Belfast and Northern Ireland have been bustling hubs for exciting music and bands for decades. From Van Morrison to Snow Patrol to Two Door Cinema Club, many have broken out of the local scene to receive international attention and acclaim.
With concerts very slowly starting back up in Northern Ireland, the gig scene is preparing itself for eventual re-launch. That said, Belfast’s bands and musicians haven’t exactly closed shop this year. In fact, 2020 has seen many smaller artists releasing more than ever before in the city. So when gigs can start up again, though the experience will certainly be very different, new artists and music will be coming out of the woodwork.
To keep you up to date, we’ve compiled a list of key Belfast based artists to keep your eye out for. We cover a range of genres, from rock to pop to R&B and folk. Who have you heard of? And who would you like to catch in concert?
Joshua Burnside – experimental folk
Joshua Burnside may have already made some significant strides in this musical career, having released his debut album in 2017. But 2020 hasn’t quietened him. He was shortlisted as one of eight, from a longlist of 90 acts, for Glastonbury Festival’s Emerging Talent Competition – an impressive feat for any artist. He has also just released his second album, ‘Into The Depths of Hell’, and even gigged it to a grand total of 25 people!
Burnside’s music mixes a variety of folk styles and rhythms, with beautiful synthetic beats and loops. Sounds like it shouldn’t work, but it really, really does. It is music to get lost in, for contemplation, and pure escapism. Expertly crafted and unique.
New Pagans – post punk/indie
For the rockers and moshers out there who are crying out for a heavy gig – we feel you. May we offer you knowledge of post punk band New Pagans, as compensation. They’ve released two singles and one ep so far this year, and are on the line up for Belfast’s OK? Festival later this year.
Upon first listen, it is clear their music is fun, catchy and very danceable. But perhaps during a second listen, you hear the deeper messages and issues raised in their music. For example, their latest single, Yellow Room, highlights the lack of support for women with prenatal mental health needs in Northern Ireland.
Dark Tropics – pop noir
Brand new to Belfast’s music scene this year, Dark Tropics have hit the ground running. The duo released their spellbinding single Badlands at the start of this year. Since then, they have plugged and pushed it like crazy, getting it played on RTE 2 and BBC Radio 1, and mentioned on just about every music platform out there.
Now the single has a combined total of more than 150,000 listens across all streaming platforms. Very impressive for a band that hasn’t been able to gig basically for the duration of their existence! If you love a haunting, captivating voice and beautifully played piano melodies, this is the Belfast band for you.
Rebekah Fitch – alt pop
Looking for something a little more upbeat and catchy, but with an equally full and powerful voice? Rebekah Fitch fits your bill. She writes and produces proper classic pop tracks, with meaning and depth. She also has a keen eye for the visual arts, creating beautiful single/e.p. covers, music videos, and visuals for her socials.
She’s just released her gorgeous latest single Dust. Given she’s been doing livestream gigs consistently throughout lockdown, be sure to keep an eye out for more to hear her new track.
Dena Anu$ka – R&B
Equally exploring significant, current issues and events, but under the guise of smooth delicious R&B beats, is Dena Anu$ka. Her latest single, Revolution, is a perfect example of this, exploring self-love as a British/Egyptian woman, well as the need for revolution to bring peace. Highly reflective of the Black Lives Matter movement that rose to international attention earlier this year.
Anu$ka brings both a smooth, gentle singing voice and a bold, rhythmic rap style to her music, that allows her to dip between R&B and more Hip-Hop-y styles. Her debut EP ‘Honey and Cream’, released at the start of this year, is a perfect demonstration of this. Weaving between genres seamlessly to create one varied but succinct piece of work.
Ferals – post rock
Known as the ‘loudest’ Belfast band, Ferals are, unfortunately for the moment, a band you can only fully experience at a gig. Granted, you absolutely could blast their music through your speakers and have a little rave and head bang in your living room. But it wouldn’t quite be the same.
Making strides in the local and national scene, they’ve been picked up and supported by both the UK’s PRS Foundation and Belfast’s Oh Yeah Centre. A key inspiration for their music is the Irish coast and beaches, and all the noise and natural chaos (Irish weather) that comes with them.