Singing in Welsh in the valleys
Dafydd Roberts has supported and encouraged Welsh language music in the south east valleys for 20 years with the influence of the 60s still alive;
“I was brought up in a non-Welsh speaking household on the border, being born and bread in the Oswestry and Chirk area in the north east. Even so, my dad’s side was Welsh and Welsh speaking, more than that they were musical bunch, so it was fair to say that I was raised hearing music from a very young age.
I can remember the excitement of the 1960s having a big impact on a boy in their early teens. In the midst of the battle for the Welsh language – Dafydd Iwan was a huge influence on me in music and politics. And while the Beatles and Rolling Stones were drew me in – Hogia’r Wyddfa and Dafydd Iwan had the same effect. My first public performance was of Dafydd Iwan’n song “Carlo” in 1969 to a non-Welsh speaking crowd in the Parish Hall in Chirk, and the audience joined in singing “Carlo Carlo Carlo”, with little idea of what it meant [Charles, Charles, Charles – referencing the investiture of the Prince of Wales]. But somehow the rock music in my mind was more than the three chord elementary songs that we often heard in Welsh.”
After 40 years of performing in various bands Dafydd Roberts has put the guitar aside and picked up the ukulele;
“The truth was that I started getting tired of hauling heavy amps from one place to another, to pubs and a few hotels, and saw that I was never going to be Tich Gwilym nor Eric Clapton. Then I was invited to accompany a group to sing in a wedding in the west, two songs with one fit for guitar and the other suitable for ukulule! Although I had an ukulele I didn’t pay much attention to the instrument. But it was a start of a journey that has changed my life for the past 5 years.”
The first club was established in 2015 by Menter Iaith Sir Caerffili who asked if Dafydd would consider teaching the ukulele to a small group of adults, learners and Welsh speakers with invitations to perform at the initiative’s events. Dafydd now leads the group as a volunteer and the group is self sufficient. The clubs have gone from strength to strength.
“Bellach rydw i’n dysgu tair gwahanol gangen tair noson yr wythnos gydag oddeutu 50 yn dod i’r sesiynau. Rydym yn dysgu caneuon Cymraeg a Saesneg ac yn denu llawer iawn o ddysgwyr yr iaith i gymdeithasu a chanu yn y Gymraeg. Recently, we’ve formed a small band called “No Problem” (ukuleles, banjo, guitar, Cajon, Hangdrum), which mainly performs in Welsh, and this year we’ll be the first act to play in Welsh at the The National Ukulele Festival of Wales held on the Gower Peninsula in June 2019.”
Now retired after being school Headmaster and leader of the School Support Group, the preparation, presentation and performance of Welsh music in areas of not many Welsh speakers in the South East takes Dafydd a great deal of time and thanks the Mentrau Iaith for the support;
“The adjoining Mentrau Iaith have played a key role as I have the opportunity to perform and teach in the Gwent, Merthyr and Rhondda Cynon Taff areas. We don’t have many of the young Welsh speakers who move into and around Cardiff. Our groups are generally older people (one member over their eighty) and people who have grown up in the eastern valleys. It is a real pleasure to see them socialise and perform contemporary songs with new friends while playing Welsh music.”