Liam O Maonlai
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Liam O Maonlai

Dublin, Leinster, Ireland

Dublin, Leinster, Ireland
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"The kerryMan"

Liam O’ Maonlai plays St. John’s Arts Centre in Listowel
By Ann Roche

During my student days in Dublin in the eighties the most exciting new live band were Hothouse Flowers, with gifted and charismatic front man Liam O’Maonlaí. He glowed with musical and physical charm and a youthful exuberance that was beyond cool and, if you were a female, impossible not to adore.

Our attention was effortlessly held by O’Maonlaí in the crowded Buttery Bar at TCD or at an open air gig on the UCD campus as he danced, sang, sat smiling at the piano or gleefully hammed it up with his old friend and lead Flowers guitarist Fiachna O’Braonáin. Occasional heated duets of ‘Fever’ were performed with singer Maria Doyle (now Doyle-Kennedy), causing frissons of excitement tinged with envy.

O’Maonlaí’s love of Irish language and culture was not so much in evidence back then. It was jazz/blues covers and light-hearted countrified ditties all the way.

While Hothouse Flowers have weathered the years and survived Eurovision-related success relatively unscathed to remain a popular act both here and abroad, O’Maonlaí now also tours as a solo performer and released his debut album ‘Rian’ in October 2005.

St John’s Theatre in Listowel was packed on a recent cold Friday evening for an O’Maonlaí gig. It was a revelation to see and hear O’Maonlaí give full reign to his artistic abilities with a mixture of sean-nós, gospel, romantic ballads and lively trad Irish.

A master at the bodhrán and tin whistle, nifty at the guitar and his piano playing would make you cry. He has a beautiful, soulful and richly melodic voice. He also read a poem in Irish, which he speaks fluently, composed by him in solidarity with the Shell to Sea movement. Is he human, you wonder?

Well, yes, he is. He was still suffering from the effects of a cold and apologised for “punctuating” the night with his frequent sniffing.

No doubt that was why the gig was somewhat shorter than we expected it to be. But we forgave him, of course. “That’s ok, you craythur!” shouted one of my friends. It may be more than twenty years on….. but he’s still got it. And got it to spare!

St. John’s Theatre & Arts Centre is located in the heart of Listowel. For more information please log on to or call 068 22566
- Kerryman Ltd

"Liam Ó Maonlaí -Whelans Dublin"

Liam Ó Maonlaí timely excavation of this musical roots resulted in a fine CD last year, Rian. His Sean- nós repatoire flourishes on the back of a lengthy gestation period, its diphthongs loveling caressed by that trademark Ó Maonlaí wail, a thing of primal beauty that he still manages to corral with surgical precision.
This was one of his most memorable gigs in a long time. Stretching and bending his vocals to accommodate the lamentation of Úrchnoc Chéin Mhic Cáinte and the glorious lunacy of Bean Pháidín, he fingered the core of each song, unpicking its earthy sensuality and jettisoning the prudishness with which too much of our sean-nós tradition has been saddled.
Ó Maonlaí’s comfort with airing his own occasionally overwrought songs (Saved and Good for You) alongside such delicacies as the whistle-bound Port na bPúcaí was simply a reminder of the unstoppability of his musicianship, every note and gesture lured from the depths of his belly.
He made mention of the responsibility that music bestows on a musician, and of the gift that music is to him. Somehow Ó Maonlaí managed to give his audience a peek into a world where personal happiness is governed by rhythm and melody, not by the indelible bottom line. Fiachna Ó Braonáin joined him for a final whirlwind flight through a welcome visitation upon Hallelujah Jordan, followed by the funkiest reading of Callieadh An Airgead. Ó Braonáin lent his take on Amhrán Na Trá Báine to the mix, and all was well with the world.
- The Irish Times


To Be Touched 2008 - Rian Records
Rian 2005, Rian Records - Liam Ó Maonlaí
Into Your Heart 2004 Ruby Works - Hot House Flowers
People 1989 - Hot House Flowers
Home 1990 - Hot House Flowers
Songs From the Rain 1993 - Hot House Flowers
Born 1998 - Hot House Flowers
Liam features on countless other recordings with ALT, Donal Lunny, Carlos Nunes, Sharon Shannon, Justin Adams, Many More



Liam Ó Maonlaí - Biography
Born in 1964, Dublin Ireland
Liam is one of Ireland’s best-loved musicians and singers, both in rock and traditional music. Spanning over twenty years Liam’s career has seen him have number one hits in over twenty countries, to playing with Aboriginal musicians in Australia outback and recording with some of the worlds best musicians including Carlos Nunes, Donal Luney, U2, Rolf Harris, Van Morrison to name but a few. A master pianist, Liam also performs on guitar, harp, tin whistle and bodhrán. So far 2009 has seen Liam has perform solo at Celtic Connections festival in Glasgow, Dublin’s National Concert Hall as part of a major Irish tour, feature on the renowned BBC music programme Transatlantic Sessions, he will tour Japan in May with Glen Hansard and Marketa Irglova from the film Once and Czech Republic in June. He has plans for US and Australia tours in 2010.

Bono once described Liam as ‘The Best white boy soul singer in the world’ and he has been also been described as one of Irelands best Sean Nos (traditional Irish) singers.
In 1981 he won the all Ireland final as bódhran player under 18. He has been a finalist on the tin whistle, piano and as a singer many years over.
In Ennis in 1985 he and Fiachna Ó Braonain ,with the enchanting presence of Maria Doyle Kennedy won a music award called Gradam Shlogadh. They had put together a rhythm and blues group with all songs written in Irish. This was the seed beginning of Hothouse Flowers, which went on to be one of Ireland’s most successful rock bands and released seven albums.
All through the Hothouse Flowers years, Liam remained faithful to his traditional roots.
'Traditional music does not belong to me. I belong to it. The same as the land.'

Liam recorded his first solo album entitled ‘Rian’ meaning trace or mark in Irish, with his close friend, renowned producer John Reynolds in 2002. It was released in Ireland in November 2005 and has since been released in America, Canada, Japan, UK and Europe. He is releasing the album through Rian Records his own independent label. ‘To Be Touched’ Liam’s second solo album was released December 2008. Taking a different direction from Rian, To Be Touched is a intimate celebration of Liam as pianist and song writer. Recorded in Prague and the Tyrone Guthrie Centre Annaghmakerrig, Monaghan the album is a soulful collection of songs that touch on the many influences that are contained in Liam’s musical genius with songs in English and Irish and a traditional aboriginal song. ‘To Be Touched’ is release in Ireland through Rian Records.

Liam went to Mali in January 2006 where he played at the Desert festival with Uillean Piper Paddy Keenan and participated in the making of a documentary. Himself and Paddy played with musicians from the greater region from well known artists including Toumani Diabate and Alef Bacoum, to local tribes people. It was an amazing experience of communication between distant people and races through the medium of music, and he learnt of the close relationship the Irish harp and the African Kora. They returned in January 2007 to continue filming this journey of Irish music to the deserts of Africa. The film called ‘Dámbe – The Mali Project’ had its Irish premier at the 2008 Dublin Film Festival.

'I believe the style known as séan nos, carries a sense of the soul of the land and the people who are awake in that land. I feel, when in the company of other cultures, the singing of this style opens a window into what it is that connects us. Every country has it's own séan nos.'

'words particularly English words are not enough. They have been used to lie on a grand scale. They continue to be used to manipulate and confuse. Music has a purpose that remains to be seen. The potential is beyond imagination. '

Sadbh Ní Buruinneadladh
Mali Documentary Promo:
Liam Gig