Rising up from the Iberian peninsula, over the span of two millennia the Celts engaged in cycles of conquest and retreat that left pockets of their descendents across Western Europe. The most evident homelands of the Celtic people are Ireland, Scotland, Cornwall and Wales, where they play a dominant cultural role and where their languages (with the exception of Cornish) still are spoken side by side with English. However, Celts still live in large numbers in the Brittany region of France and Galicia in Spain and Celtic music has survived in those areas. The Irish diaspora has also brought Celtic culture to the New World, with unique Celtic music styles arising from places like Cape Breton in Canada. In the U.S., large Irish settlements in Chicago and Boston produce musicians who play music that at times sounds more traditional than that produced by their fellow musicians in Ireland.
Traditional Celtic music is song-based, and ranges from melancholy tales of lost love and heroes to largely instrumental jigs and reels used for dancing. Stringed instruments, hand-held drums like the bodhran, and a variety of pipes and flutes are played by musicians who usually play solo or in small groups. Modern Celtic music has made a major impact on the New Age genre; its influence on pop and rock is a two-way street, with some modern Celtic bands absorbing the harder-edged sound of rock, while rock bands like the Pogues and the Saw Doctors incorporate Celtic instruments and rhythms into their music.