Mairéad Ní Mhaonaigh was born and raised in the heartland of the Gaoth Dobhair Gaeltacht in Donegal. She is a native speaker and learnt her songs and tunes from her family and neighbours. Mairéad is internationally known as one of the most important fiddle players that play in the unique Donegal style.
This takes her to the world stage with her band Altan, who play the music of Donegal with pride, throughout the world. Mairéad learnt her songs and tunes from her father Francie Ó Maonaigh, one of the most important fiddle teachers in that part of the country. Mairéad is also a founder member of 'Cairdeas na bhFidleirí', that began over twenty-five years ago to promote, develop and keep alive the richness of the county.
Mairéad harvested inspiration at first from her family and neighbours. Many musicians and singers visited her home was she was growing up, which influenced the young girl.
Mairéad was qualified as a primary school teacher in 1979 and began teaching in Malahide, in County Dublin. In 1987, Mairéad and her husband, Frankie Kennedy decided to become full-time musicians and they founded Altan. The band went from strength to strength over the years, playing the music of Tír Chonaill around the world, from New York to Tokyo and back again. The band stayed true to the music and songs that they learned from their family back at home in Donegal in their neighbours kitchens and at sessions.
Aside from playing with Altan, Mairéad is also renowned for her work on other projects. She can be seen presenting music programmes on both radio and television, like 'The Long Note', and 'The Pure Drop', and lately, 'The Full Set'. Mairéad is on recordings along with Enya, The Chieftains, Dolly Parton, The String Sisters and many others. She hopes to take time out to compose new music in the future.