One of the more underrated qualities of life in Paris is FM radio. How many cities come close to the wealth and richness of stations available here? The French may have invented cinema and dream about being on TV, but they are at home on the radio.
News, chat, classical music, jazz, pop, rock, world and ethnic beats, even religious offerings: whether you are cruising in the car or kicking back over drinks on a Friday evening, or just unable to get to sleep, Paris radio will have the tonic for you.
One thing that makes Paris FM unique, of course, is FIP, and its Fipettes-those velvety, sophisticated female voices that softly "moo" and "coo" the traffic news to soothe irate Parisian drivers.
Dublin's radio is underdeveloped by comparison. Okay, the national station, RTE compares well with French counterparts, and the discussions on NewsTalk 106 are sharp and engaging. But generally, pop hogs the FM dial. There is certainly not much rock or jazz, and nothing much in ethnic beats either. Lyric FM, a popular classical station, deserves a clap for being there, though it has a slightly haughty and prude air, with none of the verve or flair of Paris's Radio Classique.
Fortunately, thanks to the Internet, you can listen to radio stations from anywhere nowadays. These provide welcome ambience via the desktop at work, and through their archives, you can catch a programme from last week or last year. There are several purpose-built Internet radio stations, but they often sound so badly run. I prefer the real professional thing online. If in Dublin, why not slip online to radiofrance.fr and listen to those irresistible Fipettes?
Recently at work, I have been clicking into Danish Radio Jazz, with its smooth, seamless play list. Occasionally there is chat, but in mumbling Danish, so no distraction there.
It was on Internet a few years ago that I happened across what has become one of my favourite radio shows, a programme dedicated to the warmest contemporary chilled out lounge-style sounds on the planet. Lo and behold, it is broadcast not from some Off Boulevard dance cave in Paris or New York, but from Raidio na Gaeltachta, an Irish language station located in the stony mists of Connemara, a paradise somewhere on the other side of the world. How fitting, for the show is called An Tuaibh Tuathail (pronounced On Tou-ive Toohill), meaning "the other side".
And why not? After all, the Internet is footloose and it would be a pity if all it did was reinforce the "pre-e" world. Remarkably, An Taobh Tuathail has been around for nearly seven years now and is starting to reach cult status across Ireland. Founder and presenter Cian ó Cíobháin recalls the early days when he managed to get around a ban on non-Irish lyrics by seeking out exciting new musical sounds and bringing them to Irish audiences.
Globalisation met the Gaeltacht; local farmers normally used to listening to scratching fiddles and plaintive banshees, now peeled their spuds to "house, electro, hip-hop, drum'n'bass, techno, post-rock or nu-jazz from across the globe".
Cían's efforts paid off in May 2005 when RTE, in a bid to win new audiences, decided to create a new slot just for contemporary music, which it called Anocht FM (meaning Tonight or Ce Soir).
This "radical departure from mainstream Raidió na Gaeltachta programming" also meant dropping the language ban on lyrics. The other side, indeed.
It was music to Kerryman Cian's ears. He still presents the show in Irish of course, serving up a rich ambient menu from Tuesday through Saturday, while Galwegian Cathal ó Cuaig adds his own special recipe from Saturday to Monday, perhaps with a pinch more dance and world.
While their Irish has gone global via the Internet, so the duo's decks draw a worldwide audience: Cathal shows me emails, one from a listener in France, another from San Francisco, others from Asia.
French sounds feature strongly on the play list, from Marc Moulin to Dimitri, and jazz blower Eric Truffaz.
Irish sounds also get aired, such as God is an Astronaut and Dara, but as Cathal points out, "the emphasis is global electro, Afrobeats and nu-jazz". Compilations include A Slice of Paradise and the Tango Club Night. The station also has a very good archive, and listeners can request a playlist by email.
This is the one item needing improvement, though: the playlist should be streamed or posted with the shows, and times, artists and record names more clearly distinguished.
But these are just details. Working at my laptop in the heart of Paris, flipping between chilled Connemara and fond Fipettes, life could hardly be kinder to these Irish ears.
Here are some radio references (most are available online, just Google them!)
For An Tuabh Tuathail, click in at www.rte.ie/rnag/antaobhtuathail.html
The Paris dial: FIP (France Inter Paris), 105.1, available also at www.radiofrance.fr; TSF Jazz, 89.9, www.tsfjazz.com; ; Radio Classique.fr, 101.1; Beur FM, 102.9; Afrique No.1, 107.5.
Dublin: (see www.rte.ie for tuning variations, also available online): RTE Lyric 98.7; Raidio na Gaeltachta 93.5;
From Denmark, try www.dr.dk/radio , click DR jazz, or other form.
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