Music is anywhere you turn. A child banging on some pots and pans in the kitchen all the way up to the professionals in recording studios with millions of pounds with equipment. It can be in a place where you least expect to be swept off your feet. Walking along the cold streets near Dublin’s world famous ‘Temple Bar’ a crowd had gathered. Then the sound of fast tempo music filled the air. Muscling my way to the front of the crowd, six men surrounded by instruments banging on them profusely created a sound that was not only serenading but also warmed the inner depths of the body and soul. This was the first experience I had of ‘MuteFish’.
Busking has been a form of performing for many years with the earliest known buskers seen in the 11th century. To busk literally mean to seek which is what this group of six artists intend on doing.
A six-man band comprised of artists from Eastern Europe, the band plays sounds that are a mix of reggae, Irish folk and punk. Tomas Pupalaigis or Tommy as he is known said, “we just play the music, we don’t really think of how its gonna come up at the end.”
Starting off as a three-piece band, Tommy explains that he wasn’t part of the original three but recruited later on to play bass and an instrument called nerves. Marka Lovkil from Lithuania on Cajon (type of drum), Bogus Stelmach from Poland on guitar and Vaclov from the Czech republic on mandolin were the founding three. Tommy knew Marka from Lithuania, “I knew Marka from before, as I played with him in few bands back in Lithuania and guys offered me to join on bass.”
Vaclov, unfortunately left the group putting Mutefish on hold. This didn’t stop the musical talent from flowing as the three members started another band known as ‘The Braconniers’ focusing on a surf/punk genre, which is still in existence today. “When we are free from MuteFish time,” as Tommy put it. Peter from Ukraine who plays the drums and Daithi, the Irishman on the flute then added in the missing elements of the band, up until Peter had to return to his native country, but soon returned. Then Phil, the second Irishman joined the group and completed the package.
The mix of traditional Irish folk music predominately played with the flute is beautifully crafted into the fast tempo bass and reggae style to create their own unique spin on an already fast genre. The energy that flows is electrifying and it can be seen as well as heard. I half expected a group of intoxicated leprechauns to burst out of the instrument cases and perform the river dance. To my disappointment, it was only an old age pensioner who had a little too much Jack Daniels spinning and dancing.
Performing on a cold street to get cash is not an easy way to make money but MuteFish do not really put much emphasis on the difficulty, “We don’t think about that. Probably the fact that you’re your own boss and every decision you make have direct consequences on your well-being. But it’s also the most pleasant part.”
For buskers, the ultimate goal is to ‘make it’ and play for a large crowd, but MuteFish have already done that. Having played in Ireland, Germany, Austria, Canary Islands, France, Belgium, Lithuania, Italy and India, “The most rad festival was probably Antaragni festival in Kanpur, India. There were 15000 people and we were one of the main bands which is not too bad for a busking band.” So where do they go from there?