10 Mewn Bws

The 10 Mewn Bws (10 in a Bus) project aimed to reinterpret and demystify traditional Welsh folk music by selecting ten musicians from different musical backgrounds to research their musical roots and to reinterpret Welsh traditional music in a ways relevant to them, and to modern audiences.

The project had four phases: research, writing, recording and touring.

The ten musicians travelled around Wales, visiting the sound archives in St Fagan’s and the National Library’s music collections, as well as meeting some of Wales’s ‘tradition bearers’ and ethnomusicologists including Phyllis Kinney and Meredydd Evans, Arfon Gwilym, and Stephen Rees.

Then, in a week-long writing retreat at Tŷ Newydd, Llanystumdwy, they were encouraged to work together to re-interpret the traditional material, as well as composing new work based on their experiences during the research phase.

The end product was a complete album, released by trac and Sain Records in October 2013, and a tour of Wales. Here’s a taster:

The tour concluded at the Swn Festival at the start of the World Music Expo (WOMEX) event in Cardiff, a timely celebration of a successful year-long project, and of traditional Welsh music at a global event. Since then, 10 Mewn Bws have toured again in Wales, including playing at the Hay Festival, supporting Cerys Matthews. They’re delighted to be finalists in the National Lottery Awards.

So how was it for the musicians?

The whole week was life changing for me e.g. having the opportunity of meeting Meredydd Evans and seeing the archives in both Aberystwth and St. Fagans and knowing the abundance of material which is held there. I cannot thank all of you at trac enough.

Huw Evans after the research phase.

The most valuable part of the project for me was the research week, it was an eye opener. I learnt things that have changed the course of my life. I’ve started an MA course at Bangor University to look at traditional Welsh music, which is a direct outcome of my experiences during the week on the bus. It was an honour to be part of this valuable and unique experience. This project has influenced me as a musician in a big way. It has given me confidence as an individual, and I’m more confident in my ability as a fiddle player, in my singing and through composing/arranging.

Mari Morgan

The highlight for me was being able to access Welsh culture in a way that I have never been able to, as a non-Welsh speaker…. Most of this was an unseen world to me and it has been fascinating.

 Francesca Simmons

The research week was so inspirational. Before the project, I didn’t really know where to start looking for old songs, but now I feel like I have, enough inspiration for a number of lifetimes work! The project has totally blown my mind! The main thing I’ve learnt from the project is to crack on with researching, arranging and releasing all of the amazing material that is just sitting in the archives waiting for a new lease of life. The project has given me as a musician, lots of exposure and has helped my career progress a great deal With out wanting to sound cheesy, it’s true what Craig said – 10 mewn Bws has changed my life!!!! Diolch o galon.

Catrin O’Neill

Meet the ten

Gwilym Bowen Rhys
Gwilym Bowen Rhys from Bethel, Caernarfon, is the youngest of the ten musicians, but he is familiar to many on the Welsh Rock Scene as a member of the rock/pop band Y Bandana. He has recently set up an alternative folk band with his two sisters called Plu. Recently his interest in Welsh and Celtic traditional music has grown incredibly and he’s eager to create more.

Lleuwen Steffan
Lleuwen Steffan is a singer/songwriter from the Ogwen Valley. As well as a nomination for the Welsh Music Awards, her latest album, Tân, won the award for Album of The Year in France 3 TV’s annual awards. Lleuwen won the Liet International songwriting competition in Gijon in December for her Breton song, Ar Gouloù Bev.

Francesca Simmons
Francesca was born and raised in North Wales. At the age of eight she began learning the violin, with her classical training taking her to Manchester University and then TCM, London. Here she began to work with contemporary composers, street performers and bands. Then, she ran away to join the circus, honing her musical saw playing, and meeting musicians from all over Europe. She is delighted to have swapped a circus wagon for a bus round Wales! You can read about her musical exploits in her blog ‘My Red Violin‘.

Gwen Mairi York
Harpist, Gwen Màiri was brought up in a Welsh-speaking household in Scotland where she studied at the Royal Scottish Academy of Music and Drama (now Royal Conservatoire of Scotland). Since graduating she has worked professionally with orchestras and chamber groups and has many pupils at the Glasgow Gaelic School and the RCS Junior Department. In recent years, Gwen has been spending more time with traditional music and the clàrsach, using the Welsh and Scottish folk music she grew up with.

Craig Chapman
From Aberdare, Craig Chapman is always trying to find ways of blending organic and digital music together in ways that compliment each other. Influenced by LCD Soundsystem, SFA and Hot Chip to name but a few, Craig is the pioneer of Replaced by Robots and is one half of John Mouse. He studied Pop Music at the University of Salford, Manchester and will bring his expertise of trumpet, guitar and synth/keyboard to this project.

Mari Morgan
Originally from Pontiets in the Gwendraeth Valley, Mari now lives in Caernarfon. As a fiddle player she has a strong grounding in traditional music, and has been familiar with the songs and tunes since before she can remember. She also studied classical violin during her time at the University of Bangor. She often plays with the pop band Them Lovely Boys and also does the occasional session work. She is into music from all genres.

Ellen Jordan
Ellen Jordan is a York based music graduate and cellist from Llangammarch Wells, Powys. She enjoys collaborating across disciplines, and has worked as a composer, sound designer and performer in theatre, chamber opera, visual arts and contemporary dance productions. Ellen has also artistic directed and managed a number of unique events, such as a Javanese gamelan wayang (shadow puppetry play), based on the Mabinogi story, Culhwch ac Olwen. She often experiments with folk melodies, vocals and field recordings in her compositions.

Huw Evans
Huw Evans is a folk singer, flautist and composer from Neath, South Wales. He started playing Welsh Folk music in school. He studied voice, flute and viola at Trinity Colege of Music in London. Highlights of Huw’s classical career included performing at the Royal Festival Hall, St Martins-In-The-Fields and Birmingham Symphony Hall. He performed classical music until his early 20’s and then started to developed an interest in Welsh folk music. Huw’s passion for Welsh folk music intensified after attending ‘The Big Experiment’ Wales’ annual folk school in 2010 and he has taken every opportunity to perform Welsh Folk music since then. Huw enjoys introducing Welsh Folk music to new audiences and has performed in song nights and sessions in Wales, England and Canada.

Catrin O’Neill
Based in Treharris, Catrin O’Neill is a Welsh folk singer originally from Aberdyfi. Catrin can turn her hand from hauntingly beautiful airs sung in her native Welsh, to rowdy Irish drinking songs accompanied only with her Bodhran. She has performed extensively around Wales and is passionate about bringing traditional Welsh music to new audiences.

Leon Ruscitto
Leon Ruscitto is a drum kit and percussion player from Swansea. A graduate from the Royal Northern College of Music, Leon in experienced in performing in a range of musical styles such as performing with Big Bands, the National Youth Welsh Jazz Orchestra and his originals project Who’s Molly who he have performed at such places as the Troubadour and the Bedford (London) the Cavern Club (Liverpool) and at Wales’s Party in the Park festival alongside acts such as Alexandra Burke and Steps. Leon also blends soul, indie and rock in the successful function band, the Provocateurs who perform regularly and have appeared at some established venues and events in the last year including the Gherkin (London) and the Isle of man TT races.

Contact Angharad Jenkins for more information  / prosiect@trac-cymru.org

10 Mewn Bws News

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