Our Welsh cousins seem to have a knack for making agreeable noises with electric guitars. What’s better still, they even manage to sing over the din in their own language on occasion. I have long looked with envy at the wealth of dacent music made in the Welsh language since a combination of the Tube and John Peel first managed to bring it to my attention in the mid to late 80s.
Given the proximity of Dublin to North Wales and the lovely diesel-perfumed ferries that come and go between Holyhead and here, some of the acts even managed to make it as far as our fair city to put us to shame. I remember myself and Conor (serial poster round these parts) talking to the grizzled 77-punk members of Ahnrefn after they played to a handful in the Underground late 80s/early 90s. I think I even got a sampler tape in the post from one of them when they got back to Wales.
Their contemporaries Fflaps and their successors Melys also managed to make it across, I’m sure. More recently I have also managed to see the not exclusively Welsh language, but excellent all the same, Gorky’s Zygotic Mynky on Wexford St. As I recall, rock as gaeilge over the same period boiled down to some auld gets 25 years past their best before date that once appeared on SBB ina shuí (if anyone can remind me of their name..)
Wales’s native-language scene was (and still is) so rich and diverse that they even managed to have their own version of The Fall. The band in question, Datblygu, are probably still my favourite Welsh language group (not surprising given my liking for the Fall themselves). They appeared, I believe, in dodgy trenchcoats on a Tube special on Wales and they subsequently got a number of Peel sessions (put together since and released as a CD) and notched up a couple of studio albums. No doubt they had to break up after being nabbed petrol-bombing some English stockbroker’s summer house near Llandudno - to the detriment of late 20th century popular music.
North Wales had its very own MES (in the form of frontman David R. Edwards). Our holy catholic and apopleptic Free State was still stuck on SBB.
Seemingly central to all of this activity was the Ankst record label - still in existence and to be found here : Ankst Site 1 - Offensive URL / Ankst Site 2 - Non-offensive URL . Most of the artists mentioned above and a number of compilations are to be had against small amounts of sterling.
I am still unable to explain to myself why an Irish-language scene as rich as this Welsh-language one has never existed. Granted, the Welsh seem to have clung to their language in the way oven-ready frozen Catholicism was clung to in this country. They certainly got the better of the bargain. Might it be also that most of the Gaeilgóir talent in this country has put its energies into traditional music rather than anything needing amplification ?
In any case, here are a few You Tube moments from some of the above-mentioned (unfortunately I couldn’t find any SBB ina shuí clip) :
Datblygu- Ugain I Un :
Ahnrefn offshoot - MANGRE - Rebel Songs (on S4C - 2000) :
Rheinallt H Rowlands - Llanw (big budget vid which includes various Dublin statues) :