Ace Bodhrans by Mance Grady
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How do you pronounce "bodhrán?"
Phonetically, it is pronounced like



What is a bodhrán?
The bodhran is the traditional drum of Ireland. The literal translattion from Gaelic to mean "deafen" or "dull sounding." It could be because the traditional bodhrán had a slack skin on it which produced a dull thud when struck, or perhaps because the left hand was held inside against the skin thereby dulling or diminishing the resonance.

However, it does closely resemble a Middle Eastern drum called the def, and could have very likely traveled to Ireland with the ancient Celts thousands of years ago.

What makes the bodhrán unique is the method in which it's typically played. While the def and other similar frame drums are played finger-style (the open back of the drum towards the player and the skin facing outwards with the fingers and palm striking the skin), the bodhran in held vertically with one hand inside applying pressure against the skin varying the pitch while the other strikes the skin with a tipper or just the hand itself.

Regarded by the famed Irish composer Sean O'Riarda as Ireland's native drum, it owes a good portion of its present day popularity to his work, as well as the talents of those who have continued to raise the standard of bodhrán playing the world over.


  Mance at Blithwold Gardens

How old is the bodhrán?

The bodhrán in traditional Irish music started coming into its own in the 1960's thanks in great part to Sean O'Riarda and his formation of Ceoltoiri Cualann latterly know as The Chieftains. Prior to that, the majority really didn't regard it as an instrument worthy of mention as its use was largely during the annual forays of the Mummers or Wren Boys who used it to make a lot of noise..

Due to the lack of physical evidence, the origins of the bodhrán is open to conjecture. Sean O'Riarda, esteemed Irish composer who was instrumental in helping to reawaken the Irish people's joy in their musical heritage, considered the bodhrán Ireland's native drum whose history goes back even into pre-Christian times. In all likelihood, it was indeed brought to Ireland thousands of years ago by the ancient Celts who had picked it up during their travels through the Middle East and then modified the instrument and how it was played to their own preference.

Another common theory was that it evolved from a farm implement used for winnowing chaff from grain. While they are similar, it seems more likely that this farm implement might have been used as a poor substitute in the absence of a true bodhrán.






Copyright ©1998-2008 Robert "Mance" Grady, Last modified: Sun, Aug 24, 2008
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