Built from the land: Daithi’s journey from reality TV musician to unique dance star

Daithí – Photography by Ruth Medjber www.ruthlessimagery.com

AT 27 YEARS of age, Clare musician Daithi O’Dronai has already been through more phases of his career than many manage in a lifetime. Developing from a young fiddle player to a reality TV show star, then onwards to a Sony-signed, offbeat-pop performer and finally a unique and soulful dance act, he’s a hard man to pin down.

Recently relocated to Dublin, the man who simply uses the stage name Daithi’s latest incarnation is nevertheless a profound tribute to the rural roots that connect him tightly with the Burren, and Irish landscape.

“When I was writing the pop stuff I was doing my best to write these perfectly little three-minute pop songs,” Daithi explains of his Sony album, and subsequent departure from the label. “I lost my angles. I enjoyed it at the time, but I kind of lost my identity,” he recalls.

The departure from a major outlet like Sony was, no doubt, a tough call, but one Daithi made on the basis that he didn’t feel able to create things with purely commercial aims like radioplay in mind. His next single – a sentimental track called ‘Mary Keane’s Introduction,’ based around a dance remix of an interview with his 90-year-old grandmother – ironically turned out to be his most acclaimed.

“It was a sign,” he said. “The new record leans more heavily into that idea. I was at a point where I wasn’t even sure I was going to keep making music after Sony to be honest. The thing I fell into was the idea that I was working towards a success of some kind. I’ve started releasing what makes me excited after that track. That seems really simple, but it was a revelation to me.”

Yoko Ono… “listen and you’ll hear the heartbeat of New York”

Yoko Ono..."listen and you’ll hear the heartbeat of New York"

At nearly 80 years old, Yoko Ono continues to be inspiringly lively. There could hardly be a starker way of flaunting that vibrancy than through OnoMix, her pulsing, club-ready remix album. Yoko spent her pre-teenage post-war life begging street-side at a Japanese mountain holiday resort, whilst her father found himself locked in a Vietnamese prison camp. When Yoko was a young adult, her family moved to New York, the city she still calls home.

Those tough times helped forge her, channelled into a bohemian lifestyle her family despised. Yoko evolved into an iconic feminist, an avant-garde artist, a committed political activist and an imaginative musician. She met John Lennon, the love of her life, through art, yet there’s no doubt the Beatle also saw huge power in her quirky take on music. He once joked “she forced me to become avant-garde and take my clothes off, when all I wanted was to become Tom Jones”.

Given the gritty nature of parts of her upbringing, perhaps Yoko’s peace-loving approach and work protecting the underdog aren’t all that surprising. Continuing to use music as a tool to spread those messages also seems a logical progression. Nevertheless, for an 80 year old, the launch of something as current and cutting as OnoMix is no less than remarkable.

It’s typical of Yoko that in choosing to write a form of retrospective, she does so in a less than conventional way. OnoMix is a 30-track, beat-heavy remix album featuring the likes of Basement Jaxx, Danny Tenaglia and Bimbo Jones. They work with Yoko on recreating some of her finest output, including ‘Give Peace A Chance’, ‘Walking On Thin Ice’ and ‘Talking To The Universe’. Yoko’s been working on the dance remix series since 2001, and sees it as a reinvention of her previous art-rock-leaning style.

What’s highlighted is the adaptability of her writing. “It’s nice to know that the artistic sensibility of the song is quite resilient”, Yoko says of the album. “It’s like the song is made of rubber, and it could stretch in many ways and still create excitement.” Some of the older tracks, highs like ‘Give Peace A Chance’, date back to the late ’60s anti-war movement and the very first days of the Plastic Ono Band, yet Yoko has found the process of returning to them more exhilarating than anything. The technical side was particularly pressing: “I had no knowledge of what you do for dance mix in the dance chart. It’s very different from what we used to do in rock to make a dance track.”