Jason O'Rourke: Irish concertina music, poetry and prose from Belfast, North of Ireland


Traditional Irish music on the Anglo concertina

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Poetry and prose from Belfast

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Discography, compositions and publications

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Music, Poetry, and Prose from Belfast.

Music info

I have been playing Traditional Irish Music on the concertina for over thirty years now. So far I’ve made eight full-length albums, three of which are as a solo artist.

My latest solo album The Sunny Side of the Latch, comprising 24 new compositions, was launched on Friday 11th November 2022, at Ennis Trad Fest. On the album I’m accompanied by some of traditional music’s greatest artists, including Steve Cooney and Tony McManus. It’s available on CD and digital here: https://jasonorourke.bandcamp.com

Traditional music is all about communication and connectivity. It’s almost as if the tunes don’t exist until we play them with people and for people. The fact that this collection has come out of a period where those inter-personal possibilities had been removed is a testament to Jason O’Rourke’s creativity. In his descriptions of the tunes and their titles you can see Jason conjuring up and re-imagining all those human connections that make Irish traditional music such a vibrant art form. It’s all about people and places. Through these tunes we hear Jason reaching out from his adopted home of Belfast, through every corner of Ireland where there’s a good tune to be had, to places as far-flung as Scotland, Italy, India and Cambodia. We hear the echoes of all the musicians past and present that have helped to form Jason’s musical identity.

For me there are three dualities at the heart of Irish traditional music and they are all evident here: it’s a local music that is played and enjoyed all over the globe; at it’s core it’s a solo tradition but it really thrives when played with other people: and it’s an ancient music that is being re-created and re-imagined every day.

I’m really looking forward to having a go at learning some of these tunes as I’m sure we’ll be hearing them in sessions for years to come.”

Niall Vallely

Album cover

I’m very happy to have been awarded the Arts Council NI/British Council Artist International Development Fund for a trip to Harare, Zimbabwe in April 2024 to collaborate with local musicians, facilitated by Music Crossroads Zimbabwe.

Early in 2020 I travelled to Siem Reap in Cambodia for a music exchange with local musicians Yaksao. There’s a documentary video here. During the global pandemic I also managed a remote Belfast-Kolkata collaboration, the ‘Belonging’ project, with Bengali singer Deepmoy Das. You can see the video here.

Another collaborative project with Madagán and Indian singer Divya Naik from 2019 is available on Bandcamp.

In December 2014 I received an Artist Career Enhancement Scheme (ACES) award from the Arts Council NI to make my solo album, which is called The Northern Concertina. Visit the music page for the latest project news, interviews and reviews, and further info about my recordings

Jason O’Rourke’s music has matured down the years into a fully cohesive and finely-tuned style; each note executed with pin-pricked precision. He stands on his own merits among concertina players in Ireland and elsewhere, and his music finds full maturity on this outstanding set.

John O’Regan, The Living Tradition, December 2015.

The Sunny Side of the Latch was partially funded by The Arts Council of Northern Ireland and Dept. of Communities.

The Northern Concertina was funded by an Arts Council of Northern Ireland ACES award. The ‘Belonging‘ project was funded by an ACNI AEP award, and my composition work was funded by an ACNI IERP 1 award.

Travel to Cambodia for the music exchange, Brazil for Festival Internacional da Sanfona, and Tenerife for Festival Internacional Boreal, was funded through ACNI travel awards. The Cambodia project was facilitated by Cambodian Living Arts. Funding for the Madagán/Divya Naik collaborative project in Goa came from a British Council/ACNI Artist’s International Development Fund award, and was facilitated by Banglanatak dot com.

Arts Council NI logoBritish Council logocompositions funded by Arts Council NI

Writing info

I decided to give myself a birthday present in 2012, and started writing short stories about everyday life in Belfast on my blog. Since then I’ve been publishing short stories for adults and children, and poems. Some of them are available on the web, others are only to be had in print. I’m always interested in collaborating with other writers and artists, and I have a number of such projects on the go. Details can be found on the writing page.

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