Catalysts : Angharad Jenkins (Calan/DnA)22 July 2020
Wales has a rich native language music scene - it is also resurgent, gathering momentum in the last ten years; listening to the career-defining experiences of one participant in that renaissance helps to illuminate why.
Angharad Jenkins is a Welsh fiddle-player and cultural project manager who performs in effervescent, wide-roaming indie-folk band Calan and in DnA - the latter a duo with her harpist mother, Delyth.
Angharad is the daughter of a famous Welsh poet, Nigel Jenkins, and is deeply-rooted in the culture and language of her home country.
Intelligent and self-effacing, Angharad's selections, when tasked with describing moments that have had a profound influence on her life, reached back nearly two decades to a pair of youthful extended adventures and ten years later to an extraordinary play. Here are all three, set out in her own words:
Ethno Summer School/Falun Folk Festival, Sweden 2003 : "This was a residential course for young people, run by young people. As a teenager who had only really experienced playing in the county youth orchestra, this kind of music-making blew my mind. The emphasis was passing on music by ear as a form of cultural and social exchange (not a piece of sheet music in sight). It was a transformative moment for me, and I returned to Wales with a fire in my stomach, eager to discover more about my own traditional music, and to breath some youthful energy into it."
Gigs Gwener y Grolsch, Ty Tawe, Swansea : "These were a series of Welsh language gigs ran by Menter Iaith Abertawe upstairs from the Welsh book shop in Swansea. Like many Welsh-medium educated young people, I associated the language with the classroom. I didn't find it particularly relevant in Swansea, and I certainly didn't use it socially until I started going to Gigs Gwener y Grolsh."
"I saw Frizbee, Kentucky AFC, Chouchen, Bob, Eryr, the list goes on. The language of the music and at the bar was Welsh. It gave me confidence to socialise in my native tongue, and for the first time I saw Welsh as a natural language to converse in. The gigs were usually always full, sweaty, boozy and full of energy. Evenings would often end in everyone up on their feet dancing, and those who had gone downstairs for a fag or a loo break would look up at the sagging ceiling with concern. Thankfully the floor never collapsed in."
The Wizard, The Goat and The Man Who Won The War : "It's difficult to choose one piece of theatre which has impacted on me, but this stands out because of its simplicity. Written by David Britton, the play is about the life of British politician David Lloyd George. It was essentially a one man show; the role of Lloyd George taken on by Richard Elfyn. Elfyn played Lloyd George at different points in his life, from a child to an old man, and other characters in his life."
"I remember being amazed at how one actor could switch gender and age in a blink of an eye, and how he could remember so many words (twice as long as Hamlet!) I left the Taliesin (Swansea) shaking with emotion; not knowing whether to like or loathe Lloyd George! A testament to Britton's writing and to Elfyn's portrayal of this complex and deeply human character. " [You can read more about the play here]
We can only be thankful for the impact the first two experiences had on Angahard's life and music - Calan have just released a new album Kistvaen - it is as much 'a kinetic ride dense with delight' as the five that went before it - and the 'hushed folk rapture' DnA bring to intimate venues is worth travelling a very long way to see.
Angharad can next be heard as part of a National Eisteddfod collaborative commission with Australian post-modern folk trio Bush Gothic at 3pm on Monday, 3rd August - details, and a preview video, are here. The performance itself will be streamed on the Eisteddfod's Facebook page.