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Making musical magic – CHIC’s Nile Rodgers



Date Published: 06-Jun-2012

Get ready for an evening of hits when CHIC play the Galway Arts Festival Big Top on Thursday, July 19th. Band leader Nile Rodgers has been behind hits like Le Freak and Good Times, as well as David Bowie’s Let’s Dance, Diana Ross’s I’m Coming Out, Madonna’s Like A Virgin, and We Are Family by Sister Sledge. Punters at the Galway show would be advised to bring their dancing shoes.

“Our show encompasses the breath of my work; at least I try as much as possible,” says Nile Rodgers. “So we play a Bowie song, a Madonna song, a Duran Duran song, an INXS song, Sister Sledge, Diana Ross, obviously a lot of CHIC songs.”

In his autobiography, Le Freak, which was published last year, Nile recalls his tempestuous childhood with a mother and stepfather who were drug-users. The television was often a baby-sitter, and Nile became fascinated with music-oriented programmes like The Lucille Ball Show.

“If I didn’t have music in my life, I wouldn’t be talking to you right now,” he says. “It’s been my saviour since I was a child; I was bullied, I was an introvert. Music was always playing in my head, as it is right now. I can’t even talk to you without hearing songs in the background in my head; I can’t turn it off and I don’t even try anymore.”

In 1970, at the age of 18, Nile met bassist Bernard Edwards. Seven years later they formed the band CHIC, whose songs would become iconic in the nascent disco movement. Yet Nile and Bernard had been working musicians for the guts of a decade, and neither had the swagger or desire to be a front man.

“Well, we weren’t stars,” says Nile. “We had worked for stars, we were backup musicians. So that’s what we knew how to do. I’m certainly not putting anybody down, because I work with stars all the time – but stars are stars because they think they’re stars. They know it, they feel it.

“We knew we didn’t have that thing, but we knew that our music could be the star,” Nile continues. “I mean, talk about arriving on the scene at a completely opportunistic, propitious moment. With the disco movement, you didn’t have to be star and it couldn’t have been more perfect for guys like us. Our music could compete on the dance floor.”


And compete they did. When you hear Le Freak’s opening lyrics, ‘aw freak out, le freak, c’est chic’, you know it’s time to start moving. CHIC also penned gems like Good Times and Everybody Dance. Nile and Bernard found themselves in demand, working on Diana Ross’s hit album, Diana. Nile also went on to collaborate with Bowie, Mick Jagger and Duran Duran.

In 1996, Bernard and Nile went to Japan to perform at a concert celebrating their work. Three sold-out nights in Tokyo saw them joined by collaborators like Slash, Simon Le Bon and Sister Sledge.

Tragically, it was to be Bernard Edwards’s last concert – after the final show, he died from pneumonia in his hotel room. Nile recalls the events of that night.

“It was a packed house; we were playing at the Budokan,” he says. “And before we walked out on stage, he looked from behind the curtain and he says – these are his exact words – ‘wow, we did it. The music is bigger than we are’.

“Now, maybe he knew something I didn’t know. Obviously, I didn’t think he was going to die that night. But he got very philosophical, and I’m a jokester and I’m like ‘man, why are coming up with this? All of a sudden you became Sophocles and we’re going on stage’. And he said ‘no, look at this man. They didn’t come to see us; they came to hear our music’.”

The music Bernard and Nile made obviously looms large in Rodgers’s acclaimed autobiography, which is a real story of ups and downs. As a child, he witnessed drug addiction first hand, but he also writes about his mother and stepfather with great affection. There’s no bitterness, and he’s keen to praise them as essentially good people.


For more, read this week’s Connacht Tribune.

Galway in Days Gone By

The way we were – Protecting archives of our past



A photo of Galway city centre from the county council's archives

People’s living conditions less than 100 years ago were frightening. We have come a long way. We talk about water charges today, but back then the local District Councils were erecting pumps for local communities and the lovely town of Mountbellew, according to Council minutes, had open sewers,” says Galway County Council archivist Patria McWalter.

Patria believes we “need to take pride in our history, and we should take the same pride in our historical records as we do in our built heritage”. When you see the wealth of material in her care, this belief makes sense.

She is in charge of caring for the rich collection of administrative records owned by Galway County Council and says “these records are as much part of our history as the Rock of Cashel is. They document our lives and our ancestors’ lives. And nobody can plan for the future unless you learn from the past, what worked and what didn’t”.

Archivists and librarians are often unfairly regarded as being dry, academic types, but that’s certainly not true of Patria. Her enthusiasm is infectious as she turns the pages of several minute books from Galway’s Rural District Councils, all of them at least 100 years old.

Part of her role involved cataloguing all the records of the Councils – Ballinasloe, Clifden, Galway, Gort, Loughrea, Mountbellew, Portumna and Tuam. These records mostly consisted of minutes of various meetings.

When she was cataloguing them she realised their worth to local historians and researchers, so she decided to compile a guide to their content. The result is For the Record: The Archives of Galway’s Rural District Councils, which will be a valuable asset to anybody with an interest in history.

Many representatives on these Councils were local personalities and several were arrested during the political upheaval of the era, she explains.

And, ushering in a new era in history, women were allowed to sit on these Rural District Councils – at the time they were not allowed to sit on County Councils.

All of this information is included in Patria’s introductory essay to the attractively produced A4 size guide, which gives a glimpse into how these Rural Councils operated and the way political thinking changed in Ireland during a short 26-year period. In the early 1900s, these Councils supported Home Rule, but by 1920, they were calling for full independence and refusing to recognise the British administration.

“I love the tone,” says Patria of the minutes from meetings. “The language was very emotive.”

That was certainly true of the Gort Rural District Council. At a meeting in 1907, following riots in Dublin at the premiere of JM Synge’s play, The Playboy of the Western World the councillors’ response was vehement. They recorded their decision to “protest most emphatically against the libellous comedy, The Playboy of the Western World, that was belched forth during the past week in the Abbey Theatre, Dublin, under the fostering care of Lady Gregory and Mr Yeats. We congratulate the good people of Dublin in howling down the gross buffoonery and immoral suggestions that are scattered throughout this scandalous performance.


For more from the archives see this week’s Tribunes here

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Archive News

Galway have lot to ponder in poor show



Date Published: 23-Jan-2013




GALWAY’S first serious examination of the 2013 season rather disturbingly ended with a rating well below the 40% pass mark at the idyllic, if rather Siberian, seaside setting of Enniscrone on Sunday last.

The defeat cost Galway a place in the FBD League Final against Leitrim and also put a fair dent on their confidence shield for the bigger tests that lie ahead in February.

There was no fluke element in this success by an understrength Sligo side and by the time Leitrim referee, Frank Flynn, sounded the final whistle, there wasn’t a perished soul in the crowd of about 500 who could question the justice of the outcome.

It is only pre-season and last Sunday’s blast of dry polar winds did remind everyone that this is far from summer football, but make no mistake about it, the match did lay down some very worrying markers for Galway following a couple of victories over below par third level college teams.

Galway did start the game quite positively, leading by four points at the end of a first quarter when they missed as much more, but when Sligo stepped up the tempo of the game in the 10 minutes before half-time, the maroon resistance crumbled with frightening rapidity.

Some of the statistics of the match make for grim perusal. Over the course of the hour, Galway only scored two points from play and they went through a 52 minute period of the match, without raising a white flag – admittedly a late rally did bring them close to a draw but that would have been very rough justice on Sligo.

Sligo were backable at 9/4 coming into this match, the odds being stretched with the ‘missing list’ on Kevin Walsh’s team sheet – Adrian Marren, Stephen Coen, Tony Taylor, Ross Donovan, David Kelly, David Maye, Johnny Davey and Eamon O’Hara, were all marked absent for a variety of reasons.

Walsh has his Sligo side well schooled in the high intensity, close quarters type of football, and the harder Galway tried to go through the short game channels, the more the home side bottled them up.

Galway badly needed to find some variety in their attacking strategy and maybe there is a lot to be said for the traditional Meath style of giving long, quick ball to a full forward line with a big target man on the edge of the square – given Paul Conroy’s prowess close to goal last season, maybe it is time to ‘settle’ on a few basics.

Defensively, Galway were reasonably solid with Gary Sice at centre back probably their best player – he was one of the few men in maroon to deliver decent long ball deep into the attacking zone – while Finian Hanley, Conor Costello and Gary O’Donnell also kept things tight.

For more, read this week’s Connacht Tribune.

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Archive News

Real Galway flavour to intermediate club hurling battle in Birr



Date Published: 23-Jan-2013


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