As more Welsh artists are performing in their native tongue outside Wales, Getintothis’ Cath Holland looks forward to a plethora of Welsh Language gigs in the coming months.
Broadcaster Huw Stephens made the remarkable documentary Anorac (Anorak) last year, chronicling the past fifty years of music made in the Welsh language, featuring Super Furry Animals, H.Hawkline, Georgia Ruth, 9Bach, The Joy Formidable, and Gwenno.
It captured the definite optimism around contemporary music produced by Welsh musicians in their mother tongue.
Such traction is due in no small part to new and established musicians reaching out to more non-Welsh speaking audiences in recent times.
Carmarthen post-punk feminists Adwaith who released debit album Melyn to great acclaim in 2018, are taking part in the first of a series of three package tours of emerging Welsh artists this autumn, stopping off in London, Glasgow, and Manchester.
The initial September line up also includes Welsh Language Album of the Year 2018-winning new wave rockers Mellt, and slacker trio Papur Wal from Cardiff.
The second and third tours take place in the following two months after that, bands yet to be announced.
The gigs – organised by Welsh digital distributor and label PYST and supported by the Welsh Government – will show promoters and venues the sheer range music Wales has to offer. It also gives artists opportunities that they might not otherwise have.
The aim of the tour says Ffion Strong, who heads up the Live Department at PYST, ‘is to work on marketing plans with the three promoters so that the artists not only receive the benefit of playing in new cities but also grow their fanbase through local promotion. At the same time we hope these gigs will present the wealth and variety of new Welsh language music to a new audience and to three of England and Scotland’s best promoters.’
‘We are so excited to be returning to these three amazing cities. Even more so because we get to share the stage with some of the best talent from Wales,‘ says Gwen Anthony from Adwaith, who have toured around UK supporting Gwenno and The Joy Formidable in the past year.
‘We’ve only experienced love and support whilst playing around the UK, so we’re really grateful to PYST for giving us this opportunity.’
Mellt are looking forward to the shows, having played in England only twice so far, at Manchester’s Off The Record and Brighton’s The Great Escape.
At the Manchester festival show last year, ‘we were received pretty well I think, people said some nice things about the music and the Welsh after the gig. The language doesn’t seem to be a barrier.’
Of the forthcoming shows with Adwaith and Papur Mal they add, ‘It’s nice to be able to gig with friends so even better to go on tour. Taking the Welsh language outside of Wales is always interesting and hopefully, people will enjoy.‘
Colorama’s Carwyn Ellis also known for his work with The Pretenders, Edwyn Collins and more, this week releases album JOIA!, a collaborative project with members of the legendary The + 2’s from Brazil.
Going under the moniker of Carwyn Ellis & Rio 18, the ensemble will play Manchester in October courtesy of PRS Momentum Fund.
The lyrics of the songs on JOIA! are in Welsh, combining these with Latin American flavours drawn from Bossa Nova, Cumbia, Samba, and Tropicalismo styles.
JOIA! Means ‘groovy’ in Brazilian Portuguese and ‘enjoy’ in Welsh.
‘I’m not sure why (Welsh language music) is becoming more popular,’ says Carwyn. ‘But it’s certainly welcome. Targeting Welsh language music at non welsh speaking audiences has been an interesting development in recent years – Gwenno has been particularly successful in this regard. I’ve tried to get my new record across to as many people anywhere and everywhere as possible too.
The fact that other artists who’ve had longer careers recording predominantly in English but not hiding their Welshness, like Gruff Rhys, Euros Childs, Cate Le Bon and Sweet Baboo has been a big help too – their continued presence is invaluable.
The contribution of DJs shouldn’t be undervalued – Huw Stephens in particular has championed welsh language music on ‘national’ radio broadcast from London or Manchester. Whatever it is, it’s all good!’
Gorwelian / Horizons is a scheme delivered by BBC Cymru Wales in partnership with Arts Council Wales. Their stage at Sound City this year featured Ani Glass and Spotify phenomenon Alffa; July sees them host a stage at the Manchester International Festival showcasing new and emerging artists.
The six acts performing include Gwilym, who triumphed at the Gwobrau’r Selar Welsh language music awards in February of this year.
The Anglesey and Caernarfon indie pop four-piece took home gongs for Band of the Year, Best Song for Catalunya, Best Video for Cwîn and Best Artwork for debut album Sugno Gola, which also won Best Album.
Gwilym have recently played at two English shows. One marketed to Welsh speakers in London and the other towards students, of various nationalities in Guildford.
‘People seemed to dance and feel the music regardless of what we were saying in Guildford. Of course, we had the comfort of having a few Welsh speakers at the London gig, and even heard a bit of singing, similar to our other shows back in Wales. But, there was something special about the Guildford crowd. It was a mental challenge for us to perform our songs, and being very conscious that nobody knew what we were saying,’ reveals singer Ifan Pritchard.
‘Days after people would come up to me and Llŷr saying the same thing, ‘I had no idea what you guys were saying, but I enjoyed it all the same. We didn’t have a single negative response in regards to the language spoken in the songs, which is a huge achievement for us as a band.’
The gig, and noting their friends Alffa‘s international success on Spotify, ‘confirmed for us that we don’t need to be scared of branching out our culture and language across the border in England, or any border for that matter. People are intrigued and just want to dance, and that’s why music is so special.
‘The music and the ‘phonetics’ of the lyrics seem to bring out something in the audience anyway, and it doesn’t seem to bother anybody. Those who have had the chance to listen seem to like it, even though they have no idea what the lyrics say.’
Live Welsh Language dates summer/autumn 2019 include:
9 July Sera, Endaf, Darren Eedens – Manchester International Festival
10 July Eve Goodman, Rosehip Teahouse, Gwilym – Manchester International Festival
12 July Outpost, Liverpool HMS Morris, Ceiling Demons, Ani Glass, Shitxyz
24 August Future Yard, Birkenhead HMS Morris
Carwyn Ellis & Rio 18
10 Oct The Gate, Cardiff
11 Oct Gullivers, Manchester
12 Oct Pontio, Bangor
PYST Welsh Language Gigs – Adwaith, Mellt, Papur Wal
4 Sept The Poetry Club, Glasgow
5 Sept Yes, Manchester
6 Sept The Victoria Dalston, London