Cian Ó Cíobháin marks 20 years of his Taobh Tuathail show on RnaG, writes
Flick around your FM radio dial between 10pm and midnight Monday to Friday and no doubt RTÉ’s Raidió na Gaeltachta stands out.
Not because of the Irish being spoken but due to the song that Cian Ó Cíobháin is showcasing at any given moment in his two-hour slot. His show mutates across the week, switching from ambient, folk, slow-fi and indie on Mondays and Tuesdays, to dance and techno that can only be described as banging come Thursday and Friday.
And this Wednesday, Ó Cíobháin celebrates 20 years on the air with An Taobh Tuathail (The Other Side). The Kerry-born, Galway-based DJ and broadcaster will mark this milestone with special programmes on Wednesday and Thursday before a live event in Róisín Dubh, Galway, on Friday.
Is Ó Cíobháin surprised he’s made it to 20 years? “I’m thrilled, excited, and absolutely flabbergasted because obviously when I started off I was only looking at it in the moment, it was an idea I had when I approached the RnaG bosses. I had an idea to do an alternative music show on the station where, under the rules at the time, I wasn’t allowed play any English lyrics.”
An Taobh Tuathail, which began on the same day as RTE’s classical music station Lyric FM, specialised in post-rock, funk, soul, disco, house, techno, and electronica — basically anything without English lyrics —before the rules relaxed a few years later.
Ó Cíobháin says that even back then, he had an eye on longevity, always pointing to the DJs with staying power as his influences. “I wasn’t into being flavour of the month or being around for a couple of weeks. This is what I had to do.”
He recalls the lightbulb moment in Irish radio in the mid-90s ahead of ATT’s beginnings. “Dave Fanning used to just play the singles off the albums, the big track. If he played a Joy Division track it was ‘Love Will Tear Us Apart’ or ‘Transmission’, or ‘Atmosphere’ maybe,” he says, pointing out that Fanning was Ireland’s answer to John Peel. But Donal Dineen, post-No Disco, in 1997 began a radio show on Today FM called Here Comes the Night.
Dineen started playing b-sides and the oddities and the digging-deep stuff. Some of it we were familiar with but just hadn’t been played on the radio.
“That was a bit of a game changer where you just went ‘yeah, you can just play anything’. It seems really simple, but I hadn’t heard it done on Irish radio before that.”
No doubt loyal listeners to An Taobh Tuathail feel the same, 20 years later.
Cian Ó Cíobháin's selections from the ATT vault
To Rococo Rot - Die Dinge Des Lebens (1999)
This track by the German trio of To Rococo Rot came out the same year that the show began broadcasting. It may very well be the single most played track on the show. I only found out in later years that it generously samples a track called ‘Clouds’ by Gigi Maisin.
Ricardo Villalobos - Dexter (2003)
Another track heavily rinsed on the radio show. I almost passed out when I heard it for the first time. It was a good thing I didn’t as I was driving over the Cork and Kerry mountains at the time. The track pivots around a melancholic riff that was apparently inspired by the artist’s deep love of the ECM jazz label.
Chequerboard - Konichiwa (2005)
John Lambert is one of this country’s undisputed talents. He creates the beautiful music that tugs on the heart-strings. I could endorse any of his tracks but this stunning highlight from his Dictaphone Showreels EP floors me every time.
Mount Kimbie - Maybes (2009)
Mount Kimbie’s debut EP landed in my inbox during the Christmas of 2008 and the cavernous, bass-heavy production immediately made an impact on me. I recall being very excited to share it with my listeners when I returned to my studio in Conamara soon after Christmas.
Mica Levi - Love (2014)
From her extraordinary Under The Skin soundtrack that accompanies Jonathan Glazer’s film, this gauzy-dreamy, otherworldly composition evokes Loveless-era MBV, Angelo Badalamenti and elements of Bernard Herrmann’s film music.
The Jimmy Cake - Tough Love Part 1 (2017)
This 20-minute track that takes up the entirety of side 1 of the Jimmy Cake’s epic 2017 album on the mighty Penske label is one to revel in. Stick it on, don’t skip, just let it unfurl. Lose yourself in that brooding, John Williams-does-sci-fi synth intro, the wonky psychedelia, the trance-inducing tribal drumming that unexpectedly merge out of nowhere and that balls-out warehouse techno crescendo. And wait till you hear what they have recorded especially for the An Taobh Tuathail anniversary shows… tune in!