Folk Alliance International
Four of Welsh folk music’s brightest acts are off to the US in February to showcase their music at the Folk Alliance International conference in Kansas City. Lleuwen Steffan, Plu, The Gentle Good and Calan all have official showcases at the huge event, the biggest trade fair for folk and traditional music. The Horizons Suite will host additional showcases featuring UK acts and guests.
The conference hosts two thousand showcases over four days, and the Welsh artists and trac staff supporting them are part of a bigger British delegation under the banner Horizons – A World of Music from the UK. trac Director Danny KilBride said “trac has been working on this for some years – attending the conference, building relationships with contacts overseas and preparing the way for Welsh acts. We’re looking forward to sharing just some of the talent Wales has to offer.” trac Manager, Blanche Rowen, will be running the trade fair stand and Danny will jointly run the Horizons Suite with our partner organisations.
It’s all been made possible by funding from the Arts Council of Wales and Wales Arts International. Our partners in the delegation are British Underground, which helps promote UK music abroad, and the English Folk Dance & Song Society which is also taking out a number of acts. In past years trac has hosted Calan, Olion Byw, Siân James, Gwenan Gibbard, Gwyneth Glyn, Lowri Evans, DnA, and Chris Jones at the FAI Horizons Suite.
Calan brings together the remarkable talents of five young musicians giving a fresh and vibrant sound to traditional Welsh music. With sparkling melodies, foot tapping tunes and featuring spirited and energetic Welsh step dancing, they blast their way through reels, jigs and hornpipes before melting into beautiful and haunting songs. They’ve recently returned home triumphant from two sell-out tours of the US and Canada.
Sibling trio Elan, Marged and Gwilym Rhys, from the mountains of North Wales, play Welsh language alternative folk music with hints of country/ Americana and a back-bone of close three part harmonies. As well as their own material Plu play modern interpretations of traditional songs from Wales. They have three albums to their name including a captivating album of songs for children and Gwilym is a solo artist too. Plu (say “plee”) means ‘feathers’ in Welsh, and their live performances blend exquisite music with quirky charm.
The Gentle Good is the stage-name of songwriter Gareth Bonello, who draws on the poetry and melodies of his native country to create beautiful modern folk music in both English and Welsh.
As a performer Gareth is well-travelled and versatile, most often performing solo but sometimes with a full band and string quartet. A skilled guitarist, Gareth’s intricate playing has prompted many to draw comparisons with the great guitar pickers of the 1960s UK folk revival. In 2009 Gareth was chosen to perform at the Smithsonian Folklife Festival in Washington DC. Since then he’s performed all over the world, from car parks and bars in Austin, Texas to solo performances at the Forbidden City Concert Hall in Beijing.
Singer, songwriter and guitarist Lleuwen Steffan works not only in English and Welsh, but in French and Breton too. She has sung contemporary interpretations of old Welsh hymns, described as ‘The most unusual, strangely beautiful album that you’re likely to hear.’ Her debut solo album Penmon, focusing around the ebb and flow of the Welsh landscape, gained great reviews internationally. She went on to live, work and record her third album in Brittany, winning Liet International (http://liet-international.com) for one of her Breton language songs, Ar Gouloù Bev, before returning recently to Wales. An interceltic gem, not to be missed.