses her new documentary Ó Bhéal, a brilliant chronicle of the thriving Irish hip-hop scene.
Hip-hop has always been a genre that allows artists to explore the personal, social and political, and Ireland’s increasingly diverse and exciting hip-hop scene is examined with nuance and insight in Ciara Nic Chormaic’s new documentary, Ó Bhéal. The ensemble piece features Irish-language rappers Seán ‘Mory’ Ó Muirgheasa and Oisín Mac, producer and multi-instrumentalist Fehdah, and Limerick rapper Strange Boy, all of whom represent different facets of the scene.
Mory uses his rap to examine social and political issues, viewing hip-hop as a vehicle for activism as well as expression. Oisín Mac is committed to the history, preservation and evolution of the Irish language, while Strange Boy raps in English, but uses traditional Irish music and rhythms to elevate his personal and often vulnerable lyrics.
Meanwhile, Afro-futurist artist Fehdeh uses African influences in her music to show the wonderful artistic possibilities of a multi-cultural country. These four threads – activism, language, personal expression and cultural diversity – are shown through a series of interviews, performances and recordings, which create a story about Irish artists choosing an identity for themselves as performers – but also collectively choosing a new identity for Ireland.
“I was just aware of this amazing hip-hop scene and things shifting,” says Nic Chormaic. “It’s everywhere – you could see it happening in the folk world and it’s happening in the visual art, it’s happening in literature. There’s an energy and a new confidence there that I don’t think we’ve seen before. It could be some post-colonialism, but I just knew it was really exciting."
Nic Chormaic, who grew up in Cork City and then moved to Galway, loved hip-hop growing up, and was a DJ herself, playing in venues like The Blue Note. She also loved the Irish language and poetry, and spent years working in Irish language television and radio. When she began making her own films, her passion for Irish and poetry resulted in Clouded Reveries, a dreamy documentary which explores poet and writer Doireann Ní Ghríofa’s creative process.
“Whether poetry or hip-hop, I’m fascinated by the magic of creativity and the artist, their process, and trying to capture that on screen,” says the director. “That’s where I want to be, making films about people in that creative place. And I grew up on hip-hop in the ‘90s, it was where my musical education came from – hearing samples and tracing them back to the original and finding new artists. But at the time, everything was so borrowed and I was asking ‘Where are the Irish artists?’ So that comes into the film."
It’s not just the Irish language that becomes important to the film, but the idea of being authentically Irish, even simply as using Irish accents instead of mimicking an American twang.
“Blindboy was recently speaking with Pat McCabe about the scene in Limerick and he used the word ‘authenticity’, and that’s what hip-hop is about. It’s about speaking your truth, and you can’t get away with trying to be someone else in hip-hop. That desire for authenticity is what runs through all these artists. Their music is just so real.”
• Ó Bhéal is in cinemas now.
With insightful interviews, an intimate look at creative processes, and visceral live performances, Ó Bhéal tells the story of a moment in time in the Irish musical landscape.
Book your tickets here https://t.co/HEKljEDCeE!! pic.twitter.com/xuOu0KeY8y
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- Film And TV
- 06 Dec 23