Latest news »Revisiting the songs on 9Bach's Anian album
Over the next few weeks we're revisiting four artists and albums on Real World Records that embrace and utilise their traditional folk roots only to re-shape them to create something totally new.
9Bach make music that is an emotional hybrid of the Welsh folk tradition and of contemporary influences and working practices. They are helping redefine what Welsh music is; lyrically mixing age-old stories with the acute concerns of the modern world and musically unafraid.
Here, the group's lead songwriter Lisa Jen Brown gives an insight into the inspiration behind and meaning of the songs on the album Anian:
Anian: nature, the natural order, natural morality; nature, the (natural) world, creation.
"I found this album came from a desperate and slightly anarchic place and I found myself looking to the present with this album. It marks where I'm at, whether it's my age, being a mother, or simply being much more exposed to social media where I'm faced with and forced to see pictures and videos, images and words that I simply can't cope with right now in my life."
1. Llyn Du
Imagine Cwm Idwal lake or Ogwen lake on a moonlit night. You might come across this deranged and damaged queen under the black shimmering ice cold water:
'I am the queen of the black lake,
take me, lead me'
It's song is based on the book 'One Moonlit Night' by Caradog Prichard, a novel that had a great affect on me when I was young and still remains my favourite ever Welsh novel.
It's a song about a connection to a place: A connection to someone. A laugh or a quality or characteristic that strikes you and leaves you breathless. We need to start looking, start feeling things. Feel it in your belly, feel it in your genitals… just feel for God's sake!
3. Yr Olaf
A song inspired by a photo of Sudan, the last male white rhino. It is from the perspective of a poacher:
'Bring me your soul,
I'll destroy it'
It's like the poacher talking to the animal just before he/she destroys it. Prick! Then the bridge of the song where it goes acapela is in the third person and says: 'How does it feel to look at the last, the last, ultimate and final of its kind?'
I'm questioning what kind of person are you that wants to destroy such an amazing thing? Who has pleasure in planting their dagger in leathery skin and enjoys the last glimmer in their eye. I love singing this song. It makes me angry!
This is a true story. Ivan is a boy, he leaves his flat, as his step-dad shouts and his mum cries, and walks out into the snow carrying nothing but a ripped magazine picture of Svetlana. After weeks of living on the street along with other children, who aren't very nice, he slowly builds a relationship with the wild dogs.
He can reach into the bins, and share the rubbish food, and he gets their protection in return. Ivan is happy. Ivan trusts the dogs because they don't lie like humans do. Ivan is ok, he feels love… loved… by them. He is in a routine and he feels warmth amidst the freezing cold nights.
In the end the authorities capture him, after a few failed attempts because the dogs attacked the officers each time they tried, and place him in an orphanage. He is the saddest he has ever been, he didn't want rescuing.
This song is the moment when Ivan and the dogs are separated, the She dog, the head of the pack, the beautiful one… and him, are ripped apart and never to see each other again.
5. Si Hwi Hwi
This is an old Welsh folk song. It's amazing as it is from the perspective of a black woman, who is singing to her child on their last night together before the baby will be killed and her bound in chains.
It's an anti-slavery song. A man from Blaenau Ffestiniog emigrated to the States in 1850s and as a response to the injustices of slavery, he wrote this poem.
The verse was only short, and I wrote a second verse to it. The mother compares a grave to a feast and festival, as anything would be better that THIS… separating her from her child. In the end she makes a decision to kill herself and her child than give her self up to the white man.
Documented by Dr Meredydd Evans, his mother used to sing it to him as a child in Tanygrisiau where they lived (near Bleanau) it has a special meaning, as it is literally an undocumented song and simply passed from mother to boy. Luckily he sang it and that's how I know it.
This is heavily influenced by Greek Rembetika songs from the Greek Underworld… The opium smoking dark underground, dirty dangerous bars, where the musicians would sing. Songs are mainly about poverty, love, social injustice, the fights of the labouring class and the freedom of Greeks from fascists of all kinds.
It's about admitting that sometimes you are wrong. We all do wrong… It's about questioning what ARE you doing to help this dying world and all its people suffering… And how long can you go on looking away, ignoring and burying things and issues.
Admit that you aren't doing anything substantial to help… anything.
Inspired by this story. It's from a perspective of a crow, not that you know it even if you can speak Welsh, it's cryptic and not one mention of black feathers and mean eyes! It's from a desperate and passionate point of view. It's about the act of giving, of WANTING to give and to please. It's about human relations with nature and creatures we share this world with, how beautiful they are, and how we couldn't give a flying fuck. How removed are we by now from having a relationship with other species?
This is a positive song though, celebrating a partnership and relation and love that you can share.
These are words by Gerallt Lloyd Owen - my favourite poet who died recently. He has an amazing gift of making you feel guilty as a Welsh person… for fucking it up, for not giving a shit about your language and his famous poem was about Llewelyn, our last prince who died in 1282. Heno is written more recently and is a lament for the dying of the Welsh nation.
We have deconstructed the dreaded Cerdd Dant. Cerdd Dant is a unique tradition of singing lyrics over a harp accompaniment. There are strict rules about rhythm and cadences. As much as it remains an important part of Welsh culture, and a major element in The National eisteddfod… It is really not cool. I have a very complicated relationship with Cerdd Dant where I absolutely hate it and yet… I'm fascinated by it. It scares me and moves me at the same time! It is such a marmite thing in Wales that Esyllt (9Bach harpist) refused to be involved in the development of the song!
Our take on it was to actually sing the harp part and harmonise the melody so that it actually has soul - I hope. I can't listen to Cerdd Dant a lot, but I am proud of what Mirain (9Bach piano/vocals) and I have done with this. We've fucked it right up! Playing with rules and coming away from the tradition!
The dying human, is left in an apocalyptic world. She asks an imaginary bird to go to The World and say sorry. When do we realise it's too late? When IT IS too late I suppose.
10. Ambell Hiraeth (Trad)
A combination of three Welsh folk songs. I've mashed them into one. It's melancholic and talks about being ready for the grave… there is hiraeth for a person and hiraeth for a place.
Although there is appreciation for music and song, that is a balm to the soul; a little hope. Then there is heartache and a gesture of 'please save me' my heart will break… I can't live… I won't be alive for much longer. Very sad.
11. Breuddwyd Y Bardd (Trad)
A poets dream; his eyes are slowly closing, and as he sighs and dreams he sees himself as something he never was. In his dreams he hopes, he visualises life as beautiful and joyful. It is all a fantasy, like life, how real is all of this?
The dreamer dreams the dreams of his heart.