- 13 Dec 21
Patrick Stefan shares his thoughts and experiences as part of 100 Voices: #AllAgainstRacism.
Over the past 10 years, I’ve been in a few different bands led by Black women mostly, so I’ve worked with the Black community in Ireland a lot. And also my wife is Black, so I’m involved in the Black community a bit more than most people. I’m currently playing in Aby Coulibaly’s and Monjola’s band. They’re a good bit younger than me. They’re Irish and African. Until recently, Black Irish haven’t really existed in large groups – but I think it’s reached this kind of critical mass now. It’s its own thing, with its own accent, its own slang. I think in some ways we have a multicultural Ireland. But in other ways, we definitely don’t. There’s a lot of people who don’t talk to Black people in Ireland.
In relation to music, when you learn about rhythms, you realise that a lot of the rhythms that we have now in pop really come from Africa. And if you study Brazilian music, some of their rhythms are the same as the ones in West Africa. Why? Because it’s the same culture, brought over by enslaved people. It was their folk music. It’s illuminating when you see these connections in music. We have an opportunity with music – in Ireland and elsewhere – that can connect us and bring us into the same spaces.
A lot of the racism in Ireland is about white fear, and fear of the unknown. Maybe it’s saying the wrong thing. Maybe it’s fear of being called a racist, because people feel like if you say something wrong, it will stay with you forever. That is a big fear, and it’s justified. But I don’t think it’s helpful because it makes people afraid of making mistakes and approaching the conversation sincerely.
Even though we like to say “Oh, we’re not really a racist country,” we’re all a little bit racist because we are programmed that way. Making mistakes is part of learning about this whole new culture that Irish people are not used to yet.
Read Part 2 of 100 Voices: #AllAgainstRacism in the current issue of Hot Press:
Special thanks to the Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission for their support in this project.