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*Martin Hayes & Dennis Cahill. Photograph: Caoimhín Ó Raghallaigh

KILLANENA’s Martin Hayes has penned a beautiful tribute to his musical partner and dear friend, Dennis Cahill.

Regarded as one of the most innovative and finest guitarists in traditional music, Dennis Cahill died on Monday of last week in Chicago.

It was in Chicago where Hayes and Cahill first formed what would become one of the most iconic partnerships in Irish traditional music. The Clare man from the Maghera mountain moved to the States after some business ventures did not take off while Cahill, the son of Kerry parents, would prove to be an influential and calming figure in the career of the world renowned fiddler.

Cahill had been ill for two years before his death, with his wife Mary by his side at the time of his passing. Moments previously, The Lament from Limerick from his album with Martin had been on in the background.

Both Martin and Dennis knew each for over thirty five years, verbally they may not have expressed their true regard for one another but they were aware of their shared loyalty and love, “that feeling of trust was always there in such a way that we never had to talk about it. We really were great friends, we loved each other and we really had a hell of an adventure”.

On stage they shared a “truly telepathic” connection. Martin recalled, “We started on a musical journey many years ago in the bar rooms of Chicago, we didn’t think we’d ever make it out of those bars to the concert stage, but today the President of Ireland and the government minister for the arts were both writing about the huge impact you had on the world of traditional music. You made it out of the bar scene and on to some of the finest stages of the world. You really did succeed, you pulled it all together into a most beautiful crystallization of your musical loves and influences. Nobody before you had ever played those chords and rhythms with Irish music, in the way you did”.

While sitting in Manchester Airport on Tuesday last, Martin admitted he was unable to listen to their recordings as he would have been unable to keep his composure. “It was kind of fitting that I found myself in an airport for many hours yesterday, maybe we spent more time together in airports than anywhere else. We’d often meet at the gate of some connecting flight, you having come from Chicago and me from wherever I was living at the time. I’d be searching for that backward slanting baseball cap in the crowd, or sometimes just your shaved head. Yesterday in the distance I spotted somebody from the back with a shaved head and a black tea shirt, and for an instant I had that familiar momentary jolt of thinking I’d just found you. I suspect that I will be having that experience for some time to come. You might have looked like someone else with a shaved head and black T-shirt, but in reality I never knew anyone remotely like you. You were one of a kind, a very special blend of talent, humility, grace and good humour”.

“We came from different musical worlds, but together, we made our own world of music and I think we made a difference. I am forever indebted to you and grateful to you for all those magic years of music, friendship and fun. Safe journey onwards, you got the early boarding again, but I’ll see you at the other end. I love you”.

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