Soul Man: Shane Cosgrove keeps the Northern Soul flame alive in Manila.
by rick olivares
The music was jumping at the Dr. Wine bar just outside Rockwell in Makati. The way the music was playing, it sounded like it was a packed house. Except, it wasn’t. At least not on at three in the afternoon of a lazy Sunday. There were six men and a couple of female friends inside (aside from the wait staff) having a drink. A few danced some and snapped to the delicious grooves.
To the tall Welshman behind the disc jockey’s booth, it was all serious business. He dug into his two boxes of seven-inch singles and pulled out priceless vinyl from a bygone era. He knew exactly where each particular single was; the right song for the moment and for on cue.
“Good stuff, Shane,” applauded one Briton who raised his glass to toast the disc jockey.
The DJ was Shane Cosgrove.
To those who lived the local music scene in the 1990s, Cosgrove managed for a spell the late and groundbreaking ska band, Put3ska. To those who frequented the music and dance clubs, you’d find his name as one of the DJs.
As for those who enjoy the Beautiful Game, Cosgrove coaches football at an international school and for Nomads Girls football club previously based in Merville. His girls team at Nomads won the Alaska Cup three years on the run (2014 – 2016) and the UFL/YFL Youth Division three years consecutively (2016 – 2018). Now some of his wards will be playing for Ateneo and La Salle Universities in the near future. The proud father beamed.
The music… however, burns fiercely in his heart.
When Shane Cosgrove was a 15-year old lad growing up in Wales, Northern Soul grafted itself into every fiber of his being.
“In the United Kingdom back in the day, there was an underground Northern Soul scene and the records were unbelievable,” recalled Cosgrove in between spinning records during his set. “There was no promotion from record companies. It wasn’t forced upon you. You were allowed to think about what you like. There was the challenge of travelling 70-80 miles to a club where a DJ would play music.”
Northern Soul music is essentially black American soul music characterized with a heavy beat and fast tempo. It eschews the commercially successful Motown or Motown-influenced sound for lesser known artists.
One of the genre’s early proponents was Englishman Dave Godin who coined the term “Northern Soul” to differentiate it from the Motown and more commercial R&B music. Chris Rogers, who curates the Facebook page of Godin who was a huge factor in the spread of the music said, “Dave’s legacy transcends boundaries or borders of any sort. He brought soul music to millions of people and still does to this day. That is his legacy and one that he would be proud of. That you are asking me to write this proves that his vision survives today and is stronger than ever worldwide. As Dave would say, ‘Keep the faith.’”
“As a music fan, hunting down those records was a huge part of the challenge,” added Cosgrove. “Some of the records the DJs played, they kept a secret. Now there was no internet at that time so you try to find them and go digging in the US or asked a friend to find them for you and it was quite a hunt.”
As he got older and real life beckoned, Cosgrove applied for a job in Indonesia, but ended up in Manila. “I applied for a job in Jakarta and it ended up being a Manila posting. I was going to stay for 2-3 years, but it turned into five years. The five turned to 10 years then 20. Now I have a family here,” summed up the Welshman of how he found his way to the Philippines that has been his home for the past 26 years.
Regarding his involvement in the local ska scene, Shane reminisced, “We all love the Two-Tone era and someone told me that there was this local ska band called Put3ska and I ended up managing them for a year and a half. Before they played their sets, I’d play my songs. The example they set was fantastic. Now they have Todo Pasa now. They look great and sound great. It was just all the old faces to have a good night out.”
“Eventually, we helped create Club Ska in Mayrics from 1998-2003. The idea behind that was we’d have live ska and I’d play soul music.”
Cut back today to Cosgrove’s gig at Dr. Wine. He dug into his 45s and picked out a single to cue for play. “I used to have this massive collection of Northern Soul singles,” he says. He winces right before the next sentence. “But I had to sell the lot in 2005. It was for the right reasons at the right time and it provided me a decent deposit for a house. Then in 2010 I started collecting again. A guy called Keb Darge came over here. He is a legendary DJ and he played at Cubao Expo and he had his records and I saw them and I got back into it.”
Now, he has about a thousand singles of the genre.
Cosgrove plays sets everywhere every chance he has from 20:20 in Makati to 70s Bistro in Quezon City to Treskul Records and Café in Mandaluyong among many others.
“It is great to see Bing Austria and the Flipping Soul Stompers,” said Shane. “Bing also DJs so I like to go just to listen to what he is playing. There are soul music scenes in Japan, Indonesia and Thailand. The Philippines had a go at it from 2010-15 at B-Side and we had it once a month and it was really good. But it hasn’t fully taken off. You do have DJs like Arbie of Treskul and Bing playing soul music so it is good.”
With Todo Pasa (Austria’s new ska band with some old bandmates from Put3ska) hitting the club circuit, Cosgrove managed to sneak in his sets every now and then.
“Once you’re into it, you’re into it,” summed up Cosgrove. “You say you’re going to stop but years later, the music is still here and so am I.”
Shane Cosgrove’s 10 Fave Northern Soul songs (as of today and in no particular order):
I Didn’t Try by Chubby and the Turnpikes (some of the members eventually joined Tavares)
You’ve Got To Have Money by the Exits
Keep Coming Back for More by Lorraine Randolph
Comparatively Speaking by Bunny Sigler
Smallest Man Alive by the Black Eyed Peas
River of Tears by Barbara Banks
Ain’t That Good Enough by Garland Green
Save My Love for a Rainy Day by the Van Dykes
Heart Breakin’ Time by Little John
Save Your Love by Soul Patrol