Sounding Dissent

Rebel Songs, Resistance, and Irish Republicanism
Stephen R. Millar
In Belfast’s rebel music scene, Irish republican musicians and audiences engage in ritualized resistance against the British state


The signing of the Good Friday Agreement on April 10, 1998, marked the beginning of a new era of peace and stability in Northern Ireland. As the public has overwhelmingly rejected a return to the violence of the Troubles, loyalist and republican groups have sought other outlets to continue their struggle. Music has long been used to celebrate cultural identity in the North of Ireland: from street parades to football chants, and from folk festivals to YouTube videos, music facilitates the continuation of pre-Agreement identity narratives in a “post-conflict” era. Sounding Dissent draws on original in-depth interviews with Irish republican musicians, contemporary audiences, and former paramilitaries, as well as diverse historical and archival material, including songbooks, prison records, and newspaper articles, to understand the history of political violence in Ireland. The book examines the hagiographic potential of rebel songs to memorialize a pantheon of republican martyrs, and demonstrates how musical performance and political song not only articulate experiences and memories of oppression and violence, but play a central role in the reproduction of conflict and exclusion in times of peace.
Stephen R. Millar is a Leverhulme Early Career Fellow in Ethnomusicology at Cardiff University.

Praise / Awards

  • "Millar makes a significant contribution to the broader understanding of the place of song in situations of revolution and political/republican struggle. A signal addition to the history and historiography of Ireland." ­
    —Professor Martin Stokes, author of The Republic of Love: Cultural Intimacy in Turkish Popular Music
  • “A fascinating, wide-ranging, and many-layered account of a major subject.”
    —Professor Richard English, author of Armed Struggle: The History of the IRA
  • "Excellent and original work… the depth of primary research and the evidence of immersion in a closed world give this book an attractive energy and focus.” 
    Popular Music and Society
  • “Millar’s particular contribution stems from his attempt to remap, rethink, and develop resistance studies. In so doing, the author brings a wealth of detail and insight into the roles played by music and conflict in recent Irish history, in a manner that is suitable for a broader audience, whilst also informing the sub-field of ‘ethnomusicology in times of trouble’…. every university library needs a copy.” 
    Ethnomusicology Forum
  • "Millar’s rich and evocative study will enlighten readers interested in Irish history, memory politics and ethnomusicology. It illustrates that the Irish republican movement has by no means run out of cultural resources to exploit.”
  • “Sets the standard for oral historians of Northern Irish political culture.”
    Irish Historical Studies
  • "A welcome ameliorative to the dearth of attention that rebel songs have received over the years . . . Millar gives excellent insights into the development and influences on the contemporary canon of rebel songs . . . the deep dive into rebel subculture in Belfast in this study is one of its many strengths" —Irish Political Studies
  • Awarded a High Commendation in the British Association for Irish Studies Book Prize 2021

News, Reviews, Interviews

Review by Cercles | 12/15/2020
Review by Ethnomusicology Forum | 10/26/2020

Product Details

  • 6 x 9.
  • 264pp.
  • 13 illustrations.
Available for sale worldwide

  • Hardcover
  • 2020
  • Available
  • 978-0-472-13194-5

Add to Cart
  • $80.00 U.S.

  • Paper
  • 2022
  • Forthcoming
  • 978-0-472-03887-9

  • $34.95 U.S.

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