It’s the depths of winter on a windswept peninsula jutting out into the fierce Atlantic. In a small fishing village, the streets of pastel, button-cute shop fronts are quiet… except for the faint whisper of an acoustic guitar. The strumming grows louder approaching the village’s tiny, 200-year old church, where inside, holding the guitar, is Argentine indie superstar José Gonzales.
So, just what is José Gonzales doing in a teeny church in Dingle, County Kerry? “The fish and the prawns are great” he smiles, from a stage that has, in the past seven years, hosted names as big as Florence and the Machine, Jarvis Cocker, Seasick Steve, Marina and the Diamonds, Amy Winehouse and David Gray, as well as homegrown talent Bell X1, Damien Rice, Glen Hansard, Imelda May and Duke Special.
José’s taste for prawns aside, these artists come to Dingle in their sweet-sounding droves for the otherwordly Other Voices, an RTÉ series recording these intimate performances for television. Tickets for the sessions are like gold dust due to the small capacity of St. James’ Church in Dingle, but many of them can be seen on the Other Voices website.
Despite the wintry weather and considerable commute for international musicians, they continue to make the trek and arrive smiling. The peaceful, laid-back atmosphere of the region soaks into the sessions: the musicians are known to mingle with locals, audience members and fellow performers at the hotel, Benners, after the performances. Many claim to be enchanted with the town and inspired by the experience itself:
The line-up in Dingle, 1-3 December includes The Unthanks, Aaron Dessner, Paul Buchanan, Villagers, and Soak.
If you miss the Dingle gigs though, a special Other Voices can be caught in Derry-Londonderry, as part of the UK City of Culture celebrations. The line-up on 8-10 February 2013 in Derry-Londonderry features Django Django, Neil Hannon, Marina & the Diamonds and Jessica Hoop.
Dingle itself is a star year-round though. Making up a thriving chunk of the Irish-speaking community, it has a strong sense of heritage, and even a local dolphin. The landscape of rocky hills, sandy coastline and dramatic cliffs saw National Geographic Traveler magazine deem it ‘the most beautiful place on earth’, while the walking tracks of the peninsula are renowned for their breath-taking views. As darkness falls, the cosy pubs get stuffed with visitors and locals for lively evenings of music, card games and craic. The sounds of local music also come from the teeny Dingle Record Shop, its walls lined with recordings from artists living on the peninsula and rare works personally tracked down by owner Mazz, who’ll happily offer you a cuppa as you whistle at her collection.
The acts from Other Voices loved all of it, and even wrote postcards to prove it. Our favourites were Megafun and Magic Numbers, who discovered the one-stop-shop-pub Foxy John’s, where “you can buy a hammer and a pint of Guinness in the same place”.
Maybe their words and voices will inspire your own trip, and postcard, from Dingle.
Just remember when you try the prawns, tell ‘em José sent you.