Picture The Scene: The Uncertain Future of the Welsh Music Scene

Those of you familiar with Welsh culture, you will already be aware that the yearly National Eisteddfod was held over the summer, this year situated on the outskirts of Wrexham.  For those of you who have no clue what an “Eisteddfod” is – it’s the biggest Welsh language music, literature and performance festival. An average of 160,000 attend annually, and attempts to encourage non-Welsh speakers and learners to attend have been incredibly successful… yet it is also plain to see that the modern Welsh Music Scenes is deteriorating. Something which is a major concern due to the constant threat of globalization to Welsh culture, and it’s worrying the lack of interest in the only creative output that’s wholly relevant to the younger generation…

Ignorant, many class Welsh-language music as “rubbish” without even giving it a chance, or refuse to listen to a whole

Maes B 2011

Maes B 2011

array of excellent bands out there. Maes B, the Eisteddfod’s Young People’s village, was a fantastic festival with gigs containing Wales’ finest bands. Despite pessimistic predictions by Welsh producers and radio presenters, Maes B organizers arranged gigs that showcased an array of genres, and the spacious William Aston Hall of Glyndwr University in Wrexham was filled to the brim with fans… yet, such gigs don’t appear to be sustainable around the rest of the country. There is a strong following in Clwb Ifor Bach in Cardiff, but elsewhere in Wales, Welsh gigs have become few and far between. An audience consisting of more than ten people is rare, and bands struggle to perform for pittance to venues who want to make a profit, and not a loss. Why is this?

Is it the age-old idea that Welsh is an uncool minority language? It is unfair to ever claim that the English music scene is better – what relevance has language when rating good or bad music? Isn’t music a universal language we can all relate to? Many of us listen to French, Spanish, even German lyrics, so why not Welsh? Anyone is welcomed to a gig, whether it be a Welsh or English gig, and occasionally, one will go to see a band different to what their used to… so why not try a band in a different language, and pop along to the next Welsh gig advertised in your local area?

Despite arguments that the Welsh Music Scene centres around the indie-rock genre, and it is impossible to argue that the current giants of the scene – such as Yr Ods, Sibrydion and Creision Hud – don’t embrace the alternative category… but they do it so well, and create great music. The legendary Super Furry Animals have had an obvious influence on many artists, and the SFA effect is clearly seen in kooky solo singer Euros Childs and indie band Racehorses’ music. But there is literally something for everyone – the now disbanded Derwyddon Dr Gonzo led the way for the ska/funk invasion of the scene, and Geraint Jarman, back in the day, was often referred to as the Welsh Bob Marley. There is also no disputing Y Bandana catchy anthems’ similarity to pop giants McFly’s. Likewise, Y Cyfoes also go against the indie-rock stereotype, with their combination of thrashing pop-punk and metal influences. Heavily influenced by folk music, Cowbois Rhos Botwnnog and Gwibdaith
Hen Fran are a fresh twist to, what was previously considered an old-fashioned genre. And it’s also impossible to deny that you define techno and dance music by lyrics, and Crash.Disco and Plyci are two alternative DJs that would go down a storm in any night club – regardless of the fact they remix using Welsh language songs.

Although several Welsh bands have made quite an impression on English audiences – recently dark indie rockers Masters in France have been featured on the Radio 1 Playlist, and played the BBC Introducing Stage at Radio 1’s Big Weekend in Carlisle, and Y Niwl having been appearing in most major festivals and touring with Gruff Rhys, showcasing their unique blend of 50s surf rock inspired instrumentals – the number of followers supporting local gigs and buying CDs are dwindling. For some reason, it is difficult to get people other than friends of the band to attend Welsh gigs. …Why?

Despite poor audience numbers, and lack of gigs arranged, Welsh bands continue to struggle, and with that, comes something so rare within today’s chart hits; passion. A drive to perform, regardless of lack of fame, money or acknowledgement. So what’s stopping you? Next time you get the chance, search Myspace and Facebook for a taster of Welsh music – many artists even offer free downloads – and you might be pleasantly surprised, and discover that the Welsh Music scene has developed drastically from out-dated anthems of Bryn Fon and Dafydd Iwan.