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Last Updated: Tuesday, 10 July 2007, 08:50 GMT 09:50 UK
NI artists out for global recognition
There has never been a better time to be a musician in Northern Ireland according to BBC NI's Steven Rainey. He checks out the diverse range of talent beating their way to the top of the international stage.

Duke Special
Creating a buzz: Duke Special on stage at the Ulster Hall in Belfast (Pictures by Stephen Lynn)

With artists such as Snow Patrol, Ash and Duke Special making waves and attracting all manner of attention, it seems that the northern Irish music scene, which has lain dormant for so long, is finally ready to step up and be recognised at an international level.

Snow Patrol's recent inclusion on the soundtrack to Spiderman 3 gives some indication of the standard we can now come to expect from home-grown talent.

It wasn't always this way, though. There was a time not so long ago where the prospect of a local act being included on the soundtrack of the biggest film of the year would sound like a joke to most people's ears.

Bands like The Divine Comedy from Enniskillen and Larne's Therapy? kept the profile of northern Irish music visible throughout the 90s, but it got to a point some years ago where the local music scene seemed dead.

New venues

Then it all began to change. New venues such as the Spring and Airbrake and the Stiff Kitten in Belfast joined the already established likes of the Limelight, Lavery's and the Front Page in giving bands a stage on which they could develop and hone their skills.

They also cater for the diverse tastes of local audiences.

Belfast-based magazine Alternative Ulster began covering local acts alongside more high-profile artists, not prepared to acknowledge that there was a difference.

Outside of Belfast, the Island Arts Centre in Lisburn and the Nerve Centre in Londonderry became the focal points of the local music scene, offering support and resources for local acts.

All over Northern Ireland, bands began to mobilise themselves, and audiences began to take them seriously.

All this positive activity has had a tremendous impact on the standard of work being produced.
Front man: Gary Lightbody of Snow Patrol
Front man: Gary Lightbody of Snow Patrol

Duke Special has been honing his flamboyant vaudeville act for a number of years, and is now reaping the rewards, selling out gigs all over the UK and drawing critical acclaim for his album, "Songs From the Deep Forest".

In what must be a career high for any artist, he recently opened the Cathedral Quarter Arts Festival with an incredible performance in the Waterfront Hall, accompanied by the Ulster Orchestra.

Meanwhile, Belfast electronic duo Oppenheimer gained major exposure for their brand of melodic, electronic pop by being played on the hit television series Ugly Betty.


According to Jonny Tiernan of Alternative Ulster magazine "huge acts like Snow Patrol are anomalies that will succeed regardless of the fact that they are from Northern Ireland".

"More important and potentially more valuable are the bands that have emerged from the northern Irish music scene and then went on to have success outside of it.

"Duke Special and Oppenheimer are probably the best examples of this phenomenon - these two acts have shown that you can be based in NI yet still have successful careers on a world stage."

In the moment: Shaun Robinson, one half of Belfast-bast duo Oppenheimer
In the moment: Shaun Robinson, one half of Belfast-bast duo Oppenheimer
Shaun Robinson, one half of Oppenheimer told the BBC News website: "We're spoilt to have all these acts on our doorsteps, but does this mean that every record label/A&R/publisher will be making the trip to Belfast? Probably not.

"The biggest thing is the rise of the internet and digital technology being involved with music. Getting one of your tracks to millions of people over one bulletin on myspace or bebo has changed everything about music for me.

"There is a sense of community between many bands, promoters and fans. Long may it last!"

And the success stories don't stop there, with Downpatrick rockers the Answer being nominated for "Best British Newcomer" in the 2006 Kerrang! Awards, and old stalwarts Ash leading the way in the digital revolution, abandoning the traditional album format and releasing singles on-line.

All of this and the news that Belfast-based indie band the Jane Bradfords reached number 1 in the charts... in Qatar.

Can it get any better?

Snow Patrol leads Oxegen line-up
23 Feb 07 |  Northern Ireland
Duke's orchestral manoeuvres
02 May 07 |  Northern Ireland
From Crazy Love to Chasing Cars
27 Mar 07 |  Northern Ireland
City gets dedicated music centre
05 Feb 07 |  Northern Ireland


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