The Rapparees, a 5 piece folk and traditional band based in Belfast, are about as exciting an act as you’re likely to encounter on the circuit at the moment. A unique chemistry formed between the friends at school and they soon began playing music around local pubs and clubs. The distinctive sound of The Rapparees was cemented at university in Belfast in 2006, where they acquired a huge and diverse student following playing 4 and 5 nights a week, in order to fund studio time.

The line-up features Joe McKeague, one of Ireland’s finest ballad singers, perfectly complimented by the rousing voice of his cousin Gerard McNeill. Kevin Mawdsley’s charismatic onstage presence on fiddle is mirrors talented guitar and banjo player Conor McCaffrey. Conor adds to Gerard’s songwriting to give the band a contemporary feel. In 2012 the lads added 4 time All-Ireland bodhrán champion and drummer Eamon Rooney to the mix to complete the band’s festival feel.

Their debut album Clarity, released in 2008, was very well received in Ireland and abroad and the lads have been busy promoting their music ever since.
Their exciting mix of contemporary self-penned songs and traditional songs and tunes has led to rave reviews along the way, being described as, ‘a welcome surprise’ by Hot Press; and Folking.com saying ‘Clarity is possessed of a great deal of spirit, and this spirit is enforced and elevated by some terrific playing’.

Having been described by Irish Music Magazine as ‘one to watch’ for the future, the lads went about established an international profile with headlining performances in France, Norway and Scotland. In January 2010 The Rapparees were signed by Germany’s premier Celtic music agency, Magnetic Music, joining the ranks of the likes of Solas, Beoga, Carlos Nunez and Dervish. In Ireland, support slots with Shane MacGowan and Cara Dillon as well as performances at Ballyshannon Folk festival, Celtic Fusion and Gig n the Bann, have ensured The Rapparees a fast blooming following at home.

2010/2011 saw the release of the eagerly awaited follow-up to Clarity. “Wrapped up” was produced by renowned multi-instrumentalist Liam Bradley of Beoga, and saw The Rapparees showcase their striking new take on a classic genre to audiences on a global scale. Expanded tours in Germany, France, Switzerland and the Czech Republic followed alongside sell out shows at home in Ireland. This culminated in the band playing the official MTV EMA Awards after party in Belfast in Nov 2011. Irish Music Magazine described Wrapped Up as “a lively reminder of what folk music always must be”.


In the summer of 2013 the lads headed back to the studio with a plan to create an album based on songs and tunes written either by Ulster musicians or about Ulster itself. ‘Re:Session’ explodes with energy and pride for the most Northerly of Ireland’s 4 provinces. The BBC’s Lynette Fay describes the lads as “one of the most exciting and engaging bands to burst onto the Irish music scene in recent years”; and they’re expected to remain at the pinnacle of Irish folk music for decades to come.