Kneecap, a word that has more than one meaning in Irish culture is now synonymous with not only a brutal act of violence but also, a native-language hip-hop band.
Not only is Kneecap turning heads in the world of hip-hop, but now also in the film industry. The self-titled film, Kneecap has won the audience award at the prestigious Sundance Film Festival for their biopic about the origin of their band.
Kneecap are an Irish language trio consisting of Móglaí Bap, Mo Chara and DJ Próvaí. They’re from Belfast, Northern Ireland and rap in a blend of Irish and English.
“Set in West Belfast in 2019, it chronicles how fate brings the trio together and how they then go on to change the sound of Irish music forever,”plot!
The band have admitted that they like “to get people riled up”, Well, they have certainly riled up a storm of interest, with news agencies all over picking up on the story. They are not afraid of controversy and often make touchy remarks about politics and society on the island of Ireland. For those of you who don’t know, the term “riled up” – means to get people worked up or to push people’s buttons.
Kneecap’s first single, Cearta (meaning “Rights” in English) was released in 2017 and immediately sparked a backlash from certain political parties and even saw censorship from one of the main Irish broadcasters, RTE. That said, they have been quick to now report on the success of the band’s film at Sundance.
They are not the first band from the island of Ireland to feature masks in their music videos. The Rubberbandits (another fantastic Irish band) famously adorn the masks in their music videos and live performances. Kneecap has referred to the Rubberbandits in interviews as a source of inspiration, admiring the fact that they could rap about normal things and make them sound cool without having to “import” other cultural reference points.
Kneecap have described their rapping style as inward rather than outward looking, talking about their own society rather than looking to other countries for material. The band has described the undercurrent of all their music to be the growing Irish language community among young people in Belfast. Their controversies seem to be feeding into the publicity machine as they are selling out in venues across the US Canada and Ireland.
Northern Ireland, with a population of only 1.86 million has been doing quite well in recent years with the famous Game of Thrones series and the hilarious Derry Girls. It is especially great however to see this native language getting such recognition. It follows on from An Cailín Ciúin, meaning a “quiet girl” in the Irish language, Gaelige, which was nominated for the 95th Academy Awards in the ‘International Feature Film’ category of the Oscars and interestingly there seems to be a trend of interest in native language music in the hip hop and rap categories with Sami rapper, Ailu Valle also gaining attention and supporting the survival of his native language Ailu Valle is a rap artist residing in Enare/Anár and raps in Northern Sámi, Finnish and English.
The success of Kneecap is remarkable. It is also the first non-US film to ever be selected for the NEXT section of the festival. It has been produced by Jack Tarling and Trevor Birney for Fine Point Films and Mother Tongues Films, with Patrick O’Neill at Wildcard Distribution acting as Co-Producer and directed by Rich Peppiatt. Sony Pictures Classics has recently acquired the film and is now set for release in North America and other major, global markets. It is expected to be screened in the UK and Ireland later this year.
- Michael Fassbender as Arlo Ó Cairealláin
- Liam Óg “Mo Chara” Ó Hannaidh as himself
- Naoise “Móglaí Bap” Ó Cairealláin as himself
- Adam Best as Doyle
- JJ Ó “DJ Próvaí” Dochartaigh as himself
- Josie Walker as Detective Ellis
- Fionnula Flaherty as Caitlin
- Jessica Reynolds as Georgia
- Simone Kirby as Dolores Ó Cairealláin
Bow down to our new Irish hip-hop overlords. This is the year of KNEECAP
Stay tuned for more information. As always, thanks for reading