Agit Disco 12 by Sian Addicott
Undeniably, English colonialism has consistently affected Welsh identity. The ‘Welsh Not’ in the 19th century (which forbade children from speaking in their native tongue in schools) and the flooding of the Tryweryn valley to provide water for the city of Liverpool in the 1960s, are potent, visual examples of repression which have had lasting effects.
The CD image is of the reservoir which hides a drowned village. Farms, homes, a church and even a graveyard lie beneath the Llyn Celyn reservoir. The area was drowned as part of a reservoir development scheme by the Liverpool Corporation in the 1950’s and 1960′s. The Corporation never actually needed or used the water, instead it was sold on at a profit.
These songs are not all related to language, some are in Welsh, but all have something of a political message whether it’s poking fun at the monarchy or highlighting the economic situation which makes so many young people leave Wales (despite which, the Hiraeth remains strong with many ex-pats!)
1. ‘Freedom Train’ by Paul Robeson
(from the Freedom Train and Welsh Transatlantic Recordings 1954)
A poem by Langston Hughes set to music. The history between Paul Robeson and Welsh miners spans back some 70 years, both finding solidarity in their socialist convictions and fight against oppression. Robeson performed several times in the working men’s clubs in the valleys. In 1938, he performed at the Welsh International Brigades Memorial at Mountain Ash (my father’s home town) to commemorate the 33 Welshmen who had died fighting in the civil war in Spain. In 1957 Robeson was invited to perform at the Miner’s Eisteddfod in Porthcawl. The US government had confiscated Robeson’s passport, accusing him of Communist links and ‘anti-Americanism’. As a result Robeson performed in secret via a trans-atlantic telephone call. ‘Freedom Train’ is taken from these recordings.
2. ‘Carlo’ by Dafydd Iwan
‘Carlo’ by Dafydd Iwan was composed as a satirical response to the investiture of Prince Charles in 1969. The lyrics poke fun at Charlie’s ‘love’ for the Welsh language and raise the issue of colonial rule. Apparently the song sold 13,000 copies in the first week!
Mae gen i ffrind bach yn byw ym Mycingam Palas
A Charlo Winsor yw ei enw e;
Tro dwetha yr es i i gnoco ar ddrws ei dŷ,
Daeth ei fam i’r drws a medde hi wrtha i:
‘O Carlo, Carlo, Carlo’n whare polo heddi,
Carlo, Carlo, Carlo’n whare polo gyda dadi.’
Ymunwch yn y gân, daeogion fawr a mân,
O’r diwedd mae gyda ni Brins yng Ngwlad y Gân.
© Cyhoeddiadau Sain
The lyrics translate:
I have a little friend who lives in Muckingham Palace
And Carlo Windsor is his name;
The last time I went to knock on the door of his house,
His mother came to the door and she said to me:
‘Oh, Carlo, Carlo, Carlo, he play polo today,
Carlo, Carlo, Carlo, he play polo with daddy.’
Join in the song, serfs great and small,
At last we have a Prince in the Land of Song.
3. ‘Do not go gentle into that good night’ by John Cale (1992)
‘Do not go gentle..’ (Dylan Thomas’s famous poem set to music by Welsh musician John Cale ) is a protest song of sorts, raging against death. I was born and brought up in Swansea (Dylan’s “ugly, lovely town”) which now has a dedicated Dylan Thomas Museum and a blue plaque on his childhood home. As a non-Welsh speaker some have argued that during his lifetime Thomas’s works (all written in the English language) were more appreciated in England and America than in his homeland. ‘Do not go gentle’ also breaks grammatical rules. By playing around with the syntax, Thomas can be seen to be making the English language his own.
4. ‘P.C.P’ by Manic Street Preachers (Holy Bible 1994)
Teacher starve your child, P.C. approved
As long as the right words are used
Systemised atrocity ignored
As long as bi-lingual signs on view
Lyrics © Richey James and Nicky Wire
5. ‘Sixty Eight Guns’ by The Alarm ((( (1983)
6. ‘International Velvet’ by Catatonia (International Velvet 1998)
This song contains the lines ‘Everyday when I wake up, I thank the Lord I’m Welsh’. It is is often played before rugby internationals at the Millenium Stadium with the crowd singing along (without irony…)
The song seemed to come at a turning point in recent Welsh cultural identity, termed ‘Cool Cymru’ by some, when being Welsh no longer seemed to be a such a bad thing.
Lyrics © Catatonia
7. ‘How I Long’ by Gorky’s Zygotic Mynci (How I Long to Feel the Summer in My Heart, 2001)
Out here in the country
Where stars they shine
You can even take a walk by moonshine
Though I long to stay
I’ve just got to go
Where money is made
Cold winds blow
Lyrics © Gorky’s Zygotic Mynci
8. ‘Man Don’t Give a Fuck’ by Super Furry Animals (1996)
Performed live this song has even more energy than the recorded version. SFA frequently end their gigs with an encore of this song and the atmosphere is always electric. The song is often accompanied with visuals and samples quoting Bill Hicks: ‘All governments are liars and murderers’.
Out of focus ideology
Keep the masses from majority
Experts, brain washed, tumble dried
Left to bleed whilst vultures glide
You know they don’t give a fuck about anybody else (X8)
You know they
Lyrics © Super Furry Animals