Tuesday, August 07, 2007

Wales, Welsh artists, and the Welsh language...

Just about thirty miles from here as the crow flies lies a country that has produced at least its fair share of well known popular artists of many genres. Here are a few that come to mind, in no particular order: Shirley Bassey, Aled Jones, The Automatic, Lostprophets, Super Furry Animals, Charlotte Church, Catatonia, The Stereophonics, Tom Jones, Goldie Lookin' Chain, The Manic Street Preachers... and so the list goes on.
They all of course hail from Wales but what few of them do is sing in Welsh. [Just in case anyone here is confusing Welsh accents or dialect (of English) I'm referring to the Welsh language here - that which sounds, and if seen written, seems about as familiar as would Finnish for example.] I'm already on record as saying that I have no problem with foreign language music and I've mentioned one Welsh language artist already...

Well, if you are curious to hear what modern Welsh language music sounds like I have two more you might care to listen to!

Cerys Matthews, formerly the lead singer with Catatonia in the late 1990s has released two solo albums - Cock A Hoop (2003) and Never Said Goodbye (2006), on which only the occasional track is sung in Welsh - but she is however well known as a collector of traditional Welsh language songs. I have just learned today of her forthcoming EP, entirely sung in Welsh. I haven't heard it as yet, but I'm working on getting a copy. It is entitled Awyren (Aeroplane) and is due to be released on 15th October 2007 on Cardiff-based label 'Kung Fu Records'.

Then there is Cate Le Bon, who is yet another artist I saw live at Latitude 2007. Like Gwenno Saunders and Cerys Matthews she is a native of South Wales and is bilingual. She is also fine writer of what some reviewers have labelled nu-folk - a term I don't actually particularly like and indie-alt-folk is probably far better if rather clumsy. What sets her apart from most is that she writes and sings pretty much equally in Welsh and English. She was the second act on the 'Lake Stage', promoted by BBC Radio 1, on Sunday with a set consisting of four tracks sung in English followed by another four sung in Welsh and, if truth be told, they were all very good. The relatively small crowd was probably a result of the collective hangover that can come from two full days spent at a festival... I've since read more glowing reports and she's definitely one to watch in 2007/8.

Apart from singing she mostly plays guitar, but sometimes keyboards and it is rumoured, but I never saw it myself, drums. Her d├ębut album, Pet Deaths, is due out before too long. Rumour has it that this may actually be preceded by a Welsh-language EP.

She seems to have the support of young fans too...

These three girls spent the whole set utterly absorbed in the music, probably planning their future careers, and as I left for the Obelisk Stage in order to catch The Hoosiers they were busy "interviewing" the camera operator for good measure!

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