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Seanchai & The Unity Squad

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Seanchai I [Shamrock] New York

Finally, the new Seanchai & The Unity Squad CD is out. After a few delays and production problems, the finished product is WELL worth waiting for. For those of you who are unfamiliar with Seanchai (let’s face it, that would be almost everyone!), they are the only “Irish Hip-Hop” band that I’ve ever encountered. They are Chris Byrne (AKA Seanchai, which means storyteller in Gaelic), Rachel Fitzgerald, David Monaghan (AKA Monty) and Flo McDonald (AKA D.J. Flo).

Byrne, a former NYC police officer and rapper/piper for Black 47, was inspired to release the single “C’mon Ya Boyz n’ Green” under the name Seanchaí when Ireland’s team advanced to the World Cup in 1994. Involved with several hip-hop related side-projects, he eventually left Black 47 and formed Seanchai & The Unity Squad.

Four CD’s, a few club tours and a permanent Friday night residency at Byrne’s Rocky Sullivans pub in New York City and they are going strong.

I was first exposed to this unique blend of rap, reggae and traditional Irish music by my father-in-law. It took several listens, but eventually, Seanchai’s There Will Be Another Day became one of my favorite CD’s. Roughly a year ago, there were rumours about a new CD. I started checking the website almost daily in anticipation. Sample tracks, rough mixes and the new version of “C’mon Ya Boyz n’ Green (Japan Remix)” all became available and were burned onto mix discs. However, I still couldn’t wait for the full album.

The CD is a mix of old-school DJ rapping, Irish ballads and tributes to New York. It is heavily inspired by the events of 9/11/2001 on tracks like “Gates Of Hell,” a slower more brooding tribute to the Police and Firefighters of NYC and my personal favorite, “Holy Ground,” a beautiful, flowing ballad dedicated to the victims of 9/11/2001 where Rachel really shows her vocal range. Byrne has revisited and updated, “Montauk,” and “Wake Up Irishman,” songs he originally recorded with a previous project, Paddy-A-Go-Go. They sound fantastic. The originals were recorded live and I liked them, but these sound absolutely great. Songs like “Can’t Get My Head Around It,” and “U.N.I.T.Y. Squad” really show how the blending of these two musical styles can work, using Irish instruments like the uilleann pipes, bodhran and bagpipes, looping music tracks and backing it all with the flawless scratching and beats of DJ Flo.

I can’t seem to stop listening to this CD. It is a great example of innovation in music as well as a fitting tribute to the city Byrne obviously loves. I highly recomend this one to anyone who is looking for a little something different than is being offered up in the hip-hop world.

This CD, as well as the other three Seanchai & The Unity Squad CD’s are available at the group’s website. MP3’s of “Gates Of Hell” and “EI 104″ are also available.

1. Can’t Get My Head Around It

2. Gates Of Hell
3. Montauk
4. Holy Ground
5. EI 104
6. Wake Up Irish Man
7. C’mon Ya Boyz In Green
8. Saoirse
9. U.N.I.T.Y. Squad
10. Thank Ya Higha
11. Conas A Ta Tu

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About Jim Schwab

  • Annie Nice

    I just walked in the door from spending the weekend at Dublin Ohio irish festival. I was on a seek and find mission for bands for the up coming ground breaking Gaelic Halloween Festival {October 28th Regency Park cary NC} When I came across Seanchai & The Unity Squad.. I knew I had found more than i had gone looking for.. The CD as class as it is. Does not do the live show justice. These guys are an Irish party on stage. they radiate passion and joy for the music they perform. I would sell up hit the road and became a complete stalker. Well I pretty much did stalk them all weekend. And YET dispite that. They have agreed to come play in Raleigh on the 27th and the 28th of october… check my web site for updates on where you can catch them in NC. AND buy all thier CD’s. Thank you for the music. A class act that is for sure.
    Annie Nice

  • kaotic1

    there are loads of irish hip hop bands and artists, most of ’em far better then Seanchai – who is more punk then hip hop anyway. check Beltaine’s Fire for some real celtic hip hop fsion, or go back to the Marxmen of the mid 90’s, or even Respectable Criminal comin outa dublin. all of ’em do the fusion a hell of a lot better then seanchai. not to say dude is all bad, I actually like some of his music, but it’s not hip hop and he needs to do himself a favor and stop marketing it as such.

  • lynx

    lynx from beltaine’s fire here, just stumbled on this review while googling for “beltaine’s fire + seanchai” since we’re playing a show with them and i’ve been working on press releases and promotional materials for it.

    for the record i like seanchai – wouldn’t be playing with them otherwise. they’ve definitely got a different take on ‘celtic hip hop’ then we do, but that’s just fine. they’ve been at it for a lot longer then us, released 6 excellent albums, and I’ve got nothing but respect for them and their work. not sure what “kaotic1″ is on about, the last thing the progressive celtic music scene needs is more divisions. we’re all stronger if we work together.


  • Da Guv’ner

    This is Da Guv’ner and I came across this on google too.

    Firstly, Thanks for the support,

    Secondly, I’m not from Dublin, I’m from Bray Wicklow.

    I love Dublin and the people from Dublin including most of my Family but Respectable Criminal is Bray thing and even though I may be working with Dublin musicians again in the near future, it’s going to stay a Bray thing.

    As far as Sheanchai is concerned I cant speak on them because I don’t have a live line up yet and I haven’t seen them play in over ten years.

    There are different ideas of what Celtic Hip-Hop is but actually being from Ireland I have to give this the best I can or just not bother doing it at all.