“It’s genuinely been one of the best experiences I’ve ever had.” The words of Angharad Jenkins as she describes the past few months working with the rest of Pendevig, an exciting new music project set to take traditional Welsh music out of its comfort zone and out into the world.
With their first gig fast approaching – they’re headlining at the prestigious Festival Interceltique de Lorient in Brittany - before hot-footing it back to Wales in time to star in the final concert of the week at the National Eisteddfod in Cardiff, Angharad and the fifteen strong group have been in the studio working on their first album.
“There’s been a shift in attitudes towards ‘traditional’ Welsh music over the past few years,” explains Angharad. “The WOMEX festival came to Cardiff five years ago, and it was as though the world woke up to the potential of Welsh music. Suddenly, everyone wanted to find out more. They’d heard Irish and Scottish music for years, but Welsh music was an enigma, an unknown quantity, so it’s been great to travel the world with Calan over the past few years.”
The project has been supported with funding from Arts Council of Wales, and Pendevig boasts some of the folk scene’s best musicians and performers, the band could easily be branded a ‘supergroup’. All five members of Calan are involved - Bethan Rhiannon on vocals and the accordion, Sam Humphreys on guitar, Alice French on the harp, Patrick Rimes on the violin, hornpipe, whistle, synths and piano, and Angharad on violin.
The other members are Gwilym Bowen Rhys (Plu / Bendith), Iestyn Tyne (Patrobas), Jordan Price Williams (Elfen / Vrï), Aneurin Jones (Vrï), and Jamie Smith and Iolo Wheelan (Jamie Smith’s Mabon). Injecting some funk and jazz influences to the music are Greg Sterland on tenor saxophone, Jake Durham on trombone, Ted Smith on trumpet, and Aeddan Llywelyn on double bass and electric bass.
This eclectic mix of musical genres has proved a great success, with their first single, Lliw Gwyn, shaking the foundations of the Welsh scene earlier this year.
Their second single, Merch y Melinydd is released tomorrow on Synau Pendevig, with the band showing a softer side, as folk meets jazz to create a haunting melody, with Bethan Rhiannon’s beautiful voice bringing a traditional Welsh air straight into the twenty first century. The two singles released so far could not be more different, and this reflects the musical taste and influences within the band according to Angharad.
“We all had our favourites melodies and songs when we first got together. The challenge was choosing which songs we should develop and record for the album. But it all came together remarkably easily,” she said, “the fifteen of us sat in a circle and we just started playing. And little by little, the music developed and we came up with the Pendevig sound, which is different to anything any of us have ever done before.
“As we were all involved in the creative process, the music belongs to us all. It’s all developed so naturally, so organically, and democratically. It’s been wonderful to work in such a warm and inclusive way. We’re all used to collaborating within our own groups, but the fact that we have such an eclectic mix of instruments and people has added so much to the process and to the project. I can’t wait to take it out of the studio and onto a live stage.”
And this will happen in a matter of weeks, as the band are now busily rehearsing for their Lorient debut. “I very much hope the Lorient gig and the Eisteddfod mark the beginning of Pendevig’s journey. There are loads of folk festivals across the UK and beyond, all looking for strong headline acts.
“I really believe that Pendevig offers something totally different to any other band in the scene at the moment, a passion for music, an energy and a new take on our oldest and most traditional melodies. I’d love the project to go from strength to strength and travel the world.”
Catch Pendevig’s first Welsh gig at the Cardiff National Eisteddfod on Thursday 9 August in the Wales Millennium Centre. Limited tickets still available, www.eisteddfod.wales.