Radio review: The magic music of the language, whether it’s double Dutch or not


An Taobh Tuathail RnaG, weekdays, 10 p.m. Cuan an Cheoil RnaG, Thursday, 7 p.m. Moncrieff Newstalk, weekdays, 2 p.m.

ne of the main attractions of radio, dating back to when it was “wireless,” is the ability it offers to connect with voices in faraway places – or at least places that sound far away.

The word “Hilversum” on the old radios held the same mysterious promise to an Irish listener that the word “Athlone” must have held for someone in Holland – that idea that there was someone there speaking in a another language, and that was strangely reassuring in itself. That you didn’t need to understand the language to appreciate its basic goodness.

Which brings us naturally to Raidió na Gaeltachta.

It is a fact that for most Irish people it is quite difficult to understand what they are saying about this station. Personally, I was a keen student of the language in school, and I can understand a lot of it, but it’s still hard to understand it all.

The trick – to paraphrase Lawrence of Arabia – is not to think it’s difficult.

Sure, you can try to stick with the nice talk of the presenters, but there’s also no law that says you have to follow the whole thing. You can actually afford to listen to the sound of what is, to you, a mysterious language – even if you recognize more than you would recognize anything that came out of Hilversum.

You can make a virtue of it, freeing yourself from the constant need to get to the bottom of the issues and just going with the music of the tongue. Or just go with the music itself – there’s a lot of music on RnaG, and here I have a slight problem in that I’m not a big fan of traditional Irish music, which of course would be a substantial part of RnaG production.

I’m not against it, as such; I would be a fan of De Dannan etc., but on the whole, trad would not be my forte.

Regardless, they also have other genres of music. A Taobh Tuathailthe surprisingly cool late night show presented by Cian Ó Cíobháin, is a wonderful thing, which I brought to your attention some time ago.

Video of the day

Cuan an Cheoil is a recent arrival in which Liam Ó Maonlaí talks about music and life with other musicians. And again, you don’t need to know what they’re actually saying to get some enjoyment out of the sound of their voice.

Indeed, what I’m suggesting here has the potential to become a new development in the fields of stress management and general well-being – all the better as you were once expected to know this Irish language, or deal with sanctions, when now you can hear them talking and rejoicing that it doesn’t matter whether you know it or not.

There will be no homework. There will be no “oral”. Finally, you are free.

You’ll also feel better at the end of a talk by Graham Finlay, a Canadian at UCD’s School of International Relations, on Moncrieff – on this occasion with Tom Dunne. Funnily enough, I had reason to mention Finlay here last week for an article he did with Claire Byrne on RTÉ1 about Ottawa truckers.

This week, on his regular Tuesday outing “Tell Me Why,” he and Tom Dunne discussed the Super Bowl halftime gig, which had been denounced by far-right agitator Charlie Kirk for its “anarchy sexual” – although some felt this could translate to “too many successful black people showing how brilliant they are”.

Finlay took Dunne on a virtuoso tour through all the possibilities opened up by the subject, retracing a history of dancing controversies that included the crucial period in Ireland nearly a century ago, when there was a campaign against jazz . With actual marches against him and his perceived corruption of the Gael.

It’s rare to hear such a cluster bomb of intelligence, in such a kind style. And it left you in no doubt that a Charlie Kirk’s malevolent paranoia is indeed very old. Yes, despite all the virtues of Raidió na Gaeltachta, with Finlay it was just as relaxing to listen to the radio in a language you could understand.

You could feel it doing you good.


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