Gaelic rap may be an unfamiliar subgenre even for the most fervent fans of hip hop. This can be corrected by watching Ciara Nic Chormaic’s documentary Ó Bhéal, which delves into Irish rap through four artists. Even though Strange Boy, Fehdah, Mory, and Oisín Mac all have very different styles as musicians, they are united by a burning love for the Irish language and its different dialects. If no one uses the small language, it will fade away entirely, and there is no return from that.
In the music, folklore, ancient poetry, and the sean-nós singing tradition come together with the boldness of rap and modern technology. The documentary follows the artists working in the studio and performing onstage but also hears out why they want to make music specifically in their native language. For others, the reasons are political, for others perhaps more personal. In any case, the result is a unique fusion of American hip hop culture and old Irish folk music.
The film is a compact look at a seemingly small scene in a short time period, but despite – or because of – that, it functions as an excellent introduction to a subculture, of which you’ll want to know more after watching the documentary.
Marko Ylitalo (translated by Inari Ylinen)
Producer Jennifer Healy is present in the screening of the film Ó Bhéal on Wed, Jan 31.