Several musicians playing Cornish music on stage including fiddles, clarinet, mandolin and bouzouki, guitar, melodeons, recorder, side drum, autoharp and bass viol.
Cornish Trad music session on stage at the Andy Law & Friends charity gig, The Acorn, Penzance, 4 Sep 2019. Photo courtesy of Lee J. Palmer

Cornish music absorbs it all, celebrating not isolation but connection with other countries and cultures.

Cornish traditional music is not widely known outside of Cornwall. We hear about “Irish Trad”, “Scottish Trad”, less about Welsh or Manx, and almost never about Cornish Trad. The increasingly glitzy Celtic music awards on the BBC omit it entirely.

We recognise that ‘music knows no bounds’ and that ‘traditional music of’ does not equate as ‘native to’. The latter can be hard and sometimes fruitless to prove. The music of Cornwall, like its people, has been influenced by its geography – jutting out into the sea – and its role throughout the past as a place to start, stop, or break a journey by ship or boat. A glance at the shipping section of a Cornish newspaper from the 19th century is enlightening; the list of regular destinations as well as the home ports of visiting ships is a very long and varied one. There’s also the long land border with England. Cornish music absorbs it all, celebrating not isolation but connection with other countries and cultures.

Traditional music in Cornwall is thriving, with plenty of new tunes alongside a sizeable historical repertoire. There are opportunities to perform and take part in pub sessions, dance groups, and listen to bands that just play Cornish tunes. At festivals and events across Cornwall, the Isles of Scilly and Brittany Cornish music can be heard alongside music from other Celtic nations.

We would like more people to know about, listen to, play and enjoy Cornish traditional music. We want to explore its history, and meet today’s tunesmiths and musicians. A never ending journey that we invite you to experience with us.

Cornish traditional music is intrinsically bound with Cornish intangible heritage, part of the unique culture shared by all who live in Cornwall and have an affinity to Cornish culture. Cornish music, Cornish dancing, Cornish language, Cornish traditions and customs, Cornish heritage. It’s part of the mix that makes us feel unique while also identifying with the modern Celtic world.

Cornish Trad is written by two musicians – Tom and Tehmina Goskar – seven years into their journey into Cornish music. Please subscribe if you want to be the first to hear when we post new content.