'MC Muppet is a rapper from Connemara whose lyrics are very sexual in content. The Irish language is a very poetic language'
TALK TIME: Rónán Mac Aodha Bhuí, RnaG presenter and founder of An Cabaret Craiceáilte
Tell us about your show ‘Rónán Beo’?
It’s a mad mixture of everything, I suppose, idir súgradh agus deireadh. We would have characters like Donnchadh Chassie, our resident seanchaí, or Micí ‘Whiteing’ Mac Aodh from Inishbofin, the Irish language expert. Our oldest contributor, Mary Aggie, is in her nineties. She has a bit of wisdom for us every Friday.
You’ve been nominated for Radio Personality of the Year at the Celtic Media Awards this year. Who are you up against?
Other broadcasters from Ireland, Scotland, Wales, Cornwall and Brittany. It’s a huge honour.
In some ways Raidió na Gaeltachta is a local station, but you have a growing international audience?
That’s right. We’d have listeners from all over the world. There are e-mails coming in from Australia, Germany, Iceland, Uganda, the Basque country – you name it.
What’s Cabaret Craiceáilte?
Craiceáilte was founded in 1993, with the intention of creating a vibrant Irish language social scene where young people could hear modern music in their own language. In Wales you had bands like Super Furry Animals and Gorky’s Zygotic Mynci. But there was nothing like that here. It takes place monthly in a great traditional pub called Tigh Hiúdaí in Gweedore. But it travels to the Belfast Fleadh and the Electric Picnic each year, and we’re bringing it to the Odeon in Dublin on Tuesday.
There’s an eclectic line up. You’ve got everything from sean nós to ska.
There’s Bréag, a reggae group from Belfast; the Henrietta Game, who would be akin to sigur rós or Arcade Fire; and Enda Reilly from Tallaght, a singer-songwriter in the John Martyn mould. It’s a nice mixture.
Does the Irish language have sufficient vocabulary to convey the complexities of modern life?
Absolutely it does. Bréag’s songs are psychedelic and political. MC Muppet is a rapper from Connemara whose lyrics are very sexual in content. You see, the Irish language is a very poetic language. Listen to any song in Irish and you’ll hear the beauty, even if you don’t understand the words. And where you have one word to describe something in English, you might very well have four in Irish.
The Welsh and Basque languages have managed to remain in everyday use, despite, perhaps, receiving less state subsidy than Irish. How do you explain that?
Well, you’re talking about situations like the Basque country where Franco had done so much damage to them. Keeping the language alive gave the people a sense of defiance.
So those languages were kept going out of spite?
Look at the Irish language in the six counties. They felt the British state was against them so they fought back and set up Irish language schools and even established Gaeltacht areas. I’m very proud of the work they’ve done there.
What does the Irish language mean to you and what are the rest of us missing out on?
It goes back to the old saying: Tír gan teanga, tír gan anam. What is a country without its soul? The language means everything to me. It’s an expression of who I am and it enriches my life in every way. When Irish speakers get together, it is just a wonderful, magical experience. I wish everybody could head out to Tory Island for a weekend and hear these people singing these sean-nós songs and see them doing these mad dances. They’d be really happy. They’d have a brilliant life.
Well, we can all dip our toes in that magic, at least, by saying ‘go raibh maith agat’ on the bus and so forth during Seachtain na Gaeilge
You can dip your toe if you want, but I don’t see the point in that. This idea of speaking a cúpla focail a day, I think, is a load of nonsense. If you want to learn the language, people will help you. People will support you. Des Bishop was able to pick it up in less than a year. Nobody is so busy they can’t spare a few hours a day on a life-enhancing experience.