Cúltír presenters Aoife Ní Bhriain and Pauline Scanlon.

New TG4 series celebrating live Irish trad and folk music

Rooted in live performance, Cúltír ('Hinterland') sees Pauline Scanlon and Aoife Ní Bhriain – both rising stars of the Irish music scene – guide viewers through the musical and cultural heartbeat of six Irish counties.

Focusing primarily on traditional and folk music, the series will continue for six consecutive Sundays starting on August 14 at 9.30 p.m. on TG4.

Pauline and Aoife take to the stage with the cream of each county's musical talent, from John Spillane in Co. Cork to Mick Hanly in Co. Kilkenny and across the Shannon to Roscommon where we hear from the legendary Matt Molloy and John Carty to Leslie Dowdall and rapper JyellowL in Fingal to Westmeath legends Foster & Allen.

Presenters and guests perform in front of a live audience for one night only at a diverse range of local venues, from the intimate Tot's Pub in Ballygurteen in west Cork to the Manor House at Mount Juliet, Co. Kilkenny, King's House in Boyle, Co. Roscommon, and The Barn, Tyrellspass.

Featured performers and interviewees range from proud and iconic county men and women to newcomers with fresh perspectives on each county's unique cultural character and musical traditions.

Throughout the series, Aoife sets down her violin to hit the by-roads and boreens of Ireland in search of the people, places and cultural icons that give each county a character and identity all of its own. While on her travels, she also meets and performs with music legends such as Peadar Ó Riada in Cork and Iarla Ó Lionáird in his adopted county of Kilkenny.

On her mission to uncover the essence of each county, Aoife goes road-bowling in Co. Cork, squeezes into a Co. Roscommon coal mine, and meets the fabled 'mummers' of her native Fingal.

In the first episode, singer Pauline Scanlon and top violinist Aoife Ni Bhriain kick off in Co. Cork, where legendary songwriter John Spillane, the Ceili All-Stars and a host of the county’s finest talent perform in the intimate setting of Tot’s Pub, Ballygurteen. Along the way, Aoife will explore some icons of Co. Cork’s cultural identity, from road bowling to the inspiring natural beauty of Ballyvourney to the county’s food heritage renaissance.

Chatting about the series, Pauline said: “It's such a privilege to share the screen with greats of Irish music like John Spillane, Mick Hanly and Leslie Dowdall, and to also get the chance to perform alongside so many of them.

“Getting on the road and performing live in six different counties makes such a difference. This is a show all about identity and common experiences, and that comes across when you hear these songs and tunes performed for a local audience.

“I also love the range of contributors and music in the show. In Westmeath we have Foster & Allen performing with Moyra Foster. They've been in showbusiness for 45 years. Whereas in Kilkenny, we have a group of youngsters called Burnchurch, who are just starting out on their journey.

“The focus is on trad and folk, but we also have other genres – with rappers such as JYellowL and Gary McCarthy and a 60-piece orchestra also being massive highlights.

“What really leaps out at me is the musical mosaic of the counties that builds up with each performance. It’s incredibly varied and diverse, but when you step back, I think you can somehow hear the heartbeat of the county coming through.

“I also think it's very important that this is a new music series fronted by two women who are performers in their own right – which reflects current conversations regarding representation of women in Irish music.”

Aoife added: “It has been an amazing experience all round. As the on-the-road presenter, I learned pretty quickly that I had to be ready for anything, from crawling through a coal mine in Roscommon to trying to stay on a surfboard off west Cork.

“This show is all about what makes our counties unique, and this programme really shows the pride that the Irish people have in their own counties. What was also fascinating was meeting the people and artists who had been born elsewhere but have made this particular county their home. What brought a Swiss textile artist to Roscommon? Or a sean-nós singer to Kilkenny? They’re interesting questions and the stories are even better.

“Music-wise, it's impossible to pick a highlight. I get to perform on location with some great friends like Peadar Ó Riada and Iarla Ó Lionáird, but the Fingal episode, where I get to play with my dad, Mick O’Brien, was really special. We have Fingal roots and we are very proud Dubs, so to be playing on home ground for a home audience is always going to be a highlight.”