The Most Irish Place in the World? "Irishness" in the Recorded Folk Music of Newfoundland and Labrador

How to Cite

Osborne, E. (2016). The Most Irish Place in the World? "Irishness" in the Recorded Folk Music of Newfoundland and Labrador. MUSICultures, 42(2). Retrieved from


In the past few decades, Newfoundland and Labrador (NL) has been increasingly viewed as inherently Irish in nature. As a North Atlantic island and a former British colony with a boom/bust economic cycle, NL shares many ethnic, geographic, and economic similarities with Ireland. The rocky landscape, foggy weather, friendly people, and the slightly Hiberno-English accent of the capital city often reminds visitors of Ireland. As an extension, Newfoundland and Labrador culture as a whole, and music in particular, is frequently assumed to primarily be a product of Irish heritage. Certainly many Newfoundlanders have Irish ancestry and the history of the Irish in Newfoundland is incredibly important. However, it does not necessarily follow that the music heard today in pubs and on recordings stems directly from that history. The story is much more complex. Today, Newfoundland music that is labelled traditional comprises musics handed down through generations of English, Irish, Scottish, and French ancestors, as well as local compositions, and music exchanged through cultural, economic, or technological flows via printed media, radio, television, recordings, and personal contact between musicians near and far. This article examines how Newfoundland music came to be perceived as Irish through three periods of heightened musical interactions with Irish musicians.