Country benefits from increased immigration
There’s a different beat starting to be heard in the pubs and clubs of Dublin. Singer-songwriters and folk-rock bands still reign supreme, but just occasionally an unfamiliar rhythm breaks through the Celtic keening.
Revolution Crew, a hip-hop troupe formed by four African asylum seekers, is a rising star act in Dublin’s underground music scene. Its members journeyed “from hardships in their own homelands,” according to their website, “to form a rap crew intent on taking the hip-hop scene by storm and putting their adopted city on the map.”
The group is aptly named. Revolution Crew is emblematic of the social revolution that has taken place in Ireland over the past decade. Immigrants from all corners of the world are now seeping into the country’s cultural life — in music, film and elsewhere.
“Ten years ago, you wouldn’t have gone into a pub here and seen anyone other than a traditional singer-songwriter,” says Tamara Anghie, producer of Ireland’s Oscar-nominated short film “New Boy.” “Now you see musicians or standup comedians from Eastern Europe, Africa, Asia. This country has developed very organically into a cosmopolitan society.”
Anghie herself is an Australian who moved to Dublin 10 years ago. Steph Green, the writer-director of “New Boy,” is an Irish-American, a dual citizen who was born in San Francisco (her grandparents being Irish). She was schooled in Chicago, then came to Ireland for her post-graduate studies and stayed, carving a career as a commercials director on both sides of the Atlantic.
“New Boy” is the touching story of a 9-year-old African lad on his first day at a new school in Dublin. Green adapted the script from a short story penned by bestselling Irish novelist Roddy Doyle. The story was first published in Metro Eireann, which bills itself as Ireland’s only multicultural weekly newspaper, founded in 2000 by Nigerian journalists Chinedu Onyejelem and Abel Ugba.
As Onyejelem explains, Metro Eireann was conceived as “a channel for immigrants to understand Irish society, and for Irish society to understand the immigrants who were coming into Ireland.”
It’s easy to forget how far Ireland has traveled over the past 20 years or so. Historically, it was so poor that many Irish were forced to emigrate. The financial boom of the ’80s and ’90s reversed that trend and began to draw mass immigration into Ireland for the first time.
The country is still adapting to that challenge. Candidates from immigrant communities are starting to win elections, but ethnic faces and accents aren’t yet much seen or heard on TV and radio.
“There has been a dramatic shift for the better in the attitudes of Irish people to immigrants and immigration,” says Onyejelem, who came to Dublin as a student 12 years ago. “But we immigrants aren’t finding our feet in the media, not because we aren’t interested, but because the organizations aren’t interested in us. Sometimes they say it’s a matter of accent, but when Nelson Mandela or Desmond Tutu comes to speak in Ireland, everyone cheers.”
Onyejelem credits Doyle, who regularly publishes stories in Metro Eireann, as the Irish artist who has done the most to embrace the immigrant experience. Last year, Doyle collaborated with Nigerian writer Bisi Adigun on a new version of J.M. Synge’s play “Playboy of the Western World” at Dublin’s Abbey Theater. They transposed the drama to contemporary Dublin and transformed the eponymous playboy into a Nigerian refugee.
“Roddy Doyle is the only writer in Ireland who has been prophetic about the development of multicultural Ireland,” Onyejelem asserts.
What: Oscar Wilde: Honoring the Irish in Film
When: 6:30 Thursday night
Where: Ebell Club, Los Angeles
Honorees: Brendan Gleeson, Jonathan Rhys Meyers, Hylda Queally