“There’s a thriving music scene in Wales at the moment, and we want to bring that energy onto the Pavilion stage this year.” The words of Angharad Jenkins, member of award-winning folk band, Calan, and one of those involved in Pendevig, a brand new group starring some of Wales’s leading musicians, and an exciting project pushing the boundaries of traditional Welsh music.
“We’ll be showcasing so many different music genres,” she said, whilst discussing Pendevig’s first performance in Wales, at the Eisteddfod’s Thursday night concert. “Fusing all these genres to create something totally unexpected, turning traditional music on its head and creating a new type of sound, all live on the Pavilion stage.”
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 – Angharad Jenkins on violin, Bethan Rhiannon on vocals and the accordion, Sam Humphreys on guitar, Alice French on the harp, and Patrick Rimes on the violin, hornpipe, whistle, synths and piano.
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.
Although folk music is what comes naturally to most of them, Pendevig is far from a folk project. “Traditional music is certainly at its core, but influences such as jazz, funk, drum’n’bass, rap, rock and pop transform the music into something else altogether,” says Angharad. “Our aim is to attract a new type of audience to traditional music, and create something that celebrates the incredible resurgence in the folk music scene in Wales over the past 5-10 years. We’re trying to take advantage of this recent energy in the folk scene, and bring the music alive on the Pavilion stage.”
But Pendevig have their sights set further afield than Wales alone, and hope to take this new and exciting music to the world, starting with the Festival Interceltique de Lorient, in Brittany, just before their performance at the Eisteddfod.
“I’d seen what other countries had done at the Lorient Festival in the past, The Usual Suspects when it was Scotland’s year, for example, combining jazz instrumentation with traditional folk instrumentation. And I wanted us to have a chance to explore different genres and create an unforgettable show at the festival.
“It’s Wales’ year at the Lorient Festival this year, and this was too good to miss, so here we are – with an opportunity to put Welsh music on the Celtic world map!”
The project also celebrates Welsh poetry and literature with traditional and modern dance bringing another dimension to the music. “Acoustic elements coupled with epic, high energy performances add to the uniqueness of concert, and we’ll also be reviving the ancient tradition of reciting literature with a staff, but in a very different way. ”
The band recently recorded at the iconic Monnow Valley studios, where the likes of Led Zeppelin, Queen, Oasis, Stereophonics and Black Sabbath have created some of their finest work.
“It was a fantastic experience! Not only because of the legendary musicians who’d recorded there before us, but also because of its wonderful location in the middle of nowhere, surrounded by lush green fields and a river flowing nearby.”
During their week at the studio, the band managed to record everything completely live. “We managed to capture this amazing energy by recording everything live. We were in a kind of musical bubble for the entire week –no contact with the outside world, so the music and ideas flowed so naturally!”
And there’ll be an opportunity for everyone to enjoy this wonderful merging of music genres in a brand new and unique show during this year’s Eisteddfod. “We’re all looking forward to perform on the Pavilion stage at the National Eisteddfod in Cardiff. It’s a chance for us to show how the scene has developed and evolved in recent years. And if you’ve always thought that folk music isn’t your thing, think again and come and experience this electric reaction to tradition.”
She added, “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.”
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 Melinyddis 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.”
“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.