Clannad are a groundbreaking traditional Irish folk band whose huge success has paved the way for several other top Irish performers.
The original line-up consisted of Moya Brennan, her brothers Ciarán and Pól, and their uncles, Noel and Pádraig Duggan, who are twins. The three Brennans inherited their love of music from their parents. Their mother was a music teacher and their father was a member of a cabaret band.
The tight knit family members became Clannad when they were youngsters singing in their parent’s pub. A local policeman had heard them singing and came into the bar. But instead of asking them to keep the noise down, he handed them an entry form for a local music competition.
Winning a record contract
They needed a name for the competition and somebody suggested Clann As Dobhar, which means the family from Dore. They shortened it to Clannad in 1973 and the name has stuck ever since.
They entered a folk festival and won a recording contract. Their first album, Clannad, was released in 1973. It was a mixture of contemporary and traditional music with a strong jazz influence.
Two years later, Clannad released their second album, Clannad 2. It was produced by Dónal Lunny and although it was still a traditional album, there were some ground breaking experimental aspects to it. Much of the album was sung in Irish.
Dúlamán, Clannad in Concert and Crann Úll
In 1976, they released their third album, Dúlamán. The title track of the album remains a fans’ favourite at live shows to this day and the band often perform a rock version of the song.
In 1978, they released Clannad in Concert featuring a live performance in Switzerland. On the album, they recorded their definitive version of Down by the Salley Gardens as well as a 10 minute version “Níl Sé Ina Lá”.
They quickly followed this up with a hugely popular album called Crann Úll. The words are Irish for Apple Tree. The album included an appearance from the band’s younger sister, Enya, who provided supporting vocals on the track, Gathering Mushrooms.
Enya joins Clannad
1979 was a busy year for Clannad as they also went on tour in the United States, playing 36 venues. At the time it was the biggest ever American tour by an Irish band.
In 1981, they released their fifth album, Fuaim. It was the only album to feature Enya as a full time member of the band as she left the following year to embark on her extraordinarily successful solo career.
With Fuaim, the band explored a more electronic sound for the album. The sound of Enya’s keyboards and the use of synthesisers and the electric piano was very prominent.