“Celtic music” is a marketing term used to define the sound and music of the Celts. I've used it to promote my Celtic Music Magazine and my Irish & Celtic Music Podcast and a LOT of my websites. A decade ago, it was lamented as a useless term because every band who thought they were “Celtic” could promote themselves as such, even if they were not. Something happened over the past decade though. “Celtic music” means something to the people who love Celtic music.
Yes, it is still the music of the Celts. Yes, it includes everything from traditional Irish music to Scottish bagpipes to pub songs to Celtic rock. It still includes Celtic New Age music that doesn't even resemble Enya, let alone anything Irish, Scottish or from one of the other Celtic nations. What I love the term is that it includes things that fit the genre and does not include things that don't. Does that make sense? Let me explain.
“Irish traditional music” makes sense to me. It is the traditional music of Ireland, filled with reels and jigs, Gaelic lyrics and what not. “Irish music” does not. Yes, many people still associate it with “traditional Irish music”, but “Irish music” means any music from Ireland. U2 is the first to say they do not play Celtic music even if they are from Ireland. Van Morrison is brilliant R&B, bluesy, jazzy. He doesn't play Celtic music.
I remember Larry Kirwan say in an old Black 47 bio from a decade ago, “I'm from Ireland. I am f**king Celtic.” He was right to be pissed. But at the same time, not entirely right. The term “Celtic music” has changed. It's no longer just that your from Ireland that you play Celtic music.
If you want to be included in my podcast or on my Celtic Music Magazine, there are two major requirements to be included: one, do you think your music “Celtic”; and two, does it have something “Celtic” about it.
By that definition, Black 47 fits. They mix in traditional Irish tunes into their songs. Their lyrics are stories that relate specifically to Celtic people and not just people.
I play the autoharp. The least Celtic instrument in the world probably. It's not a harp. It's a zither. However, I sing with a Celtic style. My entire musical thought process is about Irish songs even when I'm fusing in my geeky nature or mixing cats into the songs. My music is Celtic music. It's not really fair to say I play Irish music or Scottish music. I play Irish songs and Scottish songs. But I play Celtic music.
Maybe it's just me who has finally solidified in my mind what “Celtic music” is. From all the submissions I get to the magazine and podcast, I feel like the world finally understands what Celtic music is… and it's not just about being Irish or Scottish. It's about being Celtic. It's about being a part of the culture. It's about our Celtic heritage. In some ways, I could say it's about being American… or Canadian… or Australian… Or whatever. So thank God there's “Celtic music” to define the music I love.