A letter from Argentina

By Florencia Bonin

A mysterious word for Argentinians
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The Irish landscapes weren’t the only thing that the Argentinian group discovered during their trip to Ireland. A mysterious word appeared several times,in the program and from the organisers: ‘Comhaltas’.

In Gaelic it means ‘association, brotherhood, group’. But what kind of group? That was what Tommy and the rest asked themselves; ‘for the majority of the group, the Comhaltas was a great surprise. Even it was in the program that we’d received, we didn’t know too much about it. JJ told us this day (on our trip to Loughrea) that what was going to happen that night was very important…’

And nothing more important, specially for the musicians, than discover the existence of an organisation – whose complete name is Comhaltas Ceoltóirí Éireann, which means, association of Irish musicians dedicated exclusively to preservation and promotion of Irish Traditional Music and culture. It involves diverse persons, bands and agrupations all around the world, who organize ‘branches’ of the Central headquarters in Dublin. So, ‘it was in a conversation between JJ with Comhaltas people when the idea of inviting us to be part of this organisation, building the first ‘branch’ in Argentina and in South America. appeared. Only in the next days we began to realize the opportunity that this meant,’ on behave that Comhaltas not only organise traditional music festivals, but also works as an archive, helps to make contacts between musicians and has a lot of records and books edited.

Nowadays, back in Buenos Aires, Tommy Nelson, who was elected as the first ‘Chairman’ of Buenos Aires Comhaltas branch, and the rest of the group, had been dedicated to announce the news to the Irish- Argentine Community, not only through ‘The Southern Cross’, but also through letters to the different associations and meetings with people related with the Irish music and dances that couldn’t be part of the trip. As well, members of the group had begun to interchange ideas, plans and projects to join efforts in the conservation and spreading of the Irish music and culture in the country.

‘Once we have completed the information process and some meetings to interchange ideas and search for common points of view, we’ll call for an ‘inaugural assembly’ where all the people interested in being part of this movement will be able to participate (and also those who only want to enjoy music and dances) There it will be defined a plan for the year, and afterwards it will be adjusted ongoing.’

The opportunity to belong to an organisation like Comhaltas open a wide field of possibilities to all the musicians and dancers, as other people interested, not only linked with Ireland but also with the rest of the world, according to the existence of Comhaltas branches in places as different as Japan, Australia and Luxemburg. Every road has his first step, and the Comhaltas branch in Buenos Aires is just beginning their path to establish like a member of an international community; as Tommy summarises; ‘I think that the most important thing is that everyone interested in Irish culture’s preservation and promotion, move closer to us and participate with their experience and ideas. The rest will be built together, between them and us.’