There are many reasons to be excited about new Glasgow-based five-piece Ímar – not least a line-up featuring current and former members of Mànran, RURA, Talisk, Barrule, Cara, Mabon and The Lowground, whose collectively crammed trophy-cabinet includes a BBC Young Folk Award and several All-Britain/All-Ireland titles. By far the best and biggest reason, however, is how excited the band are themselves.
“As soon as we all sat down to play together properly, it just worked,” says bodhrán player Adam Brown (RURA), originally from Suffolk. “We were a bit stunned, to be honest; all looking round at everyone else, thinking, ‘Is it just me, or was that really good?’”
“It’s definitely more of a pure-drop trad sound than most of the other bands we’re involved in,” adds Cork-born uilleann piper, flautist and whistle player Ryan Murphy (Mànran), “but I think that’s partly why it feels so natural. We’re going back to the music we started out playing – which is ultimately the reason why we’re all here as musicians.”
Ímar’s formation also embodies a more personal reconnection with its members’ formative years, dating back long before their recent camaraderie around Glasgow’s justly celebrated session scene. All five of them – also including fiddler Tomás Callister and bouzouki ace Adam Rhodes (Barrule/Mabon), both from the Isle of Man, plus Glasgow native Mohsen Amini (Talisk) on concertina – originally met as teenagers through Comhaltas Ceoltóirí Éireann, the Irish traditional music network that tutors budding players throughout the British Isles and beyond, and stages the annual schedule of Fleadh competitions.
It was via the latter that Ímar’s paths first crossed, as its future members began to amass what’s now a heavyweight collective haul of top prizes – nine All-Ireland and eight All-Britain titles between them – while Murphy is also a double winner of the prestigious Oireachtas contest. Bringing the tally of accolades up to date, Amini won the 2015 BBC Radio 2 Young Folk Award with Talisk, as well as a Danny Kyle Open Stage Award at the Celtic Connections festival, and is also a BBC Radio Scotland Young Traditional Musician of the Year finalist in 2016. Just last December, meanwhile, Brown celebrated RURA’s crowning as Live Act of the Year, at the 2015 Scots Trad Music Awards.