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chieftains.jpgRy Cooder has a restless ear. Throughout his four-decade musical career, he's explored the music of Mexico, Africa, Hawaii and Cuba -- even Tuvan throat singers -- not to mention various strains of roots music in the U.S.

His latest recording project is a cultural mashup of Mexican and Irish music called San Patricio. The album is performed by the The Chieftains, along with Cooder and a handful of celebrated Mexican musicians.
Hear San Patricio
Hear individual songs from the album

Like other Cooder projects, San Patricio tells a story: A group of downtrodden Irish-immigrant soldiers deserted the U.S. Army in 1846 to fight for the Mexican Army in the Mexican-American War (1846-48). As you'll hear, the result pays heartfelt tribute to the soldiers of San Patricio (Spanish for St. Patrick), in the form of the Mexican music they might have heard during breaks on the battlefield, as well as Irish songs.
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Padraic's nostalgic trip to Inisheer

Meet Padraic | Q&A

  • Question: So, you were a Lobster fisherman in your youth, what was that like?

    Answer: I was a lobster fisherman for about two years when I was about sixteen. We'd go out in a currach, which is a traditional rowing boat. We'd drop the pots, of various different types, in the hope to find a lobster, or ten, when we'd return the next day. Back then everyone lived off the sea... and back then the lobsters were more plentiful. I have wonderful memories of those days. We all have a great connection here with the sea.

  • Question: The sailboats we see in the video, these are unique to this part of Ireland, right?

    Answer: That's the Galway hooker; you'll find them all along the coast from Galway city to Connemara. All those boats you see are built by hand here in Connemara. They were mainly used for transporting goods from village to village or to the city.

  • Question: Tell me more about the Worm's Hole; I'm fascinated by this...

    Answer: Isn't it amazing; I mean where you would find it! Divers have come here from America, France, Australia and they drop into the worms' hole and not one has touched the bottom. It's a mystery. That's nature for you.

  • Question: What is the most ideal time of year to visit the Connemara coastline?

    Answer: The middle of July, when the sky is clear and blue, and the sea, the same. There's no place on earth as nice. It's heaven. But, if you get clear day in winter, it's just as amazing.

  • Question: You grew up here; all this open landscape is your backyard...

    Answer: I did, and you can walk for miles through these fields and nobody will bother you. If you have the stamina, there's a boreen nearby in Rossaveal that leads to a Martello tower - a round tower with cannon on the roof - just by the edge of the sea. The tower has been there since the 1850's, it must be the only one along the west coast. It has a well inside it. Most of these towers are museums in other countries; here you'd hardly know it existed. It's not advertised. This whole area is not commercialized.

  • Question: I'm very interested in the coral sand beach...

    Answer: It's in of only two coral beaches in Ireland. The other one is supposed to be in Kerry, but nobody's ever seen it, so I wonder... but this is a pure coral beach and it's absolutely just beautiful. I must do more research on coral beaches in Ireland; there's not been any research on this that I'm aware of...

British Sea Power record for Flaherty's "Man of Aran" film

British Sea Power are recording a new soundtrack for Man Of Aran, Robert J. Flaherty's 1934 'docufiction' on life in the Aran Islands. Half Irish on his father's side, the American filmmaker's CV also include Nanook Of The North, Elephant Boy and Louisiana Story. Along with a live performance next spring in the British Film Institute, the score will also grace the DVD re-release of the movie, which is currently being arranged by Flaherty's estate. A live performance of the soundtrack was played along to The Man of Aran during the Edinburgh Film Festival in The Caves. Watch a somewhat dodgy bootleg of the recording here: