If the word Zen could ever be applied to an Irish traditional musician then Caoimhín Ó Raghallaigh is the man. My ivolvement with Zen is that of an interested outsider rather than a practitioner but from what I understand it is a school of Buddhism based on meditation that often involves contemplating a single theme and a lot of introspection.
That seems to sum up Ó Raghallaigh's style of playing where he grabs a musical theme or motif and explores its, repeating it and draws out its various nuances in an almost abstract manner.
His album Where the One Eyed Man is King is a series of stripped down musical mediations featuring Ó Raghallaigh bowing and plucking at his fiddle with occasional piano or whistle accompaniment.
It is a distant musical land from the more popular ensemble playing that typifies much of Irish trad these days – Dervish, Lunasa, Kila, Altan, Chieftains.
Sometimes is not even clear if the tune, or rather musical passage, you are listening to could even be classified as Irish traditional as it is more like something from a contemporary free-form experimental piece as if Ó Raghallaigh is trying to catch at something he has heard in the wind that will then segue into a familiar-sounding air.
I came to Ó Raghallaigh via this solo album (Where the One Eyed Man is King) and it led to me to an earlier collaboration with Uilleann piper Mick O’Brien called Kitty Lie Over which is more overtly traditional but with experimental flourishes.
His collaborative work is probably more accessible but Where the One Eyed Man is King becomes strangely addictive and provides a little aural oasis of calm with space for some introspection at the end of a busy day. You can listen to some of his tracks at www.myspace.com/oraghallaigh and visit his website www.stateofchassis.com