With the last of the April showers hopefully behind us, it’s time to look ahead and see what new sites the fair city of Dublin has to offer. Ireland is no stranger to music festivals, such as Electric Picnic, the West Cork Festival or Bealtaine. We here at Babylon want to draw your attention to an upcoming Dublin music festival appropriately enough called MusicTown. Running from May 6th-15th, MusicTown is a collection of events spread out across the city featuring acts such as The Megaphone Project, Dublin is Sound and The Jazzabelles.
The project has been in operation for the last five years, although unfortunately due to the Covid pandemic the last two festivals have had to be an online-only affair. The good news is that the crew behind MusicTown are excited to make a grand return and have this be their best year yet. In line with the festival’s mission statement to celebrate “diversity, community, history, youth, and the collaboration that exists not just amongst musicians themselves but also with practitioners of other artistic disciplines”, the theme of MusicTown 2022 will be “Together Again”. The last two years have been tough for everyone, so this is the perfect opportunity to gather with friends and celebrate our connective bonds with live music, a few drinks and some good company.
After all, we can’t underestimate how much music can uplift the soul. The MusicTown creative director, Leagues O’Toole, has said “I believe music is one of the things that got us through the pandemic. And although we couldn’t be there in the room with musicians and songwriters anymore, we listened and watched through screens and headphones. They accompanied us on our lockdown walks, in isolation, when we couldn’t sleep at night. Similar to other professions, many musicians experienced substantial hardship in this pandemic. Let’s take this time to celebrate music and musicians together in rooms again”.
One of the most exciting parts of the festival’s line-up is The Jazzabelles, an all-female jazz group whose members hail from around the world – Ireland, France, Germany, Kuwait, Latvia and Poland! They’re absolutely stoked for their upcoming performance.
“Historically, the Jazz world has always had a high proportion of male participants, and we are hoping our profile will make a difference and encourage more female artists to take part in Jam sessions, festivals and live events…We aim for our live shows to create a special connection between performers and the audience to deliver a memorable and intimate live music experience for all! We have had the most wonderful feedback so far from organisers and the public as can be seen in our testimonials included hereafter”.
Enid Conaghan, the lead singer of The Jazzabelles, was gracious enough to sit down with us ahead of their band’s upcoming performance and talk us through it a little.
“The formation of the band was a really organic thing. I got involved in Jazz a few years ago, after getting back from Cuba where I had been salsa dancing and jamming with bands. I got involved with jazz in Dublin, I took up lessons and studying. It was a real slow burner. but I felt that there was a low female presence at the jams. A few singers, but not that many. So I started to organise these big female jam sessions just before the pandemic, some in Athlone, some in Dublin, one just gone there after the lifting of the level five restrictions last February. We encouraged women to come and play privately and in a comfortable space.”
“About this time last year, in February  I decided ‘I gotta be active about this’. I got in touch with some people, I had a few in mind, now that we had the time to organise something. The hard thing was finding somewhere to practise, but luckily Marley Park let us practice outdoors in their walled garden. So we’ve been meeting every Saturday for the [ast year and we’ve formed a tight little group. Well, I say little but there are about eight or nine of us now. The garden changed seasons and eventually, we were allowed to practise inside, which was lovely”.
From those humble beginnings, the band eventually got its first gig in Marley Park itself, and has since gone on to perform in Áras Chrónáin (South Dublin culture centre), the Tallaght football stadium, the Vintage festival in Croke Park and more
“Our one year anniversary will be coming up now on the 21st. We started playing outside the café…and people would stop and listen to us… It was nice, especially because children don’t get a chance to hear live music often. So, it was great for them.
[About supporting women in Jazz] It’s a part of it. We’re not really going ‘oh, the boys leave us out’ or anything like that, it’s not that. But a lot of women suffer from imposter syndrome. So we’re just trying to pick ourselves up, to say ‘yes we can do it, just because you don’t see women play jazz doesn’t mean that we don’t’. The other thing we’re really keen to promote is accessible jazz. Relatable jazz. Sometimes it can reach quite an intellectual level which is hard to follow, so we pick pieces that people may have heard before so they can follow along, while still being stimulated”.
“[MusicTown] is a big enough deal. We were lucky enough to be selected and supported by the festival. They’ve put a lot of work into it and it seems like a really good set-up. It’s going to be really nice. It’s going to be a great coming together, fairly packed. ”
You can catch the band tomorrow on Lyric FM with Marty Whelan from 7-9 am.