Loyalist identity: post modern engagement with music

Professor Stephen Howe looks at music within Loyalism and notes firstly its absence from mainstream music channels, contrasting it strongly with music espousing Republican sentiments and values, which have on occasions found expression in some popular music. Indeed he notes it has only been the subject of one serious intellectual study, the findings from which were decidedly hostile.

Previously: simultaneous progress and retreat

Bill Rolston notes this hybridity, recognising that “loyalist songs come in a range of styles: from folk, through country and western, to pop, and what is termed in the United States ‘adult-oriented rock’.” He might have added that today, trance, rave and other dance-oriented (not to mention recreational-drug-oriented) remixes – albeit often painfully amateurish ones – can also be encountered. In so doing, he raises the possibility which I am exploring here, only summarily to dismiss it:

“It could be argued that such hybridity is a healthy sign, revealing loyalism’s postmodernist credentials or its multiculturalist ideals. However, there would be great difficulty in sustaining such an argument. Instead, the range of styles in loyalist tunes is in fact symptomatic of a more general problem within loyalism: that of defining identity. As a result, there is often great incongruity in loyalist songs.”

The antithesis is surely false: while few would wish to argue that militant Loyalism is “consciously” inspired by postmodernist, let alone multiculturalist, theory, the instability of identity-claims and the internal formal “incongruity” to which Rolston points are often in other contexts thought characteristically, classically postmodernist.