ON FRIDAY, Raidió na Gaeltachta’s influential contemporary music show, An Taobh Tuathail, celebrate its 16th birthday. Under the stewardship of Cian Ó Cíobháin, the show has been a champion of innovative electronic music as well as other leftfield sounds.
“When I try to explain An Taobh Tuathail to an English person I always say it’s a bit like all of BBC 6’s output rolled into a week,” says the broadcaster.
However, the DJ, more used to dropping tracks from such non-mainstream-troubling labels as Planet Mu, Fat Cat and Ostgut Ton, has a surprising confession to make.
“I’ve been doing weddings recently,” he confides.
“Actually it’s turned into a passion of mine. I did a few in the last couple of years, people asked, and I ended up having so much fun playing to 30 and 40-something-year-olds who wanted to listen to everything from Donna Summer to the Happy Mondays, to Pavement and the Pixies. I just thought, ‘This is actually more fun than playing to the younger ones in the clubs checking their phones’.”
Thanks @AnTaobhTuathail for great music this evening. DJ extraordinaire.— matc66 (@matc66) April 26, 2015
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This new sideline took off in earnest when he began receiving requests from listeners.
He recalls: “I did one in County Down a few years ago where the tune of the night, believe it or not, was Cattle and Cane by The Go Betweens. That’s the kind of crowd they were, they’d asked me to do it, so I threw it on. They formed this huge human pyramid on the middle of the dancefloor,” he chortles at the memory.
A native speaker from the Kerry Gaeltacht, Ó Cíobháin found work at Raidió na Gaeltachta as a continuity announcer after finishing college in Galway.
A passionate music fan, he hankered for the opportunity to do an alternative music show.
My favourite kind of music is when it sounds like there's something wrong with the speakers.— An Taobh Tuathail (@AnTaobhTuathail) April 23, 2015
At the time the Irish language station shared its frequency with FM3 but when that developed into Lyric FM it freed up night-time hours.
Back then the station had a ban — since lifted — on playing songs with English lyrics, but once Ó Cíobháin assured them he had a wealth of instrumental music at his disposal the management were receptive to his proposal.
He found he could play anything he wanted just as long as they were free of Bearla. And, despite it being conducted through the medium of Irish, he does so to a worldwide audience.
Bhíos ag taibhreamh faoi Berghain arís aréir.— An Taobh Tuathail (@AnTaobhTuathail) April 10, 2015
“It’s just amazing to have the liberty to play what you like — and not to be straitjacketed by playlists. I know it would break my heart if I had to do radio like that,” he reflects.
For a long period he occupied this rarefied space on the broadcasting landscape with fellow Kerryman Donal Dineen, but since Dineen’s Small Hours show was axed in 2011 by Today FM, Ó Cíobháin has become a lone advocate for underground sounds. It’s not a position he wholly enjoys.
“I just think it’s absolutely criminal that he’s not on the radio. He should be at least on once a week if not on every night,” he says of Dineen.
Still, it’s an ill wind that blows nobody good. When Small Hours drew to a close Ó Cíobháin found a gradual migration of Today FM late-night listeners to his show.
“When it was announced it was finishing up a lot of people were at a loss on blogs and then I saw other people sharing the fact there is such a show on Raidió na Gaeltachta that might appeal to some of the listeners. So a lot of people did come over that time who were completely unaware that such a show existed.”
By now, however, the secret is very much out.
An Taobh Tuathail will have an Italo-disco special on Friday on Raidió na Gaeltachta at 10pm.
On Saturday, Cian Ó Cíobháin will be publicly interviewed by Philip King at the Courthouse in Dingle at 7.45pm as part of Féile na Bealtaine
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CIAN'S 12 KEY TUNES
Nightmares On Wax — Les Nuits (1999)
Kings Of Convenience V Royksopp — I Don’t Know What I Can Save You From (2001)
Metro Area — Miura (2001)
Villalobos — Dexter (2003)
Chequerboard — Konichiwa (2005)
Junior Boys — In The Morning (Alex Smoke Remix) (2006)
Peter & The Wolf — The Highway (2006)
Mount Kimbie — Maybes (2009)
B-Movie Lightning — Triple Trouble (2010)
Burial — Come Down To Us (2013)
Mica Levi — Love (2014)
Sufjan Stevens — Fourth Of July (2015)