With over 125,000 people in Australia claiming Welsh heritage, it is only natural that there is a great interest in Welsh traditions across the country. The National Eisteddfod and the National Celtic Folk Festival have launched a brand new partnership, which promotes Welsh culture on an international stage.
And this partnership is launched through a beautiful collaboration between one of Wales's leading folk musicians, Angharad Jenkins (Calan, DnA, Pendevig) and Jenny M Thomas of the band, Bush Gothic, who are known for reinterpreting Australia's darkest and most unfamiliar folk songs, as well as reworking familiar yet non-fashionable songs.
During the lockdown period, Jenny and Angharad collaborated in different parts of the world, sharing experiences and songs, as Jenny learned about our music here in Wales. They initially worked on two songs, I fyw, i fôd, and Sosban Fach.
Angharad said, “Over the past few months, Jenny and I have been learning, discovering and sharing stories about our countries, our language and our culture. When working on ideas, we had to deal with the time difference, my personal technical limitations, and of course, the language rule. We've spent hours discussing and sharing ideas on Zoom, and it's great that the songs are being released today.”
Jenny added, “At first the project seemed impossible, but it was amazing. There was no way of knowing how we were going to achieve it, and we had hundreds of different ideas. My heart jumped at the idea of collaborating with my fellow musicians, Chris and Dan, again. We feel real pride today as we release the songs around the world. ”
With Jenny's ancestors from Llanelli, she was delighted to have the opportunity to work on a song with such an iconic connection to the town as Sosban Fach, and Angharad said, "It just felt natural for us to present the song to the group. It may not be a very original choice for the Eisteddfod audience, but I was fascinated to see how Bush Gothic would arrange the music and deal with the song.”
The songs will be released on Apple Music, Amazon, Spotify, Pandora, Deezer and Bandcamp, with a live premiere on Bush Gothic's YouTube channel at 11:00, on Tuesday, 20 October.
Bush Gothic and Angharad’s collaboration is the first in a series of projects that the Eisteddfod and the National Celtic Folk Festival hope to complete over the next few years, and Eisteddfod Organiser and Artistic Director Elen Elis said, "This partnership is part of our international strategy to ensure that our language and culture is recognised amongst the best in the world. We have long wanted to develop a project that showcases traditional music in a completely alternative way, and the lockdown period was a perfect opportunity for us to get Angharad and Jenny together, albeit virtually.
“It’s important that we develop international opportunities for artists who normally perform with us at the National Eisteddfod. We want everyone to see how fantastic Welsh culture is, and the quality of our artists. This important partnership with the National Celtic Folk Festival in Australia is a great opportunity to do this, and we look forward to working on a number of other joint projects with Una and the team in the future.”
The National Celtic Folk Festival has long been forging links with Celtic countries. The intention is to create opportunities for Celtic artists to perform in Australia, creating a new market for their music, and although this is a digital project at the moment, director Una McAlinden is delighted with the result.
She said, “This is such an authentic partnership, bringing rich diversity, creativity and passion, and importantly a deep connection to culture. Just what we need to sustain and inspire us in these times, now and deep into the future.
“We’ve enjoyed working with the artists and with the National Eisteddfod, and it is great that we share the same vision about the importance of partnerships to connect cultures and increase collaboration across the world. It’s vital that we preserve our traditions and give artists today, and future generations, the opportunity to put their own stamp on our culture.”
For more information about the National Eisteddfod, visit www.eisteddfod.wales, and to learn more about the National Celtic Folk Festival, visit www.nationalcelticfestival.com.