Category Archives: Wales

THE HISTORY OF CELTIC-ROCK MUSIC

Today the 30492- London Celtic Punks web zine is four years old today so what better way to celebrate our birthday than to give you this small but perfectly formed potted history of Celtic-Rock. We have never just wanted to be a place that only reviews new records we want to celebrate everything that makes us celtic-punks. Our love of our roots and our history and our traditions and the love that those with no Celtic ancestry have as well. Celtic-Punk is for all that share our common values of friendship and solidarity and the love of a good time. Music cannot change the world but it can certainly make it a better place to live in and in these uncertain times that is something we all need. The roots of celtic-punk should be important to us as that is where we come from and we must never forget that.

The London Celtic Punks Admin Team

Celtic rock is a genre of folk rock, as well as a form of Celtic fusion which incorporates Celtic music, instrumentation and themes into a rock music context. It has been extremely prolific since the early 1970’s and can be seen as a key foundation of the development of highly successful mainstream Celtic bands and popular musical performers, as well as creating important derivatives through further fusions. It has played a major role in the maintenance and definition of regional and national identities and in fostering a pan-Celtic culture. It has also helped to communicate those cultures to external audiences.

Definition

The style of music is the hybrid of traditional Irish, Scottish Gaelic, Welsh and Breton musical forms with rock music. This has been achieved by the playing of traditional music, particularly ballads, jigs and reels with rock instrumentation; by the addition of traditional Celtic instruments, including the Celtic harp, tin whistle, uilleann pipes (or Irish Bagpipes), fiddle, bodhrán, accordion, concertina, melodeon, and bagpipes (highland) to conventional rock formats; by the use of lyrics in Celtic languages and by the use of traditional rhythms and cadences in otherwise conventional rock music. Just as the validity of the term Celtic in general and as a musical label is disputed, the term Celtic rock cannot be taken to mean there was a unified Celtic musical culture between the Celtic nations. However, the term has remained useful as a means of describing the spread, adaptation and further development of the musical form in different but related contexts.

History

Origins

Celtic rock developed out of the (originally English) electric folk scene at the beginning of the 1970’s. The first recorded use of the term may have been by the Scottish singer Donovan to describe the folk rock he created for his Open Road album in 1970, which itself featured a song named ‘Celtic Rock’. However, the lack of a clear Celtic elements to the self-penned tracks mean that even if the name was taken from here, this is not the first example of the genre that was to develop.

Ireland

It was in Ireland that Celtic rock was first clearly evident as musicians attempted to apply the use of traditional and electric music to their own cultural context. By the end of the 1960’s Ireland already had perhaps the most flourishing folk music tradition and a growing blues and pop scene, which provided a basis for Irish rock. Perhaps the most successful product of this scene was the band Thin Lizzy. Formed in 1969 their first two albums were recognisably influenced by traditional Irish music and their first hit single ‘Whisky in the Jar’ in 1972, was a rock version of a traditional Irish song. From this point they began to move towards the hard rock that allowed them to gain a series of hit singles and albums, but retained some occasional elements of Celtic rock on later albums such as Jailbreak (1976). Formed in 1970, Horslips were the first Irish group to have the terms ‘Celtic rock’ applied to them, produced work that included traditional Irish/Celtic music and instrumentation, Celtic themes and imagery, concept albums based on Irish mythology in a way that entered the territory of progressive rock all powered by a hard rock sound. Horslips are considered important in the history of Irish rock as they were the first major band to enjoy success without having to leave their native country and can be seen as providing a template for Celtic rock in Ireland and elsewhere. These developments ran in parallel with the burgeoning folk revival in Ireland that included groups such as Planxty and the Bothy Band. It was from this tradition that Clannad, whose first album was released in 1973, adopted electric instruments and a more ‘new age’ sound at the beginning of the 1980s. Moving Hearts, formed in 1981 by former Planxty members Christy Moore and Donal Lunny, followed the pattern set by Horslips in combining Irish traditional music with rock, and also added elements of jazz to their sound.

  • THE POGUES AND IRISH CULTURAL CONTINUITY (here)

Scotland

There were already strong links between Irish and Scottish music by the 1960s, with Irish bands like the Chieftains touring and outselling the native artists in Scotland. The adoption of electric folk produced groups including the JSD Band and Spencer’s Feat. Out of the wreckage of the latter in 1974, was formed probably the most successful band in this genre, combining Irish and Scottish personnel to form Five Hand Reel. Two of the most successful groups of the 1980s emerged from the dance band circuit in Scotland. From 1978, when they began to release original albums, Runrig produced highly polished Scottish electric folk, including the first commercially successful album with the all Gaelic Play Gaelic in 1978. From the 1980s Capercaillie combined Scottish folk music, electric instruments and haunting vocals to considerable success. While bagpipes had become an essential element in Scottish folk bands they were much rarer in electric folk outfits, but were successfully integrated into their sound by Wolfstone from 1989, who focused on a combination of highland music and rock.

  • HOW THE IRISH AND THE SCOTS INFLUENCED AMERICAN MUSIC (here)

Brittany

Brittany also made a major contribution to Celtic rock. The Breton cultural revival of the 1960s was exemplified by Alan Stivell who became the leading proponent of the Breton harp and other instruments from about 1960, he then adopted elements of Irish, Welsh and Scottish traditional music in an attempt to create a pan-Celtic folk music, which had considerable impact elsewhere, particularly in Wales and Cornwall. From 1972 he began to play electric folk with a band including guitarists Dan Ar Braz and Gabriel Yacoub. Yacoub went on to form Malicorne in 1974 one of the most successful electric folk band in France. After an extensive career that included a stint playing as part of Fairport Convention in 1976, Ar Braz formed the pan-Celtic band Heritage des Celtes, who managed to achieve mainstream success in France in the 1990’s. Probably the best known and most certainly the most enduring electric folk band in France were Tri Yann formed in 1971 and still recording and performing today. In 2017 celtic-punk band Les Ramoneurs De Menhirs fly the flag for Brittany singing in their native language and playing regularly and often accompanied on stage by Louise Ebrel, daughter of Eugénie Goadec, a famous traditional Breton musician.

  • ALBUM REVIEW: LES RAMONEURS DE MENHIRS- ‘Tan Ar Bobl’ (here)

Wales

By the end of the 1960’s Wales had produced some important individuals and bands that emerged as major British or international artists, this included power pop outfit Badfinger, psychedelic rockers Elastic Band and proto-heavy metal trio Budgie. But although folk groupings formed in the early 1970’s, including Y Tebot Piws, Ac Eraill, and Mynediad am Ddim, it was not until 1973 that the first significant Welsh language rock band Edward H Dafis, originally a belated rock n’ roll outfit, caused a sensation by electrifying and attempting to use rock instrumentation while retaining Welsh language lyrics. As a result, for one generation listening to Welsh language rock music could now become a statement of national identity. This opened the door for a new rock culture but inevitably most Welsh language acts were unable to breakthrough into the Anglophone dominated music industry. Anhrefn became the best known of these acts taking their pop-punk rock sound across Europe from the early-80’s to mid-90’s.

  • TRIBUTE TO WELSH PUNK ROCK LEGENDS ANHREFN (here)

Cornwall and the Isle of Man

Whereas other Celtic nations already had existing folk music cultures before the end of the 1960s this was less true in Cornwall and the Isle of Man, which were also relatively small in population and more integrated into English culture and (in the case of Cornwall) the British State. As a result, there was relatively little impact from the initial wave of folk electrification in the 1970’s. However, the pan-Celtic movement, with its musical and cultural festivals helped foster some reflections in Cornwall where a few bands from the 1980s onwards utilised the traditions of Cornish music with rock, including Moondragon and its successor Lordryk. More recently the bands Sacred Turf, Skwardya and Krena, have been performing in the Cornish language.

  • ALBUM REVIEW: BARRULE- ‘Manannans Cloak’ (here)

Subgenres

Celtic Punk

Ireland proved particularly fertile ground for punk bands in the mid-1970s, including Stiff Little Fingers, The Undertones, The Radiators From Space, The Boomtown Rats and The Virgin Prunes. As with electric folk in England, the advent of punk and other musical trends undermined the folk element of Celtic rock, but in the early 1980s London based Irish band The Pogues created the subgenre Celtic punk by combining structural elements of folk music with a punk attitude and delivery. The Pogues’ style of punked-up Irish music spawned and influenced a number of Celtic punk bands, including fellow London-Irish band Neck, Nyah Fearties from Scotland, Australia’s Roaring Jack and Norway’s Greenland Whalefishers.

  • FROM OPPRESSION TO CELEBRATION- THE POGUES TO THE DROPKICK MURPHYS AND CELTIC PUNK (here)

Diaspora Celtic Punk

One by-product of the Celtic diaspora has been the existence of large communities across the world that looked for their cultural roots and identity to their origins in the Celtic nations. While it seems young musicians from these communities usually chose between their folk culture and mainstream forms of music such as rock or pop, after the advent of Celtic punk large numbers of bands began to emerge styling themselves as Celtic rock. This is particularly noticeable in the USA and Canada, where there are large communities descended from Irish and Scottish immigrants. From the USA this includes the Irish bands Flogging Molly, The Tossers, Dropkick Murphys, The Young Dubliners, Black 47, The Killdares, The Drovers and Jackdaw, and for Scottish bands Prydein, Seven Nations and Flatfoot 56. From Canada are bands like The Mahones, Enter the Haggis, Great Big Sea, The Real McKenzies and Spirit of the West. These groups were naturally influenced by American forms of music, some containing members with no Celtic ancestry and commonly singing in English. In England we have The BibleCode Sundays, The Lagan and others.

  • THE EFFECTS OF NEW DIASPORA CELTIC PUNK: THE CREATION OF A PAN-CELTIC CULTURE (here)

Celtic Metal

Like Celtic rock in the 1970s, Celtic metal resulted from the application of a development in English music, when in the 1990s thrash metal band Skyclad added violins, and with them jigs and folk voicings, to their music on the album The Wayward Sons of Mother Earth (1990). This inspired the Dublin based band Cruachan to mix traditional Irish music with black metal and to create the subgenre of Celtic metal. They were soon followed by bands such as Primordial and Waylander. Like Celtic punk, Celtic metal fuses the Celtic folk tradition with contemporary forms of music.

  • CELTIC-METAL’S TOP FIVE BANDS (here)

Influence

Whereas in England electric folk, after initial mainstream recognition, subsided into the status of a sub-cultural soundtrack, in many Celtic communities and nations it has remained at the forefront of musical production. The initial wave of Celtic rock in Ireland, although ultimately feeding into Anglo-American dominated progressive rock and hard rock provided a basis for Irish bands that would enjoy international success, including the Pogues and U2: one making use of the tradition of Celtic music in a new context and the other eschewing it for a distinctive but mainstream sound. Similar circumstances can be seen in Scotland albeit with a delay in time while Celtic rock culture developed, before bands like Runrig could achieve international recognition. Widely acknowledged as one of the outstanding voices in Celtic/rock is the Glasgow born Brian McCombe of The Brian McCombe Band, a pan Celtic group based in Brittany.

In other Celtic communities, and particularly where Celtic speakers or descendants are a minority, the function of Celtic rock has been less to create mainstream success, than to bolster cultural identity. A consequence of this has been the reinforcement of pan-Celtic culture and of particular national or regional identities between those with a shared heritage, but who are widely dispersed. However, the most significant consequence of Celtic rock has simply been as a general spur to immense musical and cultural creativity.

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CELEBRATING A CELTIC CHRISTMAS. MERRY CHRISTMAS TO ALL THE LONDON CELTIC PUNKS FAMILY

All the best for a happy Christmas and a peaceful and prosperous new year for us all…

Every year we pick the best Christmas themed song we’ve heard to showcase in our end of year message and this year the runaway victors is from NYC’s The Narrowbacks.

Starring Rigel Byrne as Santa Claus. Filmed by Tamara Lee and James Haag. Recorded at Paddy Reilly’s Music Bar, 519 Second Avenue, New York. The Narrowbacks music available on iTunes and Amazon.

Buy The New Album- iTunes  Amazon
Contact The Narrowbacks-

FIRE IT UP!!

CELEBRATING A CELTIC CHRISTMAS

According to long standing theory, the origins of Christmas stems from pagan winter festivals. One main reason early Christians were able to spread their religion across Europe so quickly came from their willingness to embrace celebrations already common among regional populations. One such example is the Celtic ‘Alban Arthuan’, a Druidic festival that took place around December 21st. the Winter Solstice. This traditional fire festival celebrated the re-birth of the Sun. Although a celebration of the Son’s birth replaced that of the Sun’s, still a number of ancient Celtic Christmas traditions remain today.

Christmas

As we look across the Celtic nations, it is interesting to note some similarities among Christmas traditions that cross geographic boundaries. They include, for example: Holly (a symbol of rebirth among Pagan Celts, but also of hospitality—it was believed fairies sought shelter inside the evergreen leaves to escape the cold); Mistletoe (believed to have healing powers so strong that it warded off evil spirits, cured illnesses and even facilitated a truce between enemies); fire and light (most notably the Yule log or candles placed in windows to light the way for strangers and symbolically welcoming Mary and Joseph); and door-to-door processions, from wassailing to Wren Hunts.

Each of the seven nations possesses its own variations of Celtic Christmas customs. Surrounding cultures and local identify shape theses practices as well.

SCOTLAND

Flag ScotlandChristmas was not officially recognized in Scotland for nearly four centuries. The Puritan English Parliament banned Christmas in 1647 and it did not become a recognized public holiday in Scotland until 1958. However, according to Andrew Halliday, in his 1833 piece Christmas in Scotland, Scots were not discouraged from celebrating Christmas. Halliday wrote

“We remember it stated in a popular periodical, one Christmas season not long ago, that Christmas-day was not kept at all in Scotland. Such is not the case; the Scots do keep Christmas-day, and in the same kindly Christian spirit that we do, though the Presbyterian austerity of their church does not acknowledge it as a religious festival”

Halliday’s 19th century account went on to describe festive sowens (sweetened oat gruel) ceremonies, “beggars” (actually “strapping fellows”) singing yule song, dances and card parties and children’s teetotum games. Despite Puritan rule, some long-time Christmas traditions are preserved. These include burning the Cailleach (a piece of wood carved to look like an old woman’s face or the Spirit of Winter) to start the new year fresh; or on Christmas Eve burning rowan tree branches to signify the resolution of any disputes. The Celtic tradition of placing candles in windows was also done in Scotland to welcome “first footers” (strangers, bearing a small gift) into the home. Traditional dishes also continue to be featured at Christmas lunch and throughout the holidays, including Cock-a-Leekie soup, smoked salmon, beef or duck, Clootie dumplings, black buns, sun cakes, Christmas pudding and Crannachan.

Because Christmas was not an official holiday until the late ‘50s it is no surprise that today, for some Scots, Hogmanay (New Year’s Eve) is the most important event of the season. Arguably, locals ring in the new year with much more gusto than any other place on the planet.

IRELAND

flagAn Autumn clean up was a common practice in Irish homes to prepare for Christmas. Women looked after cleaning the interior, while men took care of the outdoors, including whitewashing all exterior surfaces. Then holly, grown wild in Ireland, was spread throughout the house with cheer. Contemporary Ireland also highlights this clean-up ritual; once complete, fresh Christmas linens are taken out of storage.

Other customs include the Bloc na Nollaig or Christmas Block (the Irish version of the Yule log), candles in the window (perhaps one for each family member), and leading up to Christmas, ‘Calling the Waites’ where musicians would wake up townspeople through serenades and shouting out the morning hour. Christmas Eve Mass is still a grand affair; a time for friends and family to reconnect. It is not uncommon for churchgoers to end up at the local pub after service to ring in Christmas morn. On Christmas Day, traditional dishes include roast goose or ham and sausages, potatoes (such as champ), vegetables (such as cabbage with bacon) and plum pudding, whiskey, Christmas cake and barmbrack (currant loaf) for sweets. Traditionally on December 26th, St. Stephen’s Day, Wren Boys with blackened faces, carrying a pole with a dead bird pierced at the top, tramped from house to house. Today the custom sometimes sees children caroling throughout the neighbourhood to raise money for charity. It is also quite common to go out visiting on this day.

WALES

Flag WalesMusic was and still is a major part of Welsh holidays. Plygain is a Christmas day church service, traditionally held between three and six in the morning featuring males singing acapella in three or four-part harmonies. While today this may be mainly practised in rural areas, Eisteddfodde (caroling) is abundantly popular in homes, door-to-door and as part of annual song-writing competitions.

Dylan Thomas’ story ‘A Child’s Christmas in Wales’ is renowned around the world. An excerpt offers a glimpse of a traditional Welsh festive season:

“Always on Christmas night there was music. An uncle played the fiddle, a cousin sang ‘Cherry Ripe’ and another uncle sang ‘Drake’s Drum’… Looking through my bedroom window, out into the moonlight and the unending smoke-coloured snow, I could see the lights in the windows of all the other houses on our hill and hear the music rising from them up the long, steady falling night”

Other intriguing Welsh traditions include toffee making; drinking from a communal wassail bowl of fruit, spices, sugar and beer; children visiting homes on New Year’s Day looking for their Callenig gift; and Mary Lwyd (Grey Mare) featuring wassail singers going door-to-door carrying a horse’s skull and challenging residents in a contest of mocking rhymes.

ISLE OF MAN

Flag Isle Of ManCarolling also holds a special place in Manx Christmas celebrations, but traditionally an unconventional twist characterized it. On Christmas Eve, large numbers attended church for Carval. While the congregation sang, all of a sudden women would begin the traditional food fight, having peas on hand to throw at their male counterparts! Accounts from the 1700s and 1800s describe 12 days of non-stop Christmas celebrations where every barn was filled with dancers accompanied by fiddlers the local parish hired. The Reverend John Entick recorded in 1774

“On the twelfth day the fiddler lays his head on one of the women’s laps, which posture they look upon as a kind of oracle. For one of the company coming up and naming every maiden in the company, asks the fiddler, who shall this or that girl marry? And whatever he answers it is absolutely depended on as an oracle”

As in Celtic fashion, Hunting the Wren processions occurred on the Isle of Man and today the practice is going through a revival, characterized by costumes, singing and dancing.

Other Manx customs include Mollag Bands, wearing eccentric clothing, swinging a mollag (fishing float) and demanding money (a practice since outlawed); the kissing bush (a more elaborate ornament than a sprig of mistletoe); and Cammag, a sport that originated on the Isle of Man traditionally played on December 26th and/or Easter Monday. In older times but even as recently as the early 20th century, Christmas decorations were not taken down until Pancake Tuesday (when they were burnt under the pancake pan). Now holiday décor tends to be packed away on Old Christmas (January 6th).

CORNWALL

Flag CornwallAs a result of Oliver Cromwell banning Christmas, authentic holiday carols began to fade through much of Britain. However, throughout the 1800’s, Cornish composers and collectors sparked a revival of local Christmas song.Certain carols well-known around the world, such as Hark the Herald Angels and While Shepherds, are credited to Cornish origins.

“Contrary to the effect Methodism might have had on the English carollers, in Cornwall its impact was to stimulate song,” states the Cornwall Council (Cornish Christmas Carols – Or Curls, 2011). “In those areas where Methodism was strongest, music and signing had their greatest appeal, and notably so at Christmas. The singers would practice in chapels and school-rooms, some of them walking miles to be there”

Today, Cornwall erupts in festivals, fairs and markets during the holidays. The Montol Festival in Penzance (named for Montol Eve on December 21st) is a six-day celebration highlighting many Cornish traditions. These include Mummers plays, lantern processions, Guise dancing (participants dress in masks and costume, such as mock formal dress, to play music and dance).

Montol is also the time for burning the Mock (yule log). A stickman or woman is drawn on the block of wood with chalk. When the log burns, it symbolizes the death of the old year and birth of the year to come.

BRITTANY

Flag BrittanyBrittany boasts a wealth of folklore and supernatural beliefs around Christmas time. Christmas Eve was known as a night of miraculous apparitions from fairies to Korrigans, and at midnight, for just a brief moment, waters in the wells would turn into the most sweet-tasting wine. It was also at midnight, when families were either at mass or in bed, that ghosts would surface; traditionally food was left out for deceased loved ones just in case they visited.

During the holidays, Christmas markets come alive in many Breton towns vending hand-made crafts and toys, baked cakes and bread and ingredients for Christmas dinner. You can also buy Gallette des Rois at stalls, as well as bakeries, which is traditionally eaten on January 6th (Epiphany). A tiny figurine (the fève) is hidden inside the puff pastry cake; the person who finds the figurine in their piece gets to be king or queen for the day and wear a crown. Another special tradition through all of France is a meal after Christmas Eve’s midnight mass, called Réveillon. Specifically in Britanny, the traditional dish for this occasion is buckwheat crêpes with cream.

GALICIA

Flag GaliciaGalicia has its own unique Christmas gift-bearer that pre-dates Christianity. He is called Apalpador, a giant who lives in the mountains. For Christmas, he descends into the villages below to make sure each child has a full belly. He brings treats, such as chestnuts, and well wishes for a year full of delicious sustenance. While Apalpador may not be widely observed in Galicia, his legend is seeing a revival.

Food is very important during the Galician holidays, featuring at least two feasts (on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day). Not surprisingly, seafood is on the menu, including lobster, prawns, shrimp, sea bass, and cod with garlic and paprika sauce. Other culinary delights consist of cured meat, cheese and bread, roast beef with vegetables and for dessert tarta de Santiago (almond cake), filloas (stuffed pancakes) and turrones (nougats). The children of anticipate the coming of the Three Kings or Magis by filling their shoes and leaving them outside on Epiphany Eve, January 5th. Many Galician’s communities also parade on the 5th.

So there you have it the old traditions just like the traditional music we all love live on…

Nollick Ghennal as Blein Vie Noa (Manx Gaelic)

Nollaig Chridheil agus Bliadhna Mhath ùr (Scottish Gaelic)

Nollaig Shona Dhuit agus Bliain Nua Fe Mhaise (Irish Gaelic)

Nedeleg Laouen na Bloavezh Mat  (Breton)

Nadolig Llawen a Blwyddyn Newydd Dda (Welsh)

Nadelik Lowen ha Bledhen Nowyth Da (Cornish)

Now go have a drink…

CELTIC CHRISTMAS TRADITIONS and a MERRY CHRISTMAS TO ALL THE LONDON CELTIC PUNKS FAMILY

All the best for a happy Christmas and a peaceful and prosperous new year for us all…

(Danish/Dublin band ROVERS AHEAD have released a new Christmas single for 2015)

CELTIC CHRISTMAS TRADITIONS

According to long standing theory, the origins of Christmas stems from pagan winter festivals. One main reason early Christians were able to spread their religion across Europe so quickly came from their willingness to embrace celebrations already common among regional populations. One such example is the Celtic ‘Alban Arthuan’, a Druidic festival that took place around December 21st, the Winter Solstice. This traditional fire festival celebrated the re-birth of the Sun.

Christmas

Although a celebration of the Son’s birth replaced that of the Sun’s, still a number of ancient Celtic Christmas traditions remain today.

As we look across the Celtic nations, it is interesting to note some similarities among Christmas traditions that cross geographic boundaries. They include, for example: Holly (a symbol of rebirth among Pagan Celts, but also of hospitality—it was believed fairies sought shelter inside the evergreen leaves to escape the cold); Mistletoe (believed to have healing powers so strong that it warded off evil spirits, cured illnesses and even facilitated a truce between enemies); fire and light (most notably the Yule log or candles placed in windows to light the way for strangers and symbolically welcoming Mary and Joseph); and door-to-door processions, from wassailing to Wren Hunts.

Each of the seven nations possesses its own variations of Celtic Christmas customs. Surrounding cultures and local identify shape theses practices as well.

SCOTLAND

Flag ScotlandChristmas was not officially recognized in Scotland for nearly four centuries. The Puritan English Parliament banned Christmas in 1647 and it did not become a recognized public holiday in Scotland until 1958.

However, according to Andrew Halliday, in his 1833 piece Christmas in Scotland, Scots were not discouraged from celebrating Christmas. Halliday wrote

“We remember it stated in a popular periodical, one Christmas season not long ago, that Christmas-day was not kept at all in Scotland. Such is not the case; the Scots do keep Christmas-day, and in the same kindly Christian spirit that we do, though the Presbyterian austerity of their church does not acknowledge it as a religious festival”

Halliday’s 19th century account went on to describe festive sowens (sweetened oat gruel) ceremonies, “beggars” (actually “strapping fellows”) singing yule song, dances and card parties and children’s teetotum games.

Despite Puritan rule, some long-time Christmas traditions are preserved. These include burning the Cailleach (a piece of wood carved to look like an old woman’s face or the Spirit of Winter) to start the new year fresh; or on Christmas Eve burning rowan tree branches to signify the resolution of any disputes. The Celtic tradition of placing candles in windows was also done in Scotland to welcome “first footers” (strangers, bearing a small gift) into the home.

Traditional dishes also continue to be featured at Christmas lunch and throughout the holidays, including Cock-a-Leekie soup, smoked salmon, beef or duck, Clootie dumplings, black buns, sun cakes, Christmas pudding and Crannachan.

Because Christmas was not an official holiday until the late ‘50s it is no surprise that today, for some Scots, Hogmanay (New Year’s Eve) is the most important event of the season. Arguably, locals ring in the new year with much more gusto than any other place on the planet.

IRELAND

flagAn Autumn clean up was a common practice in Irish homes to prepare for Christmas. Women looked after cleaning the interior, while men took care of the outdoors, including whitewashing all exterior surfaces. Then holly, grown wild in Ireland, was spread throughout the house with cheer. Contemporary Ireland also highlights this clean-up ritual; once complete, fresh Christmas linens are taken out of storage.

Other customs include the Bloc na Nollaig or Christmas Block (the Irish version of the Yule log), candles in the window (perhaps one for each family member), and leading up to Christmas, ‘Calling the Waites’ where musicians would wake up townspeople through serenades and shouting out the morning hour.

Christmas Eve Mass is still a grand affair; a time for friends and family to reconnect. It is not uncommon for churchgoers to end up at the local pub after service to ring in Christmas morn.

On Christmas Day, traditional dishes include roast goose or ham and sausages, potatoes (such as champ), vegetables (such as cabbage with bacon) and plum pudding, whiskey, Christmas cake and barmbrack (currant loaf) for sweets.

Traditionally on December 26th, St. Stephen’s Day, Wren Boys with blackened faces, carrying a pole with a dead bird pierced at the top, tramped from house to house. Today the custom sometimes sees children caroling throughout the neighbourhood to raise money for charity. It is also quite common to go out visiting on this day.

WALES

Flag WalesMusic was and still is a major part of Welsh holidays. Plygain is a Christmas day church service, traditionally held between three and six in the morning featuring males singing acapella in three or four-part harmonies. While today this may be mainly practised in rural areas, Eisteddfodde (caroling) is abundantly popular in homes, door-to-door and as part of annual song-writing competitions.

Dylan Thomas’ story ‘A Child’s Christmas in Wales’ is renowned around the world. An excerpt offers a glimpse of a traditional Welsh festive season:

“Always on Christmas night there was music. An uncle played the fiddle, a cousin sang ‘Cherry Ripe’ and another uncle sang ‘Drake’s Drum’… Looking through my bedroom window, out into the moonlight and the unending smoke-coloured snow, I could see the lights in the windows of all the other houses on our hill and hear the music rising from them up the long, steady falling night”

Other intriguing Welsh traditions include toffee making; drinking from a communal wassail bowl of fruit, spices, sugar and beer; children visiting homes on New Year’s Day looking for their Callenig gift; and Mary Lwyd (Grey Mare) featuring wassail singers going door-to-door carrying a horse’s skull and challenging residents in a contest of mocking rhymes.

ISLE OF MAN

Flag Isle Of ManCarolling also holds a special place in Manx Christmas celebrations, but traditionally an unconventional twist characterized it. On Christmas Eve, large numbers attended church for Carval. While the congregation sang, all of a sudden women would begin the traditional food fight, having peas on hand to throw at their male counterparts!

Accounts from the 1700s and 1800s describe 12 days of non-stop Christmas celebrations where every barn was filled with dancers accompanied by fiddlers the local parish hired. The Reverend John Entick recorded in 1774

“On the twelfth day the fiddler lays his head on one of the women’s laps, which posture they look upon as a kind of oracle. For one of the company coming up and naming every maiden in the company, asks the fiddler, who shall this or that girl marry? And whatever he answers it is absolutely depended on as an oracle”

As in Celtic fashion, Hunting the Wren processions occurred on the Isle of Man and today the practice is going through a revival, characterized by costumes, singing and dancing.

Other Manx customs include Mollag Bands, wearing eccentric clothing, swinging a mollag (fishing float) and demanding money (a practice since outlawed); the kissing bush (a more elaborate ornament than a sprig of mistletoe); and Cammag, a sport that originated on the Isle of Man traditionally played on December 26th and/or Easter Monday.

Finally, in older times but even as recently as the early 20th century, Christmas decorations were not taken down until Pancake Tuesday (when they were burnt under the pancake pan). Now holiday décor tends to be packed away on Old Christmas (January 6th).

CORNWALL

Flag CornwallAs a result of Oliver Cromwell banning Christmas, authentic holiday carols began to fade through much of Britain. However, throughout the 1800’s, Cornish composers and collectors sparked a revival of local Christmas song.

Certain carols well-known around the world, such as Hark the Herald Angels and While Shepherds, are credited to Cornish origins.

“Contrary to the effect Methodism might have had on the English carollers, in Cornwall its impact was to stimulate song,” states the Cornwall Council (Cornish Christmas Carols – Or Curls, 2011). “In those areas where Methodism was strongest, music and signing had their greatest appeal, and notably so at Christmas. The singers would practice in chapels and school-rooms, some of them walking miles to be there”

Today, Cornwall erupts in festivals, fairs and markets during the holidays. The Montol Festival in Penzance (named for Montol Eve on December 21st) is a six-day celebration highlighting many Cornish traditions. These include Mummers plays, lantern processions, Guise dancing (participants dress in masks and costume, such as mock formal dress, to play music and dance).

Montol is also the time for burning the Mock (yule log). A stickman or woman is drawn on the block of wood with chalk. When the log burns, it symbolizes the death of the old year and birth of the year to come.

BRITTANY

Flag BrittanyBrittany boasts a wealth of folklore and supernatural beliefs around Christmas time. Christmas Eve was known as a night of miraculous apparitions from fairies to Korrigans, and at midnight, for just a brief moment, waters in the wells would turn into the most sweet-tasting wine. It was also at midnight, when families were either at mass or in bed, that ghosts would surface; traditionally food was left out for deceased loved ones just in case they visited.

During the holidays, Christmas markets come alive in many Breton towns vending hand-made crafts and toys, baked cakes and bread and ingredients for Christmas dinner. You can also buy Gallette des Rois at stalls, as well as bakeries, which is traditionally eaten on January 6th (Epiphany). A tiny figurine (the fève) is hidden inside the puff pastry cake; the person who finds the figurine in their piece gets to be king or queen for the day and wear a crown. Another special tradition through all of France is a meal after Christmas Eve’s midnight mass, called Réveillon. Specifically in Britanny, the traditional dish for this occasion is buckwheat crêpes with cream.

GALICIA

Flag GaliciaGalicia has its own unique Christmas gift-bearer that pre-dates Christianity. He is called Apalpador, a giant who lives in the mountains. For Christmas, he descends into the villages below to make sure each child has a full belly. He brings treats, such as chestnuts, and well wishes for a year full of delicious sustenance. While Apalpador may not be widely observed in Galicia, his legend is seeing a revival.

Food is very important during the Galician holidays, featuring at least two feasts (on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day). Not surprisingly, seafood is on the menu, including lobster, prawns, shrimp, sea bass, and cod with garlic and paprika sauce. Other culinary delights consist of cured meat, cheese and bread, roast beef with vegetables and for dessert tarta de Santiago (almond cake), filloas (stuffed pancakes) and turrones (nougats).

The children of anticipate the coming of the Three Kings or Magis by filling their shoes and leaving them outside on Epiphany Eve, January 5th. Many Galician’s communities also parade on the 5th.

So there you have it the old traditions just like the traditional music we all love live on…

support a fantastic celtic-punk band by giving just a measly dollar (or about 66p in Brit money) by downloading the new Rovers Ahead single below from Bandcamp)

Now go and have a drink!

TRIBUTE TO WELSH PUNK ROCK LEGENDS ANHREFN

FREE DOWNLOADS OF THEIR ENTIRE DISCOGRAPHY

ANHREFN

THE WELSH CLASH!

Anhrefn

The Welsh Clash, apparently, although the Sex Pistols is an equally viable comparison. And very good they were, too. Not for them the mindless thrashings of hardcore, these guys wrote proper songs, with tunes. Playing fantastic melodic punk and only ever singing in Welsh they achieved a degree of stardom and popularity unthinkable now. Who knows how far they could have gone if they’d sung in a foreign language?

Anhrefn were one of the very few Welsh-language bands to find widespread success outside of their native country, Anhrefn (Welsh for ‘Disorder’, thereby avoiding confusion with the Bristol crusty punks name!) are often now cited as the band that put Wales on the guitar music map, preceding popular ’90s bands such as Manic Street Preachers, Stereophonics and Super Furry Animals.

Formed in 1980, the Gwynedd-based outfit were founded by bass-player Rees Mwyn, who set up the record label Recordiau Anhrefn in ’83, later gaining distribution from The Cartel/Revolver. Their most solid line-up throughout the ’80s was completed by Sion Sebon (vocals/guitar), Hefin Huws (drums) and Dewi Gwyn (guitar).

They released their debut single, ‘Priodus Hapus’, in 1984, and included tracks on various compilation LP’s alongside other Welsh bands over the next couple of years. In ’86 they featured on the debut release for Newport-based punk label Words Of Warning (who would later become home to popular acts such as Blaggers ITA, Oi Polloi, Cowboy Killers and Terminus) – an EP entitled The First Cuts Are The Deepest – with the song ‘Action Man’.

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The following year they became the first Welsh language band to sign an international recording deal when they were picked up by Alternative Tentacles subsidiary Workers Playtime. The label released the band’s debut LP, ‘Defaid, Skateboards A Wellies’ (‘Sheep, Skateboards & Wellies’), which was generally greeted with favourable reception – notably by DJ John Peel, for whom they would subsequently record a number of Radio One sessions.

With the record’s fresh-sounding brand of melodic punk, blending hints of hardcore, metal and goth, the band soon became underground favourites of the UK punk/hardcore scene, their name seemingly adorning every alternative music fanzine cover of the period. Around this time they began making a name for themselves overseas, playing gigs throughout Europe and the United States.

A follow-up LP, 1989’s Bwrw Cwrw, delved into the realms of dub reggae, while a split LP with Last Rough Cause the same year saw them treading more traditional old-school punk ground, including a cover of The Ruts classic ‘Staring At The Rude Boys’. It was the following year’s ‘Dragons Revenge’ set, however, which stands as their most impressive work, incorporating elements of traditional Welsh folk blended with solid, tuneful punk rock anthems.

Anhrefn8

The record was produced by one Dave Goodman, noted for his work with the Sex Pistols (it was released in Germany as ‘The Dave Goodman Sessions’), and, continuing the Pistols connection, the front cover art – a tongue-in-cheek concept depicting the Welsh dragon trampling over St. George – was designed by Jamie Reid, the man responsible for that now-classic pink and yellow Never Mind The Bollocks.. album sleeve. Sadly, this was to be the band’s last official recording, although they continued playing for the next two or three years.

In 1993, Rhys began working for Crai Records (the local label who had released the band’s third LP), and briefly stepped in as manager for Catatonia, who recorded a couple of EP’s for the label in the mid-‘90s before going on to bigger and better things. He later took over the running of Crai after Anhrefn officially split in ’94.

PASSWORD FOR ALL ALBUMS IS

freepunk77

Further Information

Anhrefn Records here

great article here from Louder Than War ‘Futile Gestures…ex Anhrefn bassist Rhys Mwyn looks back at his efforts to influence Welsh culture’ here

Anhrefn Wikipedia here

Facebook Anhrefn-Fan Page here

absolutely brilliant biography of the band and an interview with Sion here

ALBUM REVIEW: LES RAMONEURS DE MENHIRS- ‘Tan Ar Bobl’ (2014)

Les Ramoneurs De Menhirs

We here at London Celtic Punks love our celtic-punk and as much as we love our celtic-punk we really really love celtic celtic-punk!By that I mean there’s some fantastic bands from the States or Canada or Indonesia and Italy or Australia, in fact there’s some amazing bands from all over the world truly making celtic-punk an international thing. Saying that though there is something extra special about a band from one of the celtic nations taking up the gauntlet. In Ireland there’s Blood Or Whiskey, Wales has Kilnaboy and in Galicia there’s Bastards On Parade and The Falperry’s but no celtic nation has as many, and are as good, as those from Brittany.

We’ve touched previously on the blog on the history of Brittany as a celtic nation, in this review (here) of the Breton band The Maggie Whackers latest EP, so click there to stop us repeating ourselves! Suffice to say there’s a massive resurgence in both Breton feeling and the Breton language. Through centuries of oppression France has failed to absorb Brittany or kill off the Breton language and Les Ramoneurs De Menhirs are a perfect example of what’s happening in Brittany.

Formed in 2006 its members include Éric Gorce on the bombardon, Richard Bévillon on the bagpipes, the traditional vannetais singer Maurice Jouanno and Loran, guitarist from the the group Bérurier Noir. The most amazing thing though about Les Ramoneurs De Menhirs is that they sing in Breton, the ancient language of Brittany which is closely linked to both Cornish and Welsh. Their first album, ‘Dañs an Diaoul’ (The Dance of the devil) was released in 2007 by the former label of Bérurier Noir, Folklore De La Zone Mondiale. The singer Louise Ebrel, daughter of Eugénie Goadec, a famous traditional Breton musician, guests on several songs on the album. Les Ramoneurs De Menhirs participated at the massive celtic festival ‘Festival Interceltique de Lorient’ in 2007, having performed outside the official programme. Back in 2008 they toured Scotland with the only band comparable to them Scot’s punkers Oi Polloi. Second album ‘Amzer An Dispac’h’ followed in 2010 and featured more of the same with  hardcore punk accompanied by celtic instruments and shouty  gang choruses and vocals. Guests from across the musical spectrum were asked to perform and did freely showing the lack of snobbery within the Breton folk/language scene. They choose to embrace Les Ramoneurs De Menhirs (not that it’s always been plain sailing) while Oi Polloi are put down and, even worse, ignored by their Scots compatriots despite all the positive work they are doing to promote gaelic in Scotland.

As its impossible to comment on the lyrics I have to talk about the music and the feelings that the album gives me. Knowing a little about the band through a Breton friend the first thing that strikes you when looking up the band is how they have managed to cross generational boundaries and I must admit to a tear in the eye at one video where in front of the stage is a huge crowd of young punks moshing about while at the back a huge crowd of, ahem, more elderly fans are performing traditional dance to the same song. Its this link to the past that makes them so special. The ability to connect the struggles of the past to the struggles of the here and now and even of the future. In an age when there is a revival in celtic awareness its in the language movement and especially in celtic music that people are finding their roots and their pride. Celtic-punk is but a tiny part of that but in Brittany, thanks to bands like Les Ramoneurs De Menhirs, The Maggie Whackers and the Sons Of O’Flaherty, its helping to lead the way.
Les Ramoneurs De Menhirs
Musically the album doesn’t break any new ground from the first two LP’s but as they were both bloody brilliant that doesn’t really matter! They’ve a new singer in tow but the same chugging guitar, metal riffs, industrial style drum machine drumming and all with clear shouty hoarse vocals and no bassist that keep the toe tapping going while the celtic instruments are played with absolute gusto by champions in their fields. Eleven explosive songs clocking in at just under 45 minutes and all originals except a fun cover of The Adicts 1980’s punk classic ‘Viva La Revolution’. The best way to describe the music I think would be to say you’d find it impossible to stand still listening to this. Within a minute or two you’ll be be slapping yer thigh and a-tappin them toes. Catchy just doesn’t come into it. Les Ramoneurs De Menhirs are not just a celtic punk band they are a movement and one of which in everyone with a interest in celtic affairs should keep abreast of. Who said music cannot change the world?
Contact The Band
email- contact@ramoneursdemenhirs.fr
Buy The Album

here’s a list of YouTube videos here mostly from 2014 well worth trawling through on a quiet night accompanied by a few beers!

for easily the best english language web site concerning Brittany then check out THE BRETON CONNECTION “a portal to the Breton movement for self-determination and cultural rights”.

HAPPY ST DAVID’S DAY. THE FREE WALES ARMY.

Hapus Dydd Gŵyl Dewi!

Flag Wales

Foot stomping, story telling, blood curdling, hell raising, law breaking, heart warming, rabble rousing… Cayo. Cayo played his accordion as often as he could in life, a people’s person, delighting in cheer and company. In his latter career as horse breeder, Cayo travelled all over Wales with his beloved stud arab-palomino cross stallion, ‘Cruglas Candlelight’, or ‘Clance’ as we knew him. The golden mane and tail was a signature known from North to South, just as Cayo the man was. With an innate capacity to please a crowd, charm the ladies and bond with men, Cayo couldn’t help but make music one way or another.

free-wales-army

Conscripted at 18, and sent to Malaya during the ‘crisis’ in the early 1950’s, he first mastered the mouthorgan, delighting his fellow rookie soldiers with sentimental songs from home. After leaving the army and returning home, suffering from frequent bouts of malaria and ‘the horrors’ as he’d refer to sweaty wakings in the night remembering monstrosities witnessed in the jungle, he turned to heinous insurrection, a reaction towards the extreme injustice being practised by British government to Wales. Incarcerated unjustly (for ‘trumped up charges’) after the infamous formation of the F.W.A., in a lengthy trial timed to coincide with the investiture of our ‘poseur prince’ of Wales, Cayo served 15 months with Dennis Coslett & Gethyn Ap Iestyn. After their release, Cayo lived as peacefully as possible in his Cardiganshire hometown, Lampeter, and died young (57) in 1995. He regularly attended rallies supporting Welsh resistance and was always ready to speak at Cilmeri where he would gather with his comrades every December in memory of Llewelyn. He lived his life a patriot believing in Wales and her people. Not wanting more than recognition for our nation, deprived of our status as a country by a long-stagnant teutonic unwanted royal line that still reside in the core of the rotten heart of the British class system.

(Made by Henry Powell and Dan Ohara, This Documentary was made for a presentation at University explaining the history of the Free Wales Army and includes a Interview with William Cayo-Evens’s son, Rhodri Cayo-Evens)

(In the 1960’s, Wales was a troubled country. Despite almost total opposition, the village of Capel Celyn had been destroyed and now there was to be an investiture of a foreign Prince of Wales. Many saw the failings in the democratic system and decided that they must act to defend the people of Wales. Step forward John Jenkins and Mudiad Amddiffyn Cymru. The fight for Welsh freedom began and bombs started to explode. By the end of the campaign two people were dead and many in jail and John Jenkins was sentenced to ten years imprisonment)

FROM OPPRESSION TO CELEBRATION- THE POGUES TO THE DROPKICK MURPHYS AND CELTIC PUNK

AGAINST MODERN FOOTBALL - AGAINST MODERN MUSIC

The history of all of the various celtic nations is one made up of oppression, intimidation and emigration. Wales, Scotland, Ireland, Isle of Man, Cornwall, Brittany (north west France), Asturias (north west Spain), Galicia (north west Spain) have all been for generations occupied by foreign countries who have tried everything to crush the culture, language and spirit of their people.

But first lets go back in time to the 17th century when the English invaded Ireland. The Irish rebelled against them but are finally subjected after many wars and battles and atrocities are committed. They never fully integrate into the English system of government in the same way the Scots and Welsh did, and rebellions carried on and with every generation their have been major uprisings against English rule.

Music was a continual form of expression which made it very important to the culture of the Celts. With the prohibition of native languages and songs just speaking or singing could see you exiled or worse.  Misrule and a deliberate policy of starvation forced millions to emigrate away from Ireland while at least another million died while hundreds of tons of food a day was shipped out, under British Army guard, to England. In Scotland the forced clearances for land to give to rich barons to exploit for cattle and sheep farming sent tens of thousands of Scots to a new life in Canada. Other celts, for example many Cornish left when the tin mining industry went into decline, emigrate to the Americas in the 19th and 20th centuries and right up to the present day it remains high. Why the Americas? Despite those early settlers facing exactly the same kind of oppression, racism and bigotry that they had escaped from, it gave the little guy a new beginning. A sense that anyone could make it in this new world with hard graft and a little luck…plus it was away from the Empire that had held them down for so long, and even in the Irish case even tried to murder them!  Later revolts in Ireland established a republic separate from England, yet the north is still in English control. This was never accepted by all and so began a bloody war to unite Ireland that continues to this day.

Just like the original Irish music pub sessions didn’t originate in Ireland neither did celtic punk. The Pogues formed in post ’77 era London during the ‘troubles’. Bombs going off in the streets of England and shootings were common, anti-Irish racism was a fact of life for many. Many Irish lived together in the same areas of London, Manchester, Glasgow, Birmingham etc., creating, for want of a better word ‘ghettos’ where Irish life carried on despite being in a foreign and unwelcoming land. Punk music started by posh art school kids rebelling against their parents soon spread out to the working class communities and the 2nd and 3rd generation Irish youth of those communities were no different from their english counterparts in lapping it up. The idea of fighting against authority made celtic music highly compatible with punk. Many of those original english punk bands had Irish members but punk bands in Ireland didn’t want to sound Irish they were just trying to sound punk (i.e. Radiators From Space, Stiff Little Fingers). Punk music was able to gain popularity from the people with celtic roots because it represented something unique to their heritage. Punk reminded them of what it is to be celtic to stand against authority, independent and defiant.

The Pogues were the original celtic-punk band. Made up of 2nd generation Irish, Irish and English members they were the first to combine the two genres of punk and traditional Irish music together creating a totally new sound. They had plenty of plaudits and recognition and even managed to break out of the ‘Irish scene’ and became a genuinely popular band here in Europe and the USA. Shane MacGowan, their iconic lead singer and writer of the critically acclaimed Fairytale of New York, is now considered one of the best songwriters of his generation! At the time though many folk ‘traditionalists’ scoffed at them as being just a bunch of ignorant English pissheads out to ruin Irish music but this was before anyone realised there was about to be a massive outpouring of ‘Irish pride’ from thousands upon thousands of second and third generation Irish from outside the isle of Ireland. The Pogues spearheaded this and along with Celtic F.C and the Irish football team (itself packed to the rafters with 2nd and 3rd generation Irish players) came to represent us in our Irishness. The thing the traditionalists didn’t understand was that even though we were into modern music we’d grown up listening to The Wolfe Tones, Dubliners, Clancy Brothers etc., (even Country’n’Irish!) as children so a band like the Pogues coming along wasn’t a shock to us but the folk establishment sure as hell didn’t like it!

Jump to today and its the Dropkick Murphys who are the worlds celtic-punks most popular and famous band. They started off as a Oi!/punk band with no Irish/celtic music only some Irish imagery on their record sleeves and merchandise. They kind of, in their own words, “started out as a joke” and didn’t seek out acclaim, but they rapidly grew in popularity due in no small part to the many, many people in the US who have celtic heritage and celebrate it. Over the years they’ve adapted Irish music and instruments and songs into the mix to create today’s celtic-punk. The Dropkick’s represent what it is to be celtic/Irish in modern day America (being working class, the fight against oppression, overcoming adversity, toughness, family bonds, religion/ Catholicism etc.,) but overall its still The Pogues that best embody celtic-punk. They were the first band of the scene and their music and lyrics are closer to the source. The Dropkick Murphys put more of an Irish-American spin on their songs, The Pogues are more about the history therefore, especially to those of us outside North America, the songs of The Pogues are more authentic with more Irish themes and fewer American ones.

The globalization of celtic music through emigration, in which oppression and poverty were the main reasons people left, has spread the influence of celtic music across the globe, even outside of the usual haunts of the Americas, Australia, NZ and here. Celtic-punk bands exist in pretty much every country where a son or daughter of a celt has set foot. It has also spread to the land of origin of the other celtic nations, with very healthy scenes in Brittany and Galicia helping to rejuvenate the native languages. Use of traditional instruments- fiddle, tin whistle, banjo, accordion, bagpipes is higher now than it has been in decades, again due in no small part to the popularity of celtic-punk.

Celtic-punk reflects the heritage of celtic people and the fight against oppression. It embodies the history of what it is to be celtic and what it is to overcome hardships and to finally come out on top.

It is where we come from but don’t you worry this is no exclusive club… everybody’s welcome to the hooley.

This isn’t meant as an introduction to celtic-punk or even a potted history it’s just one man’s small attempt to unravel what it is that makes the music so appealing to himself and countless others. If you agree or disagree we’d love to hear your comments…

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