- 27 Mar 23
The National Concert Hall and The Arts Council announce that 2023's Liam O’Flynn Award recipient is the rap and hip hop artist Strange Boy.
The rapper and hip hop artist Strange Boy is now the fifth recipient of the Liam O'Flynn Award.
Known for his debut LP, Holy/Unholy, which melded traditional Irish music with rap, the Limerick wordsmith forged a new genre altogether and bridged "old and new cultural influences in a way that truly resonated with audiences." His most recent track, 'Bronson,' came out in August on Soundcloud.
The acclaimed Liam O'Flynn passed away in 2018 after dazzling the traditional Irish music scene for decades as one of the most prolific pipers worldwide. Established in his memory, the National Concert Hall presents the Liam O'Flynn award annually, providing traditional artists the chance to foster their talents at the National Concert Hall as a resident with a €15,000 bursary.
“In presenting this award we recognise and support innovation in traditional music and in so doing are pleased to continue the legacy of creative evolution in the genre as practised by Liam O Flynn throughout his career," Robert Read, the National Concert Hall's CEO said.
"Presented in partnership with The Arts Council, we bestow this award on an artist whose work draws on Irish traditional music and song to inform his own art form, contemporising it in ways that has a particular resonance for new audiences and celebrates the transmission of traditional arts in unique ways for future generations to enjoy.”
Based in Dublin City Centre, the National Concert Hall is not only a symbol of Irish pride, but hosts the National Symphony Orchestra in addition to Ireland's music development bodies like the Music Network, Music Generation and NCH associate ensembles, Chamber Choir Ireland, and Irish Baroque Orchestra and Crash Ensemble.
Speaking of the award, Strange Boy explained his exceptional approach to traditional music.
"Working alongside my producer, Enda Gallery, we seamlessly combined hip-hop, spoken word, and Irish traditional music to create a genre that feels as if it has always existed…I have always believed that rapping was a modern form of storytelling."
The rapper, who's real name is Jordan Kelly, also disclosed that he not only appreciated the traditional artists who came before him, but the hope to learn from them. It's part of why he's so grateful for the support of the Arts Council, he says.
"Preserving Irish culture and the tradition of the old Irish storytellers, or Seanachaí, has always been a passion of mine. As a traditional artist, I feel it is essential to preserve our ancient bardic traditions while also introducing new and innovative ideas."
"With access to ancient archival stories in the National Concert Hall, I am able to pay respect to Liam O Flynn's legacy by celebrating the role of the individual creative traditional artist in the creation of new works, unique artistic collaborations, and innovations."
He won't be pursuing this opportunity alone. At the NCH he'll be joined by the Irish storyteller Aindrias De Staic, the guardian of Eddie Lenihan's collection John Lilis, his band, and his producer, Enda Gallery.
"This is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to perform at a venue that has held so many great Irish musicians before me," Strange Boy reiterates. "I am excited to continue pushing the boundaries of Traditional Irish music and storytelling while also paying homage to the rich history that has come before me”.
Last year's recipient was the uilleann piper Louise Mulcahy. Before her, the concertina player and composer Jack Talty, multi-instrumentalist, singer and composer Barry Kerr, and harper and composer Úna Monaghan all received the annual award.
The Director of The Arts Council, Maureen Kennelly, added that “storytelling and the oral arts are an integral part of our traditional arts and Strange Boy’s contemporary take on the seanchaí is a relevant and natural response to an ever-evolving artform, bringing the traditional arts to new, more diverse audiences."
"We are delighted to partner with the National Concert Hall to present this award, honouring the legacy of the great Liam O’Flynn, to such an exciting, innovative artist."
Listen to the Limerick rapper Strange Boy, here: