Ceri Shaw


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AmeriCymru Is Shutting Down In June

By Ceri Shaw, 2017-04-11

UPDATE: This is just a brief note to say that since we announced closure of the site, a number of people have stepped up with proposals to prevent the site shutting down. I hope to get back to you all within a week or two with a more detailed report. Anyway, please don't give up on us yet.  (Meanwhile we will keep posting new content as normal)

It is with regret that we announce the closure of this site. AmeriCymru will remain online until the first week of June 2017 but will no longer be under development. Associated promotional accounts on social media sites will also close.

After that we may reproduce some of the better articles and interviews on a static html site over on our server OR we may sell the site lock, stock and barrel to the highest bidder if anyone wishes to purchase it. We will post again soon with a little more detail about our decision to close, and of course, to thank all of our readers, members, followers and contributors over the years.

Posted in: about | 3 comments


By Ceri Shaw, 2017-04-11

Cotton Wolf.jpg

Following the critical success of their three remarkable EPs, Moxa, Cloud City and Catapelt, the union of Welsh ‘Super Producer’ Llion Robertson and classically-trained composer Seb Goldfinch as pioneering musical duo, Cotton Wolf bears the fruit of their debut, full length release. Their nine-track album, Life In Analogue, is released on 28th April by Bubblewrap Collective both digitally and on vinyl.

The pair’s return comes after two years of painstaking studio preparation, setting the dials for further public recognition after their 2015 release, ‘Moxa’, gained repeated radio play on BBC Radio One and BBC Radio 6 Music.

With 'Life in Analogue', Cottonwolf have forged 'a symphony to the conflicted love of man and machine absorbed by digitisation and a soundtrack to modern living.Actively resisting the threat of digital post-production techniques that risk deleting human presence from music entirely, Life In Analogue seeks to outlive modern trends by setting warm, human hands upon the cold levers of contemporary, electronic music. As Cotton Wolf’s first release on vinyl, their choice of format is an extension of an artistic process that manages these exhilarating, contemporary conflicts.

These dichotomies have been confronted, interpreted and now presented as the evolution of Cotton Wolf’s sound as Life In Analogue melds influences and boldly takes the baton from kindred musical spirits. Where there are traces of A Guy Called Gerald, there are hints of Massive Attack and where there is kinship with Hans Zimmer or Hans Richter there are traces of 808 State and New Order. It is all underpinned by unified elements - as effective in affecting the human heart today as they ever were - of epic classical strings, synthesised sounds and the sparing use of evocative vocals. It’s an album born equally in Cardiff as Singapore and Barcelona, with the pair responding to experiences in the streets, clubs and studios of international cities to document modern ways of living, all as uncertain as they are thrilling.

‘Glosh’ opens the album. by boldly hitting the accelerator with a driving beat, giving room for shimmering, light melodies to dance around as a counterweight.'Avalon’ follows with tight rhythms and an insistent, single-note motif on the beat punctuating the track and maintains intensity, consistency and rhythmic discipline. A sparse vocal introduces itself as an accent, another form of subtle instrumentation, rather than a focus.

Cotton Wolf’s use of the Welsh language is unapologetic and ‘Lliwiau’ (translation: Colours) employs an entirely Welsh vocal, which settles in at centre stage. All around the breathless, yet commanding vocal are strokes of scant, flickering instrumentation that brings a sense of cavernous depth to the music and fully reveals the duo’s mastery of deft minimalism.

The title track, ‘Life In Analogue’ is warped, pulsing and riven with subtle motifs that denote it as a track central to the record. Familiar touch points exist in a simple, recurring eight-note melody, which could be lifted from a blueprint used by electro pop pioneers of the 70s and 80s, a vital element of what pushed machine music into the mainstream. The same sense ‘less is more’ restraint is present in ‘Ultra Five’ as snatches of voices, perhaps children’s laughter, again forces humanity back into an electronic framework.

The soulful, vocal atmospherics of ‘Future Never’ are set within further glimmering, austere instrumentation and guided by little more than expansive, sustained synth notes. ‘While Night Grows’ closes the album with a deeply drawn, long exhale, washing over the listener with extended strings and a distant vocal, studded with a high-tempo wave of pulsing synthesiser. Holding a firm line with limited fluctuation, it ominously fades out like only half the secret has been told and there’s more, tantalisingly, to come.

Life In Analogue follows the eight tracks released via their two early EPs, the first being their 2013 debut, Catapelt, which crept into European consciousness through the support of Berlin-based electronic enthusiasts. The follow up, 2014’s ‘Cloud City’ saw the pair garner remix commissions from Gulp (‘Vast Space’) and Trwbador (‘Several Wolves’), before arriving in 2015 at their most successful release to date, the ‘Moxa’ EP.

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Ani Glass Releases "Ffrwydrad Tawel"

By Ceri Shaw, 2017-03-17

Screenshot from 20170317 142401.png

ANi GLASS press photo by Ani Saunders.jpgArtist: Ani Glass
Title of EP:
'Ffrwydrad Tawel'
Release Date: 21.04.17 via
Recordiau Neb

"Ffrwydrad Tawel - Through the echoes of lost industries, communities and language there is hope. Always hope."

‘Ffrwydrad Tawel’ is named after one of Wales’ leading contemporary artists Ivor Davies' major exhibition Silent Explosion/Ffrwydrad Tawel held at National Museum Cardiff in 2016. Ani Glass was inspired by his use and mix of the Welsh language, bleak colours and destruction to reflect society in Wales and was later invited to perform with him at the museum as part of this exhibition.

The ‘Ffrwydrad Tawel’ EP’s six electrifying, infectious, socially conscious electronic pop songs are a document of Ani Glass’s artistic evolution invested with grander themes. “It's about reconnecting with my language, history and culture after returning home having been away for years,” explains Ani “the songs are a snapshot of this journey of self discovery.” Recorded in Cardiff and produced by W H Dyfodol (Haydon Hughes) throughout 2016 and the early part of 2017, the songs demonstrate “the fight within yourself to address larger, more pressing themes in society whilst battling the reality of everyday life.”

Exquisite opener ‘Y Newid’ (Change) is possessed of ethereal vocal purity, Ani’s poignant intertwined refrains steeped in lyrics that chart of the rise of the unions within the working classes during the industrial revolution.Swirling with the ghosts of early Goldfrapp, interjected with a vocal sample from socialist activist (Labour councillor) Ray Davies, during his powerful speech at the Yes Cymru rally in 2014.

Released as a single last year, the industrial electro pop of ‘Y Ddawns’ (The Dance) is a rallying call for those seeking inspiration in language and art. Laura Snapes of Pitchfork said it was "a double-edged sword that's as stern as it is hopeful; music for the end of the world, and the start of a new one." While BBC Wales’s Bethan Elfyn named it “Perfect Euro Pop!”

The majesty of ‘Dal i Droi’ (Another Day), with its bubbling synths and infectious vocal hooks, might sound like Ani’s unique collision of euphoric euro pop and synth wave of the 1980s (Human League, OMD) balanced by more weighty thoughts of mortality. While the sublime ‘Geiriau’ (Words) ethereal reverb-soaked melodrama concerns Ani’s experience of leaving home, moving away/escaping to make a new life and returning years later.

Closing track ‘Cariad Cudd’ (The City Sleeps) contrasts bittersweet refrains and dancefloor beats with an urgent Welsh polemic concerned with the history of Cardiff and the South Wales Valleys. This song depicts “the cruel decline of industry and its devastating effect on communities.”

The EP comes with a booklet of Welsh/English lyrics and artwork designed and created by Ani. The ‘Ffrwydrad Tawel’ EP will be launched on the 22nd of April at Cardiff’s legendary Clwb Ifor Bach venue.


Ani Glass is the persona of Cardiff-based electronic pop musician, producer, artist and photographer, Ani Saunders. Fiercely proud of her heritage, Glass sings in her native languages Welsh and Cornish, in 2015 released her first solo material with lead single ‘Ffôl’ (Foolish) being chosen as single of the week on BBC Radio Cymru and gaining plays on BBC 6 music.

Ani is also known for her work with The Pipettes, joining in 2008 to record the Martin Rushent-produced Earth Vs. The Pipettes album. Prior to her stint with the polka-dotted pop band, Glass was in Genie Queen, managed by OMD’s Andy McCluskey. She also fronted The Lovely Wars, who recently posthumously released two singles 'Gwrthod Anghofio' (We Won't Forget) and 'Cymer Di' (Take) in celebration of Welsh Language Music Day.


11.04 The Social – London

22.04 Clwb Ifor Bach – Caerdydd (EP launch)

28.04 Clwb y Bont – Pontypridd

07.05 Acapela - Pentyrch

23.05 Full Moon – Cardiff
26.05 Llambed Arts - Lampeter

31.05 Eisteddfod yr Urdd - Bridgend


Website http://www.recordiauneb.com/

Facebook https://www.facebook.com/aniglasscymru/

Twitter https://twitter.com/AniSaunders

Soundcloud https://soundcloud.com/aniglass


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Diogelwch in Baltimore!

By Ceri Shaw, 2017-03-03

If, like us, you arrive late for your flight at BWI and are desperately scrambling to get through TSA to avoid an eight hour stopover, you might fail to notice the mural at the head of the line. We didn't make our  flight BUT we were left with ample time to take the photos reproduced below. Kudos to whoever was responsible for including Cymraeg amongst the languages of the world displayed on the security notice below :)


Posted in: Cymraeg | 0 comments

the devil tree

book_cover.jpgAmeriCymru: Hi Delphine and many thanks for agreeing to this interview. Care to introduce your latest novel 'The Truth About Eggs' for our readers?

Delphine: The Truth About Eggs is a kind of 'follow-up' to Blessed Are The Cracked, in that it features some of the same characters and is set in the same fictional Welsh village in a farming community. Having said that, the era is a few years prior to Tegwyn Prydderch's retirement, so a slight backward transition for readers. Unlike Blessed, The Truth About Eggs is a full length novel, although there are three very definite 'sections' in it. It is probably not necessary to read Blessed first, but it may help with understanding some of the characters.

AmeriCymru: What can you tell us about the Devil Tree which features in the book?

Delphine: The Devil Tree didn't actually feature at all in the first draft of the book although the story was otherwise identical in terms of where 'things' happen etc. I have my husband, Hedd, to thank for the Devil Tree! We were walking our dogs one evening as the sun was setting and he said 'I'm surprised you've never commented on that creepy looking tree over there. Looks like a Devil!'

Can you believe it? I'm supposed to be the one with the active imagination and I had never noticed it despite passing it on an almost daily basis!

An idea started to form and I took photos of it in different lights. From then on it seemed to be the one thing that tied the whole story together. Of course, there is no real Devil Tree (just a spooky looking oak on a nearby hedge) but a few readers have said that they tried to find it on Wikipedia! (I haven't enlightened them yet - please don't tell them!).

I gave my photos to Carolyn Michel (the artist/designer) and she turned it into this superb cover that I loved instantly.

AmeriCymru: I wanted to talk a little about the structure of the book. It feels like three closely intertwined short stories which come together on the night of the Young Farmers Club show. In that respect it somewhat resembles 'Blessed Are The Cracked'. How difficult is it, as a writer, to ensure continuity? Can you give us any insight in to your process?

Delphine: A lot of my favourite authors have a few key characters who become 'connected' in some way, so I suppose this method has rubbed off on me. (Imitation is the sincerest form of plagiarism etc!). Continuity was, frankly, a nightmare! You have no idea how many times these chapters changed positions. One chapter in particular had more moves than John Travolta in Saturday Night Fever!

Another headache was the tense - Anna and Natalie's chapters are written in the past tense while Manon (who is so wrapped up in her own little world) is written in the present tense. Though this was changed a few times until I had enough opinions from beta-readers to decide that it worked better the original way. (I'm sure Sophie Hannah, who uses mixed tenses in her Culver Valley series, doesn't dither as much!).

Keeping the individual characters' stories fresh and not giving away too much by linking them together too soon was also a challenge for me. Even now I think maybe i should have just changed this or that...... typical Libran!

AmeriCymru: Are Young Farmers events in West Wales really this rough? Care to share any real life experiences?

Delphine: Hmm, the polite answer is - YFC events are well run, enjoyable and educational ones. However, any event that combines young people, alcohol and a sense of competitiveness tends to produce some out-of-character behaviour patterns! Luckily I was helped by a young friend who is a YFC member. She provided me with a lot of factual information - for example, the Famous Five Challenge, Girlfriend Carrying Race and the Reverse Steer Quad Bike course have all happened for real!

I imagine that the officers policing the annual Royal Welsh Show could come up with dozens of entertaining tales that would equal some in this book if we were to ask them! I think any notable bad behaviour that happens in an otherwise quiet location becomes big news and is the one thing that everyone remembers, so I guess that every real life event such as this has a story that is repeated for decades!

AmeriCymru: Tegwyn Prydderch is an interesting character. His stoicism is an appealing characteristic. Any real life or literary models? At one point he opines that none of the events in the book would be happening if it was raining. Does crime in west Wales really come to a halt when it pours?

Delphine: Tegwyn is based on a number of real life characters (to say otherwise would be dangerous!!) in order make him an 'individual'. In many ways, he shares my character too (apart from the fact that he doesn't like dogs - which is a fact that will come back to haunt him when he has to look after someone's dog as part of the next book). I think I wanted him to be a bit of a 'jobsworth' and at times, you want to shake him! Although he is pivotal character, he is not the 'be all and end all' of these books, rather a means of gelling the different storylines together.

When Tegwyn calls rain 'the best policeman', he is repeating a very well used phrase. It is certainly one I and many colleagues have used over the years. Without a doubt, the more petty crimes or those that are 'outdoors based' and spontaneous are less likely to happen when it is pouring with rain - a simple result of people not wanting to go outside if they don't have to. Unfortunately, many serious crimes cannot be controlled or predicted by weather conditions.

AmeriCymru: We last spoke when your first title was released in 2013. How was 'Blessed Are The Cracked' received? 

Delphine: I was delighted with the way Blessed was received and the fact that it was in the Amazon Top 100 for several weeks (with a high point of Number 24 for some of those weeks). I was invited to speak on local radio and to various societies such as the WI and other organisations - which was a new experience for me. Just before The Truth About Eggs was launched, I was invited to a live interview on Radio Woking - I did wonder if an area so far away from mythical Llanefa would be interested, but it seemed to go well and there were some interesting questions posed by listeners. During that session, Blessed was also mentioned and that revived a little more public interest despite it having been released in 2013.

AmeriCymru: What are you working on at the moment? Are there any new publications in the pipeline?

Delphine: As I said earlier, I am a typical indecisive Libran! No surprise to hear that I am working on two new projects. The first one (which is about halfway complete) is a collection similar to Blessed (and set in Llanefa, of course). The working title, Never Point at a Rainbow, ( the title of one of the stories which is set in London when some Llanefa residents go away for the weekend) follows Tegwyn's memoirs when he is interviewed on a Radio Station.

The second one has only just been started and was a result of good feedback on The Truth About Eggs and persuaded me to get another full length work out there. The working title is The Donkey Shaped Stone and brings some more familiar characters back onto the page. Which one will I continue with first? Watch this space!

AmeriCymru: Any final message for the members and readers of AmeriCymru?

Delphine: A simple message - please keep reading! It is a delight to know that so many American readers are interested in Welsh fiction and even more pleasing to know that AmeriCymru is the go-to site to keep them informed.

Diolch i chi gyd!


By Ceri Shaw, 2017-02-25

A course in Welsh on Duolingo, the free language-learning platform, was launched earlier this year. There are now 405,000 registered Duolingo users from around the world learning Welsh – this compares with 18,000 adults attending Welsh language classes in Wales. There are also 499 virtual Welsh language classrooms in Duolingo serving schools and colleges.

Duolingo includes a language-learning website and app for mobile devices, and provides extensive written lessons and dictation, with speaking practice for more advanced users. The app is available on iOS, Android and Windows 8 and 10 platforms and there is also a Facebook group where Welsh learners can discuss matters related to the course. For more information, visit the Duolingo website on https://www.duolingo.com or download the mobile app from the Apple App Store or Google Play Store.

Congratulations to the developers of the Welsh language course in Duolingo on the success of the enterprise, and in particular to Draig Werdd committee member Richard Morgan, who is one of eight contributors to the course.

Lansiwyd cwrs Cymraeg Duolingo, y platfform dysgu iaith am ddim, yn gynharach eleni. Erbyn hyn mae 405,000 o ddefnyddwyr Duolingo o bob cwr o’r byd yn dysgu Cymraeg – mae hyn yn cymharu â 18,000 o oedolion sy’n mynychu dosbarthiadau Cymraeg yng Nghymru. Mae yna hefyd 499 o ystafelloedd dosbarth Cymraeg yn Duolingo sydd yn gwasanaethu ysgolion a cholegau.

Mae Duolingo yn cynnwys gwefan ddysgu iaith ac app ar gyfer dyfeisiau symudol, ac yn darparu gwersi ysgrifenedig ac arddweud, gydag ymarfer siarad i ddefnyddwyr profiadol. Mae’r app ar gael ar iOS, Android a llwyfannau Windows 8 a 10 ac mae yna hefyd grŵp Facebook lle gall dysgwyr y Gymraeg drafod materion sydd yn ymwneud â’r cwrs. Am fwy o wybodaeth, ewch i wefan Duolingo ar https://www.duolingo.com neu lawrlwytho’r app symudol o’r Apple App Store neu’r Google Play Store.

Llongyfarchiadau i ddatblygwyr y cwrs Cymraeg yn Duolingo ar lwyddiant y fenter, ac yn arbennig i aelod pwyllgor Draig Werdd Richard Morgan, sydd yn un o wyth o gyfranwyr i’r cwrs.

Posted in: Cymraeg | 0 comments

cai_ab_alun.jpgAmeriCymru: Helo Cai and many thanks for agreeing to this interview. Care to introduce your new album Gwaed y Cymry for our readers?

Cai: My pleasure, it's very cool to be answering questions for you. Thank you for the opportunity to talk to your readers.

Gwaed y Cymry means 'the blood of the Welsh people', and music really is the lifeblood of Wales. The idea of recording a solo album came about after being away from home for a few years. For almost four years now I've been adventuring out in the countryside and wilderness of Minnesota; camping in the forests, staying on farms with friends and family and living in small towns surrounded by lakes and forests, and I am at my happiest when I'm outside, miles from anywhere. I'm very much an outdoors person, my soul is rarely at ease when I'm inside or walking on concrete city streets. But when I'm out in the woods or next to a lake, after a day cutting firewood or fishing, the first thing I want to do is get out an instrument and make music. There's nothing better than playing an accompaniment to the nightscape. Yet music is a thing to share, and music really is alive in many ways - it wants to be shared, and it will whisper in your ear and sneak inside your head and it can drive you to do its bidding. So the music told me to put a little studio together, and for the most part it makes itself, I'm just a vehicle for the tunes. And these Welsh tunes are so old that they have gathered a lot of power. They've been jumping from generation to generation and heart to heart for so long that they have their own will to live and to continue proliferating, and they have become strong. With each new host they gain more resonance. So these are the tunes that have been wandering with me for years, with my own little spin on them. This is the sound I make when I'm out in the wild and playing for the birds. They're pieces my grandfather carried with him and used to sing to me, that I used to play out in the landscape back home, and songs I play now when I'm missing the beaches and mountains of Wales.


AmeriCymru: You are a multi-instrumentalist. What instruments do you play on the album?

Cai: On this album I used the harp, the guitar and whistle as the core of the sound, I was planning to play fiddle as well but as fate would have it I snapped a string on the first day of recording so the violin parts are played as if it were a ukulele - three stringed pizzicato chords underpinning the guitar, which had a good feel so I let fate lead me on that. There's also a pibgorn, the ancient Welsh woodwind instrument, which was made for me by the excellent piper Gafin Morgan. For the song Y Fari Lwyd I used a lot of percussion, as well. The Mari Lwyd tradition is something that happens in pubs late at night, with family and friends, after a few pints, and it's a raucous, spectacular, lively affair, so I wanted to try to capture some of the energy and chaos of a real live Mari Lwyd; I wanted the noise and clatter of a country pub full of excitement and beer, the atmosphere of the winter rain outside kept at bay by a log fire and a band of drunken musicians. So for percussion there's a washboard, a set of bottles and glasses, and I used the dining room floor and dinner table as a drum kit to give the impression of a pub full of people clapping and stamping and hammering on the bar. The harp takes the lead for most of the album, backed up by the ensemble though I've included a couple of solo harp pieces, the pibgorn takes over from time to time as does the whistle and there are a few guitar solo spots here and there, and I also sing on four of the tracks.

AmeriCymru: You currently reside in Minnesota. How did you come to relocate there? Any plans for gigs in the area or the US generally?

Cai: My wife and kids are here in Minnesota, they hail from a farming town north of Minneapolis, and I've really fallen in love with the area over the last few years. I'm playing for the Saint David's Society of Minnesota on the 4th of March, they're hosting an event in the Twin Cities for Saint David's Day focusing on the work of Meredydd Evans, who I've always been a big fan of. I'm also hoping to arrange some shows further afield in Chicago and Milwaukee soon. Ive explored a lot of Minnesota in the last few years, America is a magical place with some fantastic people and I'm chomping at the bit to get rolling and investigate the rest.

AmeriCymru: Care to tell us a little about your Welsh and musical backgrounds?

Cai: Well my grandfather sang in a male voice choir, he had a superb voice and he adored anything Welsh, so the old songs were a big part of my childhood. His family were farmers and coal miners, and of course poets and bards as well. So when I hear their language and the sounds of the harp it feels like home to me. My mother's a big fan of Jamaican music, and plays a lot of ska and calypso which I'm sure has influenced my style. Growing up my dad was always buying me folksy stuff like the Pogues and Django Reinhardt, which gave me a hunger for traditional music. In school I experimented with a broad range of styles, my taste has always varied from early jungle/drum & bass through punk and rock to classical and jazz. When I went off to music college in England I was very lucky to have been tutored by a list of big names, one of whom was the late, great Eric Roche. Eric was an acoustic genius, and he was an amazing teacher. He did a lot to influence my musical direction. For theory lectures his style was to half hyptontize the class in his soft Irish accent and implant the music theory into our subconscious minds. That way, when I need a scale or a chord I don't have to think about it, it's just there. For practical lessons he'd bring in his Lowden acoustic guitar, always set up in some strange alternate tuning, and his skills were jaw dropping - he would play a bassline, two or three guitar parts along with a melody and drum on the instrument all at the same time. He treated the guitar like an orchestra and opened my mind to new ways of playing. And I've been very lucky to have been able to watch a lot of really excellent musicians up close, so when it comes to learning a new insrument I already have a fair idea of how it will work. I've learned a lot just by watching people like Robin Huw Bowen and Gwenan Gibbard play harp. Through my travels I've encountered lots of different musical worlds, from the vibes that the Jamaican and Indian immigrants brought to Britain and the Welsh Gypsy harping tradition to the music that Indonesian and African friends introduced to me when I was living in Holland. The way I perceive music has a lot to do with my mother's indigenous roots which are in northern Scandinavia, and through the work of Sámi musicians like Áillohaš and Mari Boine I've come to see music as something spiritual and much deeper than just a form of entertainment - for me it's more than a pass-time, it's an act of worship and a sacred medicine as well.

AmeriCymru: You formerly played with Welsh band Calan. How would you describe your experience with them?

Cai: Working with Calan was an awesome experience. They're such a very talented group of musicians and wonderful people, and we got to play the music we love in some supreme venues. Recording at Sain's legendary studios was an absolute privilege, and working alongside Maartin Alcock as producer was a massive honor, not to mention Paul Burgess of 10cc fame who played drums for us on the first album. The show that sticks in my mind as my favorite was on a tour in Italy - we were out in the countryside, the venue was a little stage looking out over a tiny village and a backdrop of steep wooded mountains, the day had been very hot and we'd been fed home-cooked Italian food with local wine and cheese and we played our show watching the sun setting behind the hills with a cool breeze in our faces. Playing at the Lorient Interceltique festival in Brittany was a lot of fun, too - one day we were invited to play at a party in the mayor's mansion, where we were filled with salmon, caviar and fine champagne before playing for the movers and shakers in a great, chandeliered marble hall; that was a pretty swanky gig. And then there were the small venues all around Wales with cozy atmospheres where it felt like the audience was all family, those were very happy times. And the audience we gathered are so enthusiastic and appreciative, the fans gave us a great deal of encouragement and inspiration. Making music with Calan was truly joyful. Most importantly, playing with Calan gave me the chance to give something back to Wales, and before Calan came along there was a perception of Welsh music as being kinda slow and sleepy and it was great to be able to show the world that's not the case.

AmeriCymru: Who are your favourite Welsh musicians/bands at the moment?

Cai: Right now I'm loving Elfen - a new trio I haven't yet met who have just put out a record called March Glas which has been going round and round my head for a couple of weeks. New on the scene is also Kizzy Meriel, a solo singer/songwriter act I'm really enjoying, and Patric from Calan is working with a new group named Vrï who are putting out some fantastic stuff. Of course I'm following Calan with glee - their new material is just brilliant, and last year I went to see them play in southern Minnesota when they were touring the States and was pleased to meet the new members and see the line up gels really well. Angharad from Calan has been doing beautiful work with her mother, the harpist Delyth Jenkins, under the name DnA (as in Delyth'n' Angharad). I'm very excited to see what all these guys come out with in the future.

AmeriCymru: What's next for Cai ab Alun? Any new recordings in the works?

Cai: I'm currently looking into starting a show on public access radio, focusing on Welsh music but not exclusively, and maybe there'll be some comedy thrown into the mix. Alongside that I'd like to set up some Welsh language classes, because the language is an important part of the culture and it would be very good to help reconnect the Welsh diaspora here with their roots. I'm beginning work on another album now, and for the next one I'll be adding some new instruments to the line up, though I'll be drawing on the same inspiration as before I'd like to open up some new horizons and augment the sound I've crafted with something more. I'm hearing drums, a double bass and perhaps accordion too. I'm adding flute and recorder to my wind section, I'd love to get hold of a crwth and I may do some experimentation with tuned percussion like steel pans and xylophone. There are lots of tunes and songs I wanted to do for this first album but I felt some of my absolute favorite pieces deserve to be given more considration, a little more rumination and some additional colors on my palette. I'd love to try collaborating with a couple of other musicians over the internet, as well - with modern technology it would be easy to do a duet with someone on the other side of the world and that could be fun. So I am planning to make a lot more music in the next few years.

AmeriCymru: Any final message for the readers and members of AmeriCymru?

Cai: Only that I'm looking forward to getting out there and meeting a new audience here in the States!

Posted in: Music | 0 comments



AmeriCymru: Hi Susan and many thanks for agreeing to this interview. How and when did you first become aware of your Welsh heritage?

Susan: I'm a history nerd from a family with quite a few history nerds, so I don't actually really remember "learning" that I had Welsh ancestry. I've always known my surname was Welsh, but my earliest memories about it are sitting in my great aunt's living room and going through some genealogies and family history materials when I was probably about eight or nine years old. And I remember learning that we supposedly came from Brecon (which I have been totally unable to document!), so I always wanted to go there.

When I was in college, I had a Welsh flag on the wall in my apartment, but I've also always been a Britophile, generally. I always read as much as I could about Britain and wanted to live there, since I can remember. Like a lot of Americans, I've always been interested in when, where, how, and why my ancestors came here--and from where. I still haven't been able to make the jump across the pond on my Floyd line, but I have--thanks to the ability we now have to search, view, and share primary source documents using the internet--found out quite a lot about various ancestors, including immigrants to Virginia on my mother's side who came from Monmouthshire and Carmarthenshire. So that's all very exciting.

But, I also have to add: some of the most inspiring, most successful dysgwyr Cymraeg are people with no known Welsh ancestry. They learn the language because they moved to Wales, or they got into Welsh music, or they encountered Welsh literature, or they fell in love with a Welsh person, and then with the language. Welsh is for everybody.

AmeriCymru: You have visited Wales several times. Care to share a few of your experiences from those visits with us?

Susan: I was fortunate to do a study abroad exchange at Lancaster University through UT-Austin as an undergraduate. While there, I joined the mountaineering club, and we went on weekend trips, alternating between the Lake District and North Wales. Our group leader was a Welshman named Huw who always took us to the best places. I especially remember climbing some (what seemed like) 200-foot rock face near Porthmadog and looking back over my shoulder to a sweeping view of the sea. I can't believe I did that now!

I also spent New Year's Eve 2000 in Cardiff, on a little road trip. I went to Britain twice on vacation during college with my best friend, because we were able to get some unbelievably cheap student airfares in the late 90s. So we somehow ended up in Cardiff for New Year's. I still need to get back there and see the city properly--our tour was confined to pubs, a B&B, and external views of the castle!

Then I lived in England for another four years in my early/mid-twenties. I went to Wales a couple of times on weekend trips. I finally made it to the Brecon Beacons in 2005, right before I returned to the US. I'd like to go back there, as well. It was lovely.

Finally, I went to Wales this past November/December on what turned out to be the trip of a lifetime. We've had a direct British Airways flight from Austin to Heathrow for about a year now--such a luxury, very exciting. So when there was a ticket sale, earlier this year, I bought one. I initially planned to just visit friends around England and have a low-budget, low-key trip. But then I started studying Welsh and realized I shouldn't pass up the opportunity to go there, so that became a big part of my trip.

I rented a car in Liverpool and drove around the perimeter of Wales, all the way to Swansea. It was absolutely amazing. I met up with some folks I'd "met" on Twitter during the Euros, one of whom took me on what turned out to be one of the best pub crawls I've ever been on (and I've been on a lot! Ha!). And I caught up with a new friend whom I'd met in Austin at our local Irish pub; she had been over here on holiday during the Euros, and we kept running into each other again and again as Wales progressed. We kept in touch on Facebook and ended up spending a day together, driving around Caernarfon and Eryri! Anhygoel! I met some other folks who had previously been online acquaintances, and they were all lovely--being shown the sights by locals gave my trip an entirely different flavor, and made traveling alone a lot more fun. I also walked about ten miles of the Pembrokeshire Coast Path on my own. I lucked out--the weather the entire time I was in Wales was sunny and gorgeous! I highly recommend visiting Britain in general and Wales in particular during the off-season. At several tourists hot spots I was one of the only tourists! This allowed me have private access to Bryn Celli Ddu on Anglesey, be one of about five people wandering around Caernarfon Castle on a Monday afternoon, and enjoy a very quiet sleepy weekend in St. David's (well, except for the local talent night at the pub, which was another highlight!). And, twenty years after writing my first English lit paper on Dylan Thomas as junior in high school, I finally made it to Laugharne. I also went to an Ospreys match in Swansea (they won). Those are just the highlights! Like I said, it was really the trip of a lifetime.

AmeriCymru: Many people in America were excited by Wales performance in Euro 2016? Can you give our Welsh readers some impression of the excitement that was generated by the contest here in the US?

Susan: I go to a couple of pubs in downtown Austin regularly to watch Liverpool matches with our devoted and rowdy LFC overseas supporters club; Fado Irish Pub shows all of the Premier League fixtures as well as CONCACAF, USA national games, the Euros, and World Cup. The Euros are always my favorite tournament to watch there, though. They decorate the place in the flags of all the competing teams, and give away T-shirts for all the participating countries. One of my friends in the Liverpool group is also a former Swansea academy player. So we planned ahead and took off work on the days Wales was playing. I'd been looking forward to it for months. So that was a blast. We started out with about 10 Wales fans but ended up more like 50 by the quarter-final. I'd say it was about half Welsh folks and half American Wales fans--most of whom, like me, seemed to have some Welsh ancestry but never the opportunity to even see the team play, never mind in the Euros! I still can't believe they made it to the semi-finals. It was just fantastic--like a dream. And also the catalyst for me becoming a Welsh learner.

AmeriCymru: What advice would you give to Americans who want to learn Welsh?

Susan: Americans who want to learn Welsh should know that there has never been a better time to learn the language! Thanks to the internet, it's easy to connect with other learners and Welsh speakers, most of whom are excited by the interest and are therefore very encouraging! I have met some truly astounding, friendly, wonderful people. And AmeriCymru has been an absolutely wonderful resource. As far as actual learning tips, I've just started, but I'd say that taking an actual class has made all the difference. Even though we meet online using Google Hangouts, the regular meetings and expert tutelage keep me on track and motivated to stay serious. It's hard to fit in second language acquisition as an adult--both because of the many demands on your time and the sluggishness of your brain. But practicing daily makes it more of a delight than a chore. I find listening to BBC Radio Cymru is invaluable--just hearing the language spoken as often as possible (even though you necessarily won't understand all that is being said!). If you can locate a real, live person to speak to in person, that's even better! Again, the internet can facilitate connections. I also listen to Jason Sheperd's Learn Welsh Podcast.

So if you're thinking about learning more about the language or doing a course--start now! I've only been studying for eight months, and seriously for only about five, and it's been so fun. To an Anglophone, Welsh looks very difficult. It's not the easiest language. But it's not impossible, either. You'll be surprised how quickly you start making sense of things. And every time you understand a phrase or exchange, you'll want to learn more. Conversations lead to poems lead to songs. It doesn't hurt that the spoken language is quite singularly beautiful.

And, of course, if you can--go to Wales! Flights from the US have been historically cheap for the past year or so, and the exchange rate is still good for Americans traveling to Britain. Who knows what's going to happen with the political situation. But I will say this: walking through the ancient landscape of Cymru and--especially--hearing the living language being spoken all around you... well, it really helps keep things in perspective. Yma o hyd, and all that.

AmeriCymru: AmeriCymru offers an online Welsh class - AmeriCymraeg. As a current student how would you rate the course?

Susan: The course--and especially John Good, our teacher--has been excellent. I am really impressed, especially considering the course fees (very reasonable!) and only one required textbook. Gruffudd's Welcome to Welsh is really user-friendly. I've enjoyed the way John brings his expertise as a musician and music teacher to his methods. I'm so glad there are multiple levels, so that I can continue taking these classes with AmeriCymru. I look forward to Monday nights and missed the class during our Christmas hiatus.

AmeriCymru: You were recently interviewed by the Western Mail Online. How did that come about?

Susan: I'm friends with a lot of other dysgwyr Cymraeg online, and particularly on Twitter. We've all been reading and enjoying Carolyn Hitt's adult learners column for the Western Mail. She saw the photos I posted from my recent trip, and we got to chatting, and then she asked if I'd be willing to be interviewed for her column. I hope to see profiles of more distance learners soon. I know there are a lot of us in the US. Because of the interview being published on Wales Online, numerous people have contacted me. I'm now in contact with a Brecon historian, was asked to do a radio interview in Welsh about my passion for football (maybe in another year!), and have a new weekly standing meeting to speak Welsh with another learner right here in Austin. The internet has made the world very small in a lot of ways, and I'm finding that the Welsh internet is especially tight-knit. It's nice.

AmeriCymru: What's next for Susan Floyd? How do you intend to further pursue your Welsh studies?

Susan: I'm going to continue with the AmeriCymraeg class as far as possible, and I hope to do an intensive wlpan in Wales sometime this year or next. I'd like to do two full weeks. I'm leaning toward Nant Gwrtheyrn, but suggestions are welcome! Just trying to save up the money.-family: arial,helvetica,sans-serif; font-size: 12pt;">AmeriCymru: Any final message for the readers and members of AmeriCymru?

Susan: I think I've said enough. The most important thing is to never give up! And come say hi on Twitter at @Texarchivist.

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