At the end of 2019 Dervish received a prestigious lifetime achievement award from the BBC, a fitting tribute to the band after over 30 years of recording and performing all over the world. Described by the BBC as “an icon of Irish music”, the band have played at festivals from Rio to Glastonbury. They accompanied the Irish President on state visits to Latvia and Lithuania and the Prime Minister of Ireland on a trade mission to China as Cultural Ambassadors, taking time out to play an impromptu session on the Great Wall of China. Dervish have a line-up which includes some of Ireland’s finest traditional musicians and is fronted by one of the country’s best-known singers, Cathy Jordan.
They are regular visitors to the US, performing sold-out shows from coast to coast. Their fan base stretches across several continents including Europe, Asia, and South America. They were the first Irish band to play the world’s biggest music festival, Rock in Rio, performing to an estimated 250,000 people. Over the years they’ve been on the same bill as artists such as James Brown, Neil Young, Sting, and Iron Maiden. The band was excited about signing for the renowned US roots label Rounder Records and released their first album on the label in 2018, featuring guest appearances by artists including Vince Gill, Steve Earl, David Gray, and many others.
All six members of Dervish are steeped in the musical traditions of the counties Sligo and Leitrim in north-west Ireland - an area which matches the Atlantic coastline with storied mountains and rural landscapes. The region has inspired a host of musicians, artists, and writers, including the Nobel Prize-winning poet W.B. Yeats. In 2004 Dervish received their hometown’s highest honor when they were given the Freedom of Sligo City in a civic reception - an accolade they share with Yeats himself, Michael Flatley, and Countess Markievicz.
Dervish was formed in 1989 when four of the founding members met while playing informal sessions in the pubs of Sligo - Shane Mitchell (accordion), Liam Kelly (flute/whistle), Brian McDonagh (mandola/mandolin), and Michael Holmes (bouzouki). They were soon joined by Roscommon-born singer and bodhran (drum) player Cathy Jordan, and later by All-Ireland Fiddle Champion Tom Morrow in 1998. It’s a remarkable and at times electric combination “capable of playing with note-perfect accuracy and perfect control at nearly supersonic levels” (Irish Voice, New York). Dervish marries technical brilliance with a rare sensibility, born of an understanding of the music and many years of playing together.