‘Lambeg Boogie makes you feel all right’: Irish drum track cuts across politics

It is one of the world’s loudest musical instruments and thunders across Northern Ireland during the loyalist marching season.

While loyalists consider the Lambeg drum part of a centuries-old heritage, many nationalists view its ear-splitting volume as an attempt to intimidate.

With the summer marching season about to begin in earnest, however, the instrument has won fans across the political divide thanks to a music video titled The Lambeg Boogie.

The cultural mashup fuses the drum with electric guitar, a touch of blues and Irish dancing, resulting in a social media hit and hopes that it will promote reconciliation.

The song was composed by Willie Drennan, a County Antrim-based Ulster Scots folk musician and leader of the Willie Drennan Electric Band.

Willie Drennan with the Lambeg drum in the music video
Willie Drennan with the Lambeg drum in the music video. Photograph: YouTube

He wrote it after a jamming session in his back yard with David McClean, a blues and rock guitarist. They enlisted additional musicians and Larissa Fleck, of the Innova Irish Dancing Company, for a video that is a cross between garage rock, misty landscape and rogue Riverdance.

The lyrics are emphatically non-political: “Everybody shout, shake it all about, Lambeg Boogie makes you feel all right.”

The video has had tens of thousands of views on Twitter, Facebook, YouTube and other platforms and positive mentions in the Belfast Telegraph and the BBC – a rare feelgood story amid tensions over the marching season and Northern Ireland protocol.

“Brilliant piece of fusion – love it – well done!!” tweeted Lord John Alderdice, former leader of the Alliance party. “An excellent gesture of reconciliation,” tweeted Ciarán Ó Coigligh, a Dublin-based Irish poet and academic.

Drennan believes that music can bring people together and has performed with the Lambeg at Irish music festivals and other events in the republic of Ireland.

However, The Lambeg Boogie was envisaged simply as a blend of Ulster Scots traditional music with blues and rock, without political intent, said Drennan. He is delighted at the reception.

“It’s refreshing to do something that cuts across politics. We weren’t trying to make a statement … but the fact that it does is a bonus.”

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