Wales: land of the song

Los Campesinos!: The Cardiff University-formed band performing at one of their 2010 gigs. Source: Amber (via Wikimedia Commons)

By Tirion Davies

Wales is increasingly becoming known as the land of song. With our abundance of amazing singers and bands hailing from this country, with our national anthem being beautiful and a choir forming in just about every part of Wales, it’s not hard to understand why we’ve claimed this title. Between the likes of Tom Jones, Shirley Bassey, Stereophonics, Bonnie Tyler, Marina and the Diamonds and many more, Wales manages to continuously produce some incredible acts who reach worldwide appreciation.

With this in mind, it’s not surprising that more and more acts from Wales are gaining names for themselves each year. The band Into the Ark, who is originally from Blackwood in Caerphilly, earned a name for themselves on the Voice UK in 2017. Despite the duo coming second place in the competition that year, their mentor Sir Tom Jones was so enamoured by the pair that he invited the band to tour with him the following September whilst he was touring venues across America.

Into the Ark aren’t the only up-and-coming acts from Cymru who are going from strength to strength. Welsh bands aren’t at all hard to find these days – there are plenty to go around.

Over the last few years, there’s also been a wave of more and more Welsh-language bands jumping onto the music scene. Such bands are Yws GwyneddCandelas and Swnami, who have become popular in Welsh music, and outside of the Welsh-language community, too.  Bands like 9BachMellt and Blodau Papur to name but a few, are claiming headlining gigs at Cardiff’s Clwb Ifor Bach week after week and gaining  and in 2018 the Welsh-language band Alffa gained 1 million hits on their song ‘Gwenwyn’ on Spotify.

Welsh-language gigs are always great for anyone – whether you speak the language or not (I’m a Welsh speaker from South Wales, and sometimes I find it hard to understand the words some Welsh bands from North Wales might sing). The vibe of the gigs at places like Clwb Ifor Bach are often the main reason people attend these Welsh-language gigs. And besides – when the gig’s over you can head down from the top floor of Clwb to the bottom and sing along to some Taylor Swift. It’s the best of both worlds.

Numerous artists also call Cardiff their home, one of the youngest singers making a name for themselves is Hana Evans, otherwise known as Hana2k. Hana hails originally from Penarth, just outside of Cardiff and has earned accolades aplenty. Between being a finalist on ‘Teen Star UK’ and the ‘Big Music Project UK’ and headlining her own gig for the first time at just 18 years old, Hana’s career proves Wales has more talent than it can cope with.

Collaborating with Trigger Happy Creative on her new song ‘Call Her My Name’ and working with Forté Project, which helps the next generation of Welsh artists, in addition to being a part of Horizons Cymru by the BBC, Hana has plenty of support for her career here in Wales. It’s not uncommon to have so much support here in Wales. Despite the  small size of the country, there are many doing their best to offer experiences for upcoming acts.

Being based in both Cardiff and London, Hana has support from different outlets when it comes to her music. But she doesn’t just write music in English. As part of the bilingual community in Cardiff and the Vale of Glamorgan, producer Hana has even competed in the S4C programme ‘Can i Gymru’ singing her original song ‘Dim Hi’. She shows the bilingual nature and spirit of Cardiff by singing in both languages.

Hana also proves that your age is in no way an obstacle, with countless singles already under her belt at just 19 years old. Young, Welsh artists like Hana are earning opportunities far younger these days than was formerly traditional. With the help of companies like The BBC playing young artists’ music and venues more than willing to support them in their ventures into live shows, the music industry is becoming more available in their support of the younger generation. To an extent, Welsh musicians like The Manic Street Preachers and Duffy have paved the way, and upcommers are realising their predecessors have offered them the opportunity to follow their ambitions within the Welsh music scene.

Another act originating in Cardiff is Los Campesinos!, the band itself actually forming in Cardiff University in 2006 (with one of its members previously being a Gair Rhydd editor and a Quench magazine contributor). The band is now celebrating the 10th anniversary of its album ‘Romance is Boring’ and Los Campesinos! are coming down from the highs of their recent 2019 Summer tour, touring multiple venues across the USA.

Despite the fact none of the members of the band themselves are Welsh, they are considered to be from Cardiff, as Cardiff University was where the formation of the band took place. As a different genre within the Welsh music scene, they claim themselves as the UK’s first and only emo band. The band’s first gig was played at a Cardiff student union club night in 2006, before continuing on to play venues across Cardiff and making a name for themselves.

With an online following of 8,839 followers on Instagram, and over 32 thousand followers on Twitter, the band is gaining a bigger audience, which is partially how they originally earned part of their fame. By posting their music on the internet and using social media as a way of drumming up interest for live shows, their reputation grew – with the inclusion of Huw Stephens playing some of their songs on BBC 1 Wales. By November 2006, the band had signed to their record label, Wichita Recordings.

The band has played across the world, in various different countries over the years, but their hometown is continuously listed as Cardiff and the band always seem to be pulled back to the Welsh capital.

When Gair Rhydd spoke to the band about their involvement in the Welsh Music industry and the bonuses of forming in Cardiff, they said,

‘We were very fortunate to form in a city that had a very supportive and creative scene. We were spoilt for choice when it came to venues to play, promoters to play for, bands to play with and even club nights and pubs to frequent. From the very start people wanted us to succeed and helped us along the way.’

From Budgie to Cuba CubaKids in Glass HousesMclusky, and The School to name but a few, Cardiff has produced some immense talent over the years.

It continues to embrace the music industry and its talents, with clubs like Clwb Ifor Bach and the Tramshed just two of many clubs in Cardiff continuously supporting Welsh acts.

This year, Sŵn Festival returns to Cardiff for its 12th year, with the festival’s main focus being on new music, homegrown acts and emerging artists in Wales. Between October the 18th and the 20th, Sŵn Festival will take over a handful of venues across Cardiff for its gigs. With no exclusive style of music, the festival books acts they think deserve a platform; acts which Sŵn Festival are proud to support.

With festivals such as Sŵn popularising Welsh artists from any musical background, it’s no real surprise Wales has such a thriving music industry. Because of the support the land of the song offers to new performers, Welsh music continues to go from strength to strength.

Between the Sŵn Festival returning to Cardiff, and the continuous support by companies like BBC, Welsh music holds a place in Welsh culture which is irreplaceable.

To keep up-to-date with Welsh gig nights, visit clwb.net

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