Chieftains Legacy Felt Across Asia Following Loss Of Paddy Maloney

AP Photo / Reed Saxon
– Chieftains
Paddy Maloney of the Chieftains plays a flute while posing with the Grammy that the Chieftains with Van Morrison won for Best Pop Collaboration with Vocals at the 38th annual Grammy Awards at the Shrine Auditorium in Los Angeles, Wednesday, Feb. 28, 1996.

The death at 83 in mid-October of Paddy Moloney, the leader of the Chieftains, the most celebrated purveyors of Irish traditional music, was carried by various media in Japan, where the group has been a solid concert draw since the mid-1980s thanks to the small concert promoter Plankton, which was essentially formed in order to bring the Chieftains to Japan. 

By the mid-90s their Japan tours in mid-size and large auditoriums were instant sellouts, featuring guest turns by notable Japanese pop and trad musicians, including pop-jazz singer-pianist Akiko Yano, who has collaborated with them many times. They paved the way for an Irish music boom, mostly prodded on by Plankton, that continues to this day, having produced a host of Japanese musicians who now make a tidy living playing traditional Irish music. 
However, Moloney’s influence in Asia goes further, into China, where the Chieftains were one of the first Western music groups to tour nationally, mainly due to the urging of Moloney himself, who was always fascinated by China and Chinese music. Initially, Moloney invited a Chinese ensemble to perform in Ireland with the Chieftains in 1982, and in return demanded that his group be invited to tour China, according to RTE, Ireland’s national public service media. In his biography, Moloney recounted how it was the oddest tour he’d ever done since the group’s every move was monitored closely by Chinese officials assigned to the tour. In addition, almost all the concerts they played were attended by government officials only, who rarely reacted to the music. 
However, thanks to a spontaneous performance on the Great Wall (the first for a Western music group), several shows in front of the general public and a collaboration with Chinese musicians that went better than expected, the tour ended up being a resounding success for both sides. The Chieftains even released a live album recorded on the tour. According to RTE, it also helped build a foundation for diplomatic relations between China and Ireland. Previously, there wasn’t even a Chinese Embassy in Dublin.