ONE of Ireland’s musical institutions looks set to celebrate its second decade in the sun this month in one of the cultural homelands of the island, whilst award season heats up and the Sound Of Belfast Festival is under way in the North.
Other Voices has long served as a sort of cultural flashpoint for Ireland. Since its inception back in the early 2000s in the town of Dingle, its influence and performances have spread all over the world. With cities such as Belfast, London, Berlin, New York and more under their belt and alumni such as Snow Patrol, Hozier, Elbow, Jose Gonzales and more, the festival and its subsequent broadcasts have become one of Ireland’s greatest cultural exports. So when news broke earlier this week about a return to Dingle for the twentieth anniversary, naturally all of our hairs stood on end.

Lineup details came quick and fast, with the likes of Kay Young, Fontaines D.C., John Grant, Gemma Dunleavy and Derry’s own Our Krypton Son the first announced off the block.
Founder and curator Philip King said:  “We’re thrilled to welcome live audiences back to Dingle, that uplifting engagement between audience and artists is really at the heart of the live experience. We have some of the most brilliant musicians in the world making the pilgrimage to West Kerry and we have a gathering up of the new voices and artists who have written the emotional soundtrack to the Ireland of 2021.”
Staying down south with the news, we were also treated to the announcement of the RTÉ Folk Awards. The shortlist awards, such as Best Original Track, Traditional Track, Folk Singer, Instrumentalist, Album and more, were made public this week and features artists from all walks of careers and lives. Favourites such as Mick Flannery, Susan O’Neil, Villagers and Ye Vagabonds are expected to sweep the ceremony, but still in the races is ‘Taking The Wheel’, a collaborative track between Joshua Burnside and Laura Quirke that serves as the North’s only representation at the ceremony on the 16th of the month. Fingers crossed for the underdogs taking a swipe at recognition.

Big Daisy are one of Belfast’s most exciting new bands and their new single is insanely listenable

Big Daisy are one of Belfast’s most exciting new bands and their new single is insanely listenable

The Sound Of Belfast festival has got off to a riotous start. Opening events such as the sold-out headline show from Dark Tropics and performances from Reevah, Laytha, Hex Hue and Travi The Native in the Black Box, a sold-out Telegraph Building show from Kneecap and Rebekah Fitch wowing crowds at Limelight 2 have seen festivities hit the ground running. Coming up this week we’ve got the likes of the Yeo Magazine launch in the Ulster Sports Club, Bicep’s two-day takeover of the Telegraph Building and the Scratch My Progress showcase in the Oh Yeah centre. A full schedule and programme are available from the festival website online.
And as always, we like to end the column by celebrating some of the best independent releases from Irish artists over the last week. You can catch his headline performance at this year’s SOBF, so check out the new track from Travi The Native. ‘Shambles’ combines alt-pop vocals with soul melodies for  a dance-floor filler reminiscent of early 70s pop music. A specialist in low key hooks, this is one of the better releases of his career.
Also worthy of your full attention is the dreamy space-pop of Big Daisy and their  new single ‘Without Dreams’. One of Belfast's best new bands, they’ve made a name for themselves with their new take on modern guitar music and interesting record production.
There's a post-rock element in their usage of expansive guitar riffs on ‘Without Dreams’, but it's still quite compact, digestible and – most importantly – insanely listenable.