Dydd Miwsig Cymru - Welsh Language Music Day 2017 : An A to B Beginners' Guide to Welsh Language Music10.02.17
If you do it boldly the first time, setting aside any half formed preconceptions, opening your ears to the world of contemporary Welsh language music can be quite a shock. There is a range, vibrancy and a life to it that would not have been out of place in post punk Liverpool, and with a similarly eclectic cast of key individuals driving experimentation and creativity across genres. Look a bit further and there is excellent radio and well made TV, and a host of venues and events, that lay it all out to be seen and heard.
Listen, and the music is a door to a spirited culture you cannot help but want to understand more. It deserves this day of recognition to underline that point.
Why is it so alive and diverse? If you get your chance, then ask - seeing the superb trad. folk singer Chris Jones (who appears with Steve Eaves on Welsh Language Music Day at a highly anticipated gig at the Tafarn y Fic) in Caffi Maes, Caernarfon seemed as good a time as any - he didn't miss a beat before explaining:
"It's always good to raise the profile of a minority language, but what constantly amazes me is how much quality Welsh language music there is, and in such a range of styles, when there are only half a million of us."
"There are just so many good artists from such a small population - it comes from the history, the importance of music and singing, and how that is still embedded in the social values of the culture."
"There are other small countries that place a high value on music, such as Ireland, but what happens in Wales and within the Welsh language community, is special. It's also so open, and I mean across all of Wales - (laughing) I was name checked on Radio 2 by The Baby Queens last week, I love their music, but they are so different to me, I am not sure that would happen elsewhere!"
A short pithy conversation in a café - a point or two passionately and eloquently made, and it was just as clear that he was looking forward eagerly to appearing on the same celebratory bill as Steve Eaves.
Ears open, we have stumbled about exploring for a year now - from that you might expect an exhaustive alphabetically complete beginners' guide, but just a few sketches of active (and relatively new) bands sampled from the first two letters of the alphabet are more than sufficient to demonstrate the essence of our positive impressions, so here they are - just six out of potentially hundreds:
- Adwaith : A flickering, mesmeric post-folk first single, Pwysau, showed that Carmarthen band Adwaith's summer working with Patricia Morgan of Datblygu to hone their sound had paid off spectacularly.
Their 'striking and flawless debut' inevitably stoked anticipation of what might come next - reinforced when BBC Radio DJ Huw Stephens recently stated: "I think they are really special".
They very obviously are. Adwaith will release a new single to mark Welsh Language Music Day.
- Alffa : Seeing Alffa for the first time was like being woken up from a nap by an airhorn; startled awake by their elemental punk edged blues, played raw with just drums, guitar & voice. Live and recorded Alffa present a keen sense of melody with an edgy, taut energy that is at times spiritually reminiscent of a decelerated Hüsker Dü. They have released a debut EP - from that the track Tomos Rhys embodies what they are about.
- Argrph : Just a single so far - but Buzz Magazine already has Emyr Sion Taylor's project Argrph in its short list of breakthrough acts. The release, Tywod, was an evocative, melancholy but dazzling debut - recorded with Llŷr Pari and written "out of a sense of isolation ... with the stirring tide of Aberystwyth beach as a canvas for inspiration"; it suggests that Argrph is a project to
mark out as having huge potential. An example of music brilliant beyond language.
- Band Pres Llareggub
'Welsh language hip hop brass band' - if it sounds an unworkable concept, it's not. Band Pres Llareggub's second album Kurn is: "Impossible not to love ... is quite superb: exuberant, inventive and full of life". On stage too they ecstatically fuse their hip hop and New Orleans brass influences; a must for any festival booker in 2017, and anyone who can shuffle their feet to a beat. [Band Pres Llareggub Kurn Review] [Band Pres Llareggub Live]
A collaborative project between Bethel's Plu and Carwyn Ellis of Colorama, this part instrumental debut album has remarkable depth, and is a thing of beauty. If it had been vinyl the grooves of our copy would be worn and dull by now. There is an EP to follow on 10.02.2017 - promising more experimental musical bliss.
[Bendith Review] [Bendith Interview]
- Brython Shag
When their debut was released we said: "... what you would get if you locked four very talented musicians in a small town back street pub with only a copy of the Sounds of the Suburbs 80's new wave compilation for inspiration, and the instruction to play for their lives". A joyous, runaway rollercoaster fusion of visceral guitar, drum, bass and vocals. Epic & blazing.
[Brython Shag Review]
And we can't say fairer than that - (almost) every letter left unexplored would reveal equal delights; if you need more convincing there is a host of recent reviews here. For the final removal of any doubt the two North Wales 9Bach gigs in 2016 - at the Pontio guiding Llechi, and as part of an album tour at the Galeri, Caernarfon - were two of the best live music experiences that could be had in any language, and Band Pres Llareggub are an irrepressible phenomena live you one day will not be able to do without: one of very few guaranteed distractions from twenty first century politics noir, a Welsh language hip hop brass band.
BRYTHON SHAG I Dwnsia ne Granda