Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Joe Strummer, Class War and Welsh language revival


Retro time. I recently had the good fortune to come across the welshnot site on which was a comprehensive interview with Welsh music man Rhys Mwyn.

Mwyn was one member of legendary Welsh-language punk band Anhrefn. Despite the English media not quite understanding why any band would want to use a language other than English as a medium, they enjoyed good coverage and were well respected. I saw them a few times in Edinburgh including at anti-Poll Tax fundraisers and supporting Joe Strummer and Oi Polloi on Class War's Rock Against the Rich date in Edinburgh.

After Anhrefn, Mwyn was involved in various projects involving well-kent names such as Super Furry Animals and Catatonia. This rise in confident Welsh-language rock music was subsequently labelled 'Cool Cymru'.

Myself and Ruairidh Polloi also managed to bring Mwyn's later techno project Land of My Mothers and rockers Gwacamoli to entertain students at Sabhal Mòr Ostaig on Skye. This opened the door for other 'alternative' acts to play at the Scottish language college including ska-punks the Newtown Grunts and Breton-language rockers Sarah.

Welsh language

We always sang in Welsh but it was never done to exclude anyone. And we didn’t think of ourselves as a Welsh language band – we were just a band who sang in Welsh.
It was something we would constantly get asked about in interviews but when it came to the music itself, I’m not sure how many knew, or cared, about the language.
Anhrefn was just loud, full-on music with guitars blasting; so nobody gave a shit about the language really. As long as they liked the noise.
Our record company, Workers Playtime, did once ask us to do a song in English and we told them politely to get stuffed – they gave up trying after that. I’m sure a lack of compromise did limit our success but we were never motivated by getting on Top of the Pops or any of that.

I particularly admire Anhrefn's politics. Are they anarchists, socialists or Welsh nationalists? Who knows and who cares? They took a pragmatic approach but involved themselves in various grass roots campaigns supporting anti-Poll Tax resistance, Welsh devolution and of course, the Welsh language. This is the kind of approach that some on the anarcho/left in Scotland could learn from - voting 'yes' in the forthcoming referendum is only a new beginning. It doesn't preclude the wider aims for whatever type of fair and progressive society you wish for in the future. Voting 'no' or not voting does nothing for no-one. Mwyn's views on Welsh politics, music and Scottish independence are detailed in the link below.

Celtic Connections indeed and here's hoping we can see more of them soon.

Rhys Mwyn: Go Ahead, Punk

1 comment:

Rhys Mwyn said...

Thanks for the digital photocopy - fanzine style.