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Baker's Dozen

Cosmic Portals: Gruff Rhys' Favourite Albums
Colm McAuliffe , January 23rd, 2019 11:42

Ahead of his gig at the Camden Roundhouse this week, Gruff Rhys waxes lyrical about 13 favourite records, deep cuts from the Welsh language underground and beyond


Geraint Jarman - Tacsi i'r Tywyllwch
I could name a whole lot of well-known artists from anywhere in the world who have made great records but maybe it's more interesting if I pick up on things that I've grown up with that, for geographical reasons, aren't known much outside this particular Welsh language culture.

These records aren't talked about everyday in the English language. Someone like Geraint Jarman, with Datyblgu, might be the most powerful Welsh language music [of its time]. He is from a generation earlier [to Datyblgu] and started releasing solo albums in the mid-1970s. He was part of the folk movement in the late-1960s and was in a band with Meic Stevens and Heather Jones called Baramenyn. They were making almost pastiche folk music that was critical of folk music but the records were really popular! They were almost like Os Mutantes without the fuzz!

Geraint was a poet first and wrote really good poems like Gil Scott-Heron. He had those skills which he applied to rock music in the mid-1970s. He also had an amazing band who could record an album in a couple of days and an amazing guitarist called Tich Gwilym. This album is like a mid-1970s rock album but informed by punk - Television are in there, too - but it's got that grounding in songwriting from the folk days as well. You can get lost in the guitar playing as well and the lyrics are risqué for the community he was singing to at the time - Wales was quite a religious place in a non conformist way. But it's not kitsch music, it's very much engaging with its day and Geraint grew up in urban Cardiff in a Welsh speaking family but with connections to the Romany world.

Like a lot of bands from elsewhere in Wales at the time, he was part of a multi-cultural society, a lot of his friends from school were in reggae bands and he gradually got more and more into reggae. You can hear this in this record but it's also a rock record. By the end of the 1980s, he was playing at Reggae Sunsplash so it's interesting...he was still [singing] in the Welsh language! He's still singing and putting records out. He also pioneered a Welsh television show called Fideo 9 which was like Snub TV or something and he put a lot of energy into that. He was also the voice of the cartoon character Super Ted!