Various Artists - Caneuon Protest
There is always a place for campaigning, for protest and challenging the status quo in any civilised society. It is a measure of the health of any culture that its songs also express that protest from time to time. This compilation of 30 Welsh protest songs is released to coincide with the series of programmes to be screened by S4C over the coming weeks.
Songs have been a natural medium for expressing strong emotions and political protest for centuries, and here in Wales there is a long tradition of ballads with a strong social and political theme. SAIN was formed during the height of the campaigns for the Welsh language and for Wales to be recognized as a nation, and the songs it recorded have always had a strong political content. The political theme has continued, albeit in various degrees of intensity, to the present day.
This new collection shows how the political theme has changed, and how the canvas has expanded to include references to the anti-aprtheid struggle in South Africa and the civil rights campaigns in North America. But the main subjects, whatever the musical style, has been the fight for the survival of the welsh language, workers’ rights, and the fight for Welsh territory, especially as exemplified in the drowning of the Tryweryn valley.
There is always a place for campaigning, for protest and challenging the status quo in any civilised society. It is a measure of the health of any culture that its songs also express that protest from time to time.
1.Cymru, Lloegr a Llanrwst (“Wales, England and Llanrwst”): Y CYRFF (who went on to form Catatonia with Cerys Mathews): their best known anthem: Perhaps not a protest song as such, but a great song just the same.
2.Ciosg Talysarn (“Talysarn kiosk”): DAFYDD IWAN. In 1982, “undercover” police were caught bugging a public telephone kiosk in the village of Talysarn near Caernarfon (ostensibly to catch second home arsonists). They ddin’t catch anyone. But the song played its part.
3.Rhaid yw eu tynnu i lawr (“They must be taken down” ) : CHWYLDRO. The Aberystwyth Uni. Girl band sing their contribution to the road-signs campaign of the late 60s /early 70s
4.NCB (“National Coal Board”): LLYGOD FFYRNIG. One of the few Welsh language genuine punk bands give their angry tribute to the coal industry.
5.Adferwch y cymoedd (“Restore the Valleys”): OMEGA: Delwyn Siôn, from Aberdare, still a prolific songwriter, felt that a voice had to be raised for the Valleys among all the songs about rural Welsh-speaking Wales.
6.Tŷ Haf (“Summer home”): EDWARD H. DAFIS: “Summer” or “second homes” became a popular object of protest during the 80s and 90s. This is the classic summer-home satirical protest song by the most successful Welsh language rock band ever.
7.Cenhadon Casineb ( “Missionaries of hatred”) : GERAINT JARMAN: At the height of the Welsh language campaigns, some hatred was occasionally shown towards the campaigners, and Jarman often encapsulated the mood of the times in his songs.
8.Nid eu hanes nhw yw fy stori i (“Their history is not my story”): GERAINT LOVGREEN. Another songwriter who packs a lot into his words, this is a protest at the history we are taught in our schools – the story of English Kings is hardly the story of the people of Wales.
9.Dewch i’r llysoedd (“Come to the courts”): HERGEST: a group heavily influenced by West Coast US music of the 80s, but their songs are home-grown. This is a battle cry rising again from the language campaigns, when court cases involving campaigners were a common occurrence.
10.Etifeddiaeth ar werth (“Inheritance for sale”): HUW CHISWELL: The singer-songwriter from the Swansea Valley protests at the selling of Wales’ inheritance in the name of progress.
11.Da ni’m yn rhan o’th gêm fach di (“We’re not a part of your little game”): MAFFIA MR. HUWS: the Bethesda rockers send a message to Ronald Reagan when he was US President.
12.Tryweryn: MEIC STEVENS: The drowning of the Tryweryn Valley near Bala in the mid-60s had a tremendous effect on the Welsh political psyche, and this is one of many songs written on the subject, which has become a classic (Co-written by Heather Jones of Cardiff).
13.Llwch y glo (“Coal dust”): MYNEDIAD AM DDIM: Another vocal group formed at Aberystwyth Uni. with their tribute to the coalminers. Written by a member of the group Iwan Roberts and the late Rod Barrar from Nelson, it is one of many songs reflecting the hardship – and the camaraderie – of the coal industry.
14.Tân yn Llŷn (“Fire on the Lleyn”): PLETHYN: Plethyn are best known for their “plygain” brand of close-harmony folk singing, but this is a song composed by Ann Fychan to commemorate the burning of the bombing school on the Llŷn peninsula in 1936, a political direct action of nationalist and pacifist significance.
15.Ta-ta Botha: SOBIN A’R SMAELIAID : Bryn Fôn fronted this band which was very popular on the Welsh scene during the 80s and 90s, and this song celebrating the demise of the last white South African president needs no explanation. Many Welsh language campaigners identified themselves with the struggle against apartheid.
1.Affrikaaners y Gymru Newydd (“Afrikaaners of the New Wales”): STEVE EAVES: Again, taking its theme from the South African situation, Steve Eaves compares the attitude of some people to the Welsh language with the Afrikaaner’s attitude to colour.
2.D’yn ni ddim yn mynd i Birmingham (“We’re not going to Birmingham”): TEBOT PIWS: At one time during the 70s, the BBC, as part of a cost-cutting exercise, began recording some Welsh language TV programmes in their Birmingham studios. As the growth of Welsh broadcasting meant the growing status of Cardiff, this was seen as an affront to the Welsh, and Tebot Piws was one of many artists who refused to go to Birmingham.
3.Niggers Cymraeg (“Welsh niggers”): TRWYNAU COCH. Similar to the Steve Eaves track, “niggers” is sdeliberately used as a symbol of the way some people treated the Welsh people. The inference is that when Welsh speakers and black people are appreciated as people, the use of derogatory terms such as “niggers” will cease.
4.Arwyr estron (“Foreign heroes”): ENDAF EMLYN: Probably the most “sophisticated” protest in the collection, this song decries the nature of modern culture where the “heroes” are film and pop stars from a faraway land. Sung as it is in a “minority” language, the point is even more relevant.
5.Gwrthod bod yn blant bach da (“Refusing to be good little children”): TECWYN IFAN. This is the most recently composed song in the collection, written by poet Myrddin ap Dafydd as a tribute to Cymdeithas yr Iaith Gymraeg (“The Welsh Language Society”), one of the longest surviving direct-action protest movements in the world, founded in 1962.
6.Peintio’r Byd yn Wyrdd (“Painting the world green”): DAFYDD IWAN. Another song to grow directly from the Welsh road-signs campaign. When all else had failed, Cymdeithas embarked on a campaign to paint all English-only road-signs with green paint. After a year’s moratorium, the signs were taken down. Several court-cases and imprisonments later, signs were erected in both Welsh and English.
7.Hunaniaeth (“Identity”): ANWELEDIG. The Blaenau Ffestiniog band brought their own view of the world, and fresh musicality, to the Welsh scene. Here they take the word usually linked to hard-line Welsh culturalism and stress the need for cultural diversity, and the need for co-existence.
8.Nid Cymru fydd Cymru (“Wales will not be Wales”): HEN WLAD FY MAMAU: In 1995, Rhys Mwyn brought an array of artists together from several genres and explored the idea of Welshness in an exciting new way. The voice heard during this track is that of Saunders Lewis, and his quote (from his 1962 lecture “Tynged yr Iaith”) is “Wales will not be Wales without the Welsh language”. 9.Sut fedrwch chi anghofio? (“How can you forget?”): The song by Huw Jones, written in the early 70s, is a call for us to be aware of the injustice in so many parts of the world, and if we do not act today, our children will suffer in the future. It is sung by Sion Sebon from the second Hen Wlad fy Mamau album released in 2000.
10.Pam fod eira yn wyn? (“Only fools ask why snow is white”): MIM TWM LLAI. Gai Toms sings his own quirky version of the Dafydd Iwan song (written when he was facing a longish prison sentence for language campaigns in 1971). It says that the important things are those we feel in our heart, not thos ewritten in manifestos.
11.Cymro (“Welshman”): NAR: The young Gwynedd band released this song in 2004, and it is in a sense the reflections of the nest generation, feeling they do not have to fight their corner, yet using the word “Cymro” almost as an aggressive word of protest itself. Sartre once said that speaking Breton was a revolutionary act.
12.Madame Guillotine: SIBRYDION: The brothers Osian and Meilir Gwynedd also belong to the new generation – sons of the revolution as it were. Here they turn, with tongue in cheek, to the French revolution, and explore some lively anti-royalist sentiments.
13.I gael Cymru yn Gymru rydd (“To make Wales a Free Wales”): IRIS WILLIAMS. An early winner of the Song for Wales competition, written by Rod Thomas with words by actor Robin Gruffydd, this is an example of a “straight” patriotic song , but in 1974 the concept of a “Free Wales” was the stuff of dreams not reality.
14.Dŵr (“Water”): HUW JONES. This was the first of a new generation of political songs, and the first Welsh language song recorded using multi-track technology. Inspired, like so many, by the drowning of both Tryweryn and Clywedog valleys, it uses the water itself as the symbol of injustice.
15.Mae’n wlad i mi “This land is my land, this land is your land”: MONIARS. The Woody Guthrie original was itself the first of a new generation of political songs, and was a protest against the suffering during the Depression in America. Dafydd Iwan and Edward’s Welsh version has been added to by Dyfed Edwards to reflect some of the less favourable aspects of life in present-day Wales.