Cian Ó Cíobháin’s An Taobh Tuathail marks 25 years on air

RTÉ Raidió na Gaeltachta’s flagship alternative radio, presented by Cian Ó Cíobháin, turns 25 in May 2024.

An Taobh Tuathail (ATT), described by Gruff Rhys of Super Furry Animals in The Irish Times as “one of the most radical radio shows in the world”, has been broadcasting every Monday to Friday on the national Irish-language station since 1st May 1999.

As part of ATT’s 25 year celebrations, from Monday 29th April to Friday 3rd May, the show will feature all exclusive new music, previously unreleased and unheard outside of the musicians’ studios, from artists that we admire from home and abroad, including Peter Gordon, Works Of Intent, Dian Cécht, Blamhaus, Elliot Adamson, The Shen, Meljoann, Man Power, Junk Drawer and Ambient Babestation Meltdown + Borai.

In addition to the on-air celebrations, Cian will be hosting a special edition of his club night Disco Dána in Galway’s Cuba venue on Saturday 4th May with an all-night-long DJ set.

An Taobh Tuathail – the title translates as ‘the other side’ – is presented in the Irish language by DJ, broadcaster and west Kerry native Cian Ó Cíobháin. “I grew up with radio”, says Cian. “Before we had a TV in the house, we just had the radio for entertainment, which was playing in the kitchen from dawn to dusk.

“My father Seán Ó Cíobháin was one of the first local radio journalists in the country, working with RTÉ RnaG. As a boy, I used to love spending time in the radio studio while he went about his work – interviewing the likes of Dolores O’ Riordan of The Cranberries and former Taoiseach Charles Haughey.”

“Later, in university in Galway in 1993, I attended the very first meeting of Radio Soc, whose mission was to set up a college radio station on campus. The station – Flirt FM – was established on the back of the hard work and perservance of Radio Soc and continues to run to this day. I had been amassing music for a decade and had built up quite a decent collection and wanted nothing more than to share my finds with others and it was on Flirt FM that I got the opportunity to present my first music shows on radio”.

After university, Cian briefly worked as an intern at RTÉ RnaG’s studios in Casla in Connemara, mostly as a continuity announcer and giving weather updates. The station used to wind up broadcasting at 8pm in the evenings back then, but in early 1999, when it was announced that the station’s hours would be extended for a few more hours each night, Cian pounced at the chance of making a case to his employers to host a night-time music show. He wrote a 20 page proposal outlining his ideas. The management liked what he had to say, and the rest is history.

“It was a huge deal at the time to hear modern electronic music on RTÉ RnaG”, says Cian, “the station exclusively played almost all Irish traditional music and folk songs. It was quite the culture shock to go from sean-nós and polkas to the driving, hedonistic techno of Slam’s ‘Positive Education’”.

While curating An Taobh Tuathail, Cian has also been DJ-ing for over three decades, holding down residences in clubs around the country. He initially burst on the scene through his 110th Street residency in Galway, where he hosted parties with Andrew Weatherall, Erol Alkan, Soulwax, Optimo and many more. To this days he continues to throw parties and DJ most weekends – since Covid restrictions lifted, he’s been hosting Disco Dána (Naughty Disco) parties in intimate venues around the island, as well as regularly spinning at festivals.

Over the decades, ATT has become established as the late night weeknight listen for curious ears across Ireland and beyond. Much of this comes down to allowing the show’s DJ to play the music he feels much passionate about, without the restrictions of any station playlist dictating the DJ’s choices, as is the case on most commercial radio. Many musicians and producers have had their first ever airplay on the show.

UK music site The Quietus wrote: “It’s an obvious and lazy comparison to call presenter Cian Ó Cíobháin the Irish John Peel, but his laid-back manner, combined with the eclectic and astonishing mix of sounds played on the programme, make him more worthy of the mantle than any other DJ I’m aware of in Britain or elsewhere today.” The Irish Independent has described ATT as “one of the finest music shows ever produced, on any station”, while Dance Your Way Home author Emma Warren has compared the programme to Andrew Weatherall’s NTS shows. In a recent column in The Observer, Miranda Sawyer also praised the show: “ATT is an aural feast… An absolute treasure trove”.

25 years in, Ó Cíobháin puts the show’s longevity down to listeners trusting him to help them navigate the inexorable flow of new music in the oversaturated, digital world. “Our attention spans are being constantly bombarded by the incessant lure of new sounds clamouring for your attention. There is just so much music out there and it can be overwhelming for people leading busy lives to keep up with it at all and sometimes people need more than an algorithm as a guide to find music to connect with. Much of my work is attempting to separate the wheat from the chaff and presenting what I feel are worthwhile discoveries to my listeners. It helps that I love the thrill of the chase and that my curiosity for new music remains undimmed “, he says. “A listener contacted me to say that she believed it might possibly be public service broadcasting for music lovers at its most purest. If that’s my legacy, I’ll happily take that.”

An online archive of shows covering more than ten years, which includes all playlists and audio streams, can be accessed here.

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