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Lisa Canny: “I’ve been called a disgrace to the tradition of Irish music but trad is a living, breathing thing”

Harpist Lisa Canny has been called ‘a disgrace to the tradition of Irish music’ for adding contemporary twists, but her unique take is expanding the story of folk

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“I have huge respect for Irish traditional music, but that doesn’t mean you can’t try new things" Photo: Lee Malone. Kimono, €320; nightgown, €290, Giaguaro, both Susan Hunter, D2, susanhunter.ie. ‘Celestial Spike Statement Hoop’ earrings, €149; ‘Celestial Pendant’ necklace, €139, Scribble & Stone, Arnotts

“I have huge respect for Irish traditional music, but that doesn’t mean you can’t try new things" Photo: Lee Malone. Kimono, €320; nightgown, €290, Giaguaro, both Susan Hunter, D2, susanhunter.ie. ‘Celestial Spike Statement Hoop’ earrings, €149; ‘Celestial Pendant’ necklace, €139, Scribble & Stone, Arnotts

"I talk about how English rule is a huge part of why our music is so strong today. Take everything off somebody and they go back to music." Photo: Lee Malone

"I talk about how English rule is a huge part of why our music is so strong today. Take everything off somebody and they go back to music." Photo: Lee Malone

Coat, €919, Colin Horgan, Emporium Kalu, Naas, Co Kildare. Luz heels, €690, The Attico, Brown Thomas. Picture by: Lee Malone

Coat, €919, Colin Horgan, Emporium Kalu, Naas, Co Kildare. Luz heels, €690, The Attico, Brown Thomas. Picture by: Lee Malone

“If I was to have a family, I’d like for them to have a similar experience in music that I did..." Picture by Lee Malone

“If I was to have a family, I’d like for them to have a similar experience in music that I did..." Picture by Lee Malone

Bodysuit, €764, Khaite, farfetch.com. Luz heels, €690, The Attico, Brown Thomas. Picture by: Lee Malone

Bodysuit, €764, Khaite, farfetch.com. Luz heels, €690, The Attico, Brown Thomas. Picture by: Lee Malone

‘The Night Tremors Dress’, €1,575, The Vampire’s Wife, Havana, D4, havanaboutique.ie. ‘Mayan Primitive Bird’ earrings, €200, Newbridge Silverware preloved collection, Arnotts. Picture by: Lee Malone

‘The Night Tremors Dress’, €1,575, The Vampire’s Wife, Havana, D4, havanaboutique.ie. ‘Mayan Primitive Bird’ earrings, €200, Newbridge Silverware preloved collection, Arnotts. Picture by: Lee Malone

‘Queen of Ulster’ dress, €1,800 (made to order), Natalie B. Coleman. ‘Luz’ heels, €690, The Attico, Brown Thomas. Picture by: Lee Malone

‘Queen of Ulster’ dress, €1,800 (made to order), Natalie B. Coleman. ‘Luz’ heels, €690, The Attico, Brown Thomas. Picture by: Lee Malone

Lisa Canny photographed by Lee Malone for Life magazine ** NO REPRO WITHOUT PERMISSION. HIGH FEE APPLIES **

Lisa Canny photographed by Lee Malone for Life magazine ** NO REPRO WITHOUT PERMISSION. HIGH FEE APPLIES **

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“I have huge respect for Irish traditional music, but that doesn’t mean you can’t try new things" Photo: Lee Malone. Kimono, €320; nightgown, €290, Giaguaro, both Susan Hunter, D2, susanhunter.ie. ‘Celestial Spike Statement Hoop’ earrings, €149; ‘Celestial Pendant’ necklace, €139, Scribble & Stone, Arnotts

Lisa Canny flashes a mischievous smile when she recalls the reaction that traditional Irish music purists have had when they encounter her singular take on the genre. “They absolutely hate it,” she says, beaming. “There was a show where I brought a female beatboxer over from London and I rapped on stage with her.”

It must have made for an incongruous sight for those who know the Mayo native as one of Ireland’s most admired harpists and banjo players, as well as a vocalist of considerable range and distinction.


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