10 Welsh language songs you’ll love-even if you don’t speak Welsh
February 9th 2018 marks the third celebration of Welsh Language Music Day, a movement backed by BBC Radio 1 DJ Huw Stephens.
Our community members often tell us though they don’t speak Welsh, they still feel a strong connection with Wales and a certain familiarity with Wales. Some have moved from Wales to work in another country, some of our Australian and American members tell us that they are fond of the language and recall hearing it as a child and others live in Wales but don’t necessarily have any knowledge of Welsh language music.
Others may have stumbled on to Welsh language music purely by chance, possibly while watching a feature film like ‘Empire of the Sun’ (featuring the song Suo Gan) or Crash (featuring the song Lisa Lan).
These are some of our favourites for Dydd Miwsig Cymru / Welsh Language Music Day. What would be your choices be?
Joseph Parry: Myfanwy
Arguably the most romantic and heartbreaking Welsh ballad of all time, this is a firm favourite for choirs - and for serenades on Dydd Santes Dwynwen and Valentines Day. The song has been featured in Hollywood classic ‘How Green is my Valley’, 1997 cult classic ‘Twin Town’ - and even Donny Osmond has had a go at it. We love this classic Treorchy Male Voice Choir in the 70s version, though. Yes it’s cheesy….and so, so good!
Meic Stevens: Rue St Michel
Meic Stevens is a pioneer of Welsh language pop music. Often compared with Bob Dylan back in the day, his relaxed West Walian pop/acoustic/folk sound is perfect road trip music. Check out the Ysbryd Solva album - you won’t regret it. Rue St Michel is a sweet, sentimental ode to Paris in the summertime.
Tebot Piws: Mae Rhywun Wedi Dwyn Fy Nhrwyn (Someone has stolen my nose)
One of the first bands on the Welsh language pop scene to create a playful take on the in-vogue 1970s sounds of the time. Tebot Piws (Purple teapot) created a classic which literally translates as ‘someone’s stolen my nose’. The ‘Mawredd mawr, eisteddwch i lawr…’ chorus will stay in your head for days afterwards!
Y Cyrff: Cymru, Lloegr a Llanrwst (Wales, England and Llanrwst)
A fantastically punky-pop sound, Y Cyrff were a Welsh language punk band from the 80s, featuring Mark Roberts - who later went on to form Catatonia with Cerys Matthews. This anthem is an upbeat, nostalgic tune reminding you of happy days, punk hair, Doctor Martins and sweaty student union dancing.
Huw Chiswell - Y Cwm (the valley)
Perhaps a classic for anyone who went to a Welsh school in South Wales in the 90s - this was a typical Eisteddfod competition classic for choirs. The opening lyric ‘Well shw’mae’r hen ffrind mae’n dda dy weld ti gatre fel hyn…’ talks about how good it is to see an old friend who has returned home for a visit. A song that may cause significant hiraeth for those living overseas!
Kizzy Crawford: Caer o Feddyliau (Fortress of thoughts)
With a beautiful mix or Bajan and Welsh heritage, Kizzy’s sounds combine influences from traditional Welsh folk, soul and jazz genres. An incredible live performer, she re-builds her songs when performing live, using a feedback pedal and loop to layer the sounds.
WH Hughes / Y Pencadlys: Caru Gwaith / Dim y Life (Love work, not the life)
An ‘anti-pop hero’ with a contemporary electro-pop feel, Y Pencadlys (The Headquarter) is the artistic output of W H Hughes, whose live performances are an intense mix of femme-fatale melodies and kooky non-conformity. This song is based on an urban myth about a New York proofreader who died at his desk and stayed there for 5 days, without his colleagues realising he was dead.
Gwenno Saunders: Patriarchaeth (Patriarchy)
Formerly a member of the Welsh band ‘The Pipettes’, Gwenno’s sound is completely original - a blend of Welsh electro-psych pop, poetic Welsh/Cornish rambles and dreamy disco musicscapes. Raised in a Cornish and Welsh-speaking household, her songs are laced with lyrics that will prick your conscience and make you think - about anything from patricarchy and minority languages to media manipulation and globalisation.
The Gentle Good: Yfed Gyda'r Lleuad (Drinking with the Moon)
With a contemporary folk sound, The Gentle Good are a critically acclaimed band headed up by Gareth Bonello, an instrumentalist who sings in both Welsh and English. He’s inspired by music from all over the world and Gareth is even studying a PhD in the music of the Khasi Hills in North India and their connection with Wales as a result of Welsh missionaries in the 1840s. This song is inspired by the Chinese poet Li Bai and Gareth's recent trip to Chengdu.