August 25th, 2010

Irish Fest 2010

We were down at the Maier Festival Park at opening time on Sunday the 22nd for the 30th Annual Irish Fest, and had a very good time.

The first band we went to hear was Baal Tinne, but we moved on quickly since their arrangements just weren’t what we were tasted up for at that time: plus, they were over amplified for the stage and hard to listen to. Instead, we went to the Village Pub tent to hear Athas play some traditional music, which got us in the right mood.

The next group that we listened to for a full set was Kintra, a new (2008) group based out of Stabane, Northern Ireland. They played a good bit if new music fusing Northern Irish and Scots influences. They had a very highly produced show, featuring, besides the core musicians, four bagpipers (three of whom double as dancers), and two singers. The group was very energizing and exciting to listen to, and some American promoter would be onto a good thing if they were booked for a tour here. Surprisingly, they don’t seem to have a CD out yet, but I will be watching their web site,, for a release. (They also have some videos on YouTube—check them out!)

We walked, browsed, ate, sampled music, and generally had a very good time through the middle of the day. At 5:15, we settled in at the Aer Lingus stage for La Bottine Souriante, a Quebecois group that again had a very high-energy show combining a number of cultural influences. I was interested to hear Irish-sounding fiddle riffs played over a near-Cajun rhythm. Unlike most groups at the festival, La Bottine Souriante has a brass section, which lend a lot of power and color to their performances. (I must note, LBS had some of the best sound crew we heard: the concertina could clearly be heard in relation to the brass, with nary a hint of feedback--.)

We ended the festival with Cherish the Ladies, a group we enjoy, but had to listen with concentration to tune out the thundering beat of Gaelic Storm playing at the next stage over. (Evidently, Gaelic Storm plays nothing that is not very fast, and very loud--.)
The weather was lovely and all in all, one of the best Irish Fests we have had in some time.

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Another view of the "Ground Zero Mosque" controversy

On Monday evening the 23rd, I heard an interesting commentary on NPR re the “Ground Zero Mosque” flap. The commentator, Mr. Reza Aslan, describes himself as a liberal, progressive, secular Muslim, and rightly decries the “Islamophobia” that is being expressed. However, he also expresses his own grievance that people like him get lumped in with radical Islamic fundamentalists. Well, there’s a reason for that:

A substantial part of the problem is that many Westerners don't believe that there are such people as liberal, progressive Muslims. This is because we seldom, if ever, hear from them or see them in action.

After the attacks of 9/11, I said, "This is not Islam." I expected, but did not hear, thundering denunciations of the atrocity from the great and the good of the Islamic world. Instead, there were murmurings of diplomatic sympathy between governments, while the unseemly images of celebration in Muslim cities burned into our memory. We expected that at least those governments nominally friendly to us would take direct action to root out Al Quaida and its allies, but nothing happened. Instead, of majority Islamic states, our only active ally is the secular and corrupt government of Pakistan, itself under fire from its indigenous Muslim extremists. The largely un-elected and absolutist governments of the rest of the Muslim world are in fact afraid of their home-grown religious radicals to take meaningful action against them.

In the West, we have a saying that silence equals consent: therefore, in our eyes, the Kings and Princes, Presidents and Prime Ministers, Imams and Professors of the Islamic world ratified the attacks on the United States by their silence and inaction.

By allowing to the radical elements to totally dominate debate, liberal Muslims contribute to the impression that all Islam is at war with the West.

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