From ancient Ireland to modern India

India and Ireland may be thousands of kilometres apart but the countries are closer in musical traditions than you may think, according to ANU research.

India and Ireland may be thousands of kilometres apart but the countries are closer in musical traditions than you may think, according to ANU research.

Archaeology PhD student Billy Ó Foghlú was studying musical horns from iron-age Ireland when he discovered musical traditions from that period are alive and well in southern India.

It turns out that modern Indian horns are almost identical to many iron-age European artefacts and there was a rich cultural link between the two regions about 2,000 years ago.

“Archaeology is usually silent. I was astonished to find what I thought to be dead soundscapes alive and living in Kerala today,” Ó Foghlú says.

“The musical traditions of south India, with horns such as the kompu, are a great insight into musical cultures in Europe’s prehistory.

“And, because Indian instruments are usually recycled and not laid down as offerings, the artefacts in Europe are also an important insight into the soundscapes of India’s past.”

The findings help show that Europe and India had a lively cultural exchange with musicians from the different cultures sharing independently developed technology and musical styles.