Paddy Keenan was born in Trim Co. Meath to a family steeped in traditional music. Both his father and grandfather were uilleann pipers and Paddy took up the pipes at the age of ten, playing his first major concert in Dublin when he was 14. He later played with the rest of his family in a group called The Pavees. At 17 he fell in love with the blues and left Ireland for England and Europe where he immersed himself in blues and rock. He returned to Ireland a few years later and formed a loosely knit band Seachtar, the Irish word for “seven.”
After a change in personnel and a more professional focus, a new band emerged that became one of the most influential bands of the 1970s. The Bothy Band was titled in reference to the migrant Irish laborers who worked in England and Scotland and were housed in stone huts known as “bothies.” The band forever changed the face of Irish traditional music, merging a driving rhythm section with traditional Irish tunes in ways that had never been heard before. Keenan’s virtuosity on the pipes combined with the ferocity of his playing made him, in the opinion of many, the band’s driving force. Bothy Band-mate Donal Lunny once described Paddy as “the Jimi Hendrix of the pipes.” More recently, due to his genius for improvisation and counter-melody, he has been compared to jazz great John Coltrane.
Paddy’s father strongly influenced his flowing, open-fingered style which has continued to mature in the intervening years since the break-up of The Bothy Band as he pursued a solo career. The New World Festival welcomes his return!