The idea behind Different Drums Of Ireland is one succinctly suggested by their name. It is an attempt to bring together the percussion instruments played in various strands of the Irish folk tradition to ‘confront prejudice’ between Protestant and Catholic communities. Hence the employment of lambegs (large, goat-skinned marching drums) familiar from Orange marches, alongside the Republican-associated bodhran. The idea was first hatched in response to an invitation to appear on the 29 television show in January 1993. Stephen Mitier and co-founders Laurence Price and community development officer Roy Arbuckle subsequently appeared at the same year’s Beltaine Festival. As Arbuckle told Folk Roots, ‘Stephen, Laurence and I had recently seen the Kodo drummers of Japan, and it was inspiring to see the reverence they show towards their instruments. We decided that now was the time to bring together the indigenous Irish drums.’ The group now comprises 10 drummers drawn from both religious communities. As well as performing the length and breadth of Ireland, they also teach workshops for adults and children. Despite the nobility of their cause, they have experienced first hand the difficulty of overcoming deeply held prejudices - having all their bodhrans smashed up when they played an outdoor festival in Belfast to a working class Protestant audience. Despite this, their efforts to disrobe musical instruments of their political symbolism continue.
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