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Baker's Dozen

Kernow Calling: Mark Jenkin’s Favourite Albums
Sean McGeady , January 18th, 2023 09:12

Cornish bard Mark Jenkin talks Sean McGeady through the soundtracks to his teenage summers, long drives to the hospital, and lonely afternoons hand-processing celluloid, from Junior Wells to Joni Mitchell


Gwenno – Tresor

This represents all of Gwenno’s stuff. I didn’t know Gwenno as a musician. The Pipettes completely passed me by. I wasn’t aware of her time as a traditional Irish dancer dancing with Michael Flatley as a teenager. She was just this real anomaly – this Welsh woman who was a Cornish-language speaker who I discovered through friends and then got to meet and become good friends with. I’ve got her three solo records. I’ve chosen this one because it’s the most recent one. She’s just a real one-off. What’s so exciting is that there’s somebody making electronic pop music, effectively, with singles, in the Cornish language, which people think is about bearded old men – that’s the stereotype of these sorts of languages.

People say it’s a revival but it isn’t. It’s a resurgence rather than a revival, because the language never died. It’s all around us. If anyone mentions a Cornish place name, they’re speaking Cornish. To have it as a Mercury-nominated record is just amazing. She wrote this album in St Ives. She rented a cottage and did a lot of the early demos on her own there. I remember going over and seeing her one day and chatting to her about what her intentions were for it. It must have been February 2020. Then covid came along. She then ended up making the album in lockdown.

Track seven, ‘Kan Me’, which means May Song, we commissioned Gwenno to write that song for Enys Men. We wanted an ancient-sounding May song that wasn’t ancient, because all the ancient ones are specific to places and we wanted something that wasn’t, so we weren’t nicking it from somebody’s community. So she wrote ‘Kan Me’ for us, sent a recording of her singing it as a round, so we could play it to the kids in the film so they could sing it. Then she ended up recording her own version of it, which is very different to the version in the film that the kids sing. Then I ended up putting that version in the film a couple of times – it plays out of the radio diegetically and then it plays non-diegetically over the end credits. My niece Olivia sings the solo of the song at the end of the film, then as the credits roll, Gwenno’s full version plays. Because we’d commissioned her to write the song for us, she then asked us if she could put her version on the record. We of course said yes. It’s beautiful. It’s brilliant.

She’s continuing a legacy and is obviously influenced – you can see what she’s selected on her own Baker’s Dozen. She doesn’t create in a vacuum, none of us do. She’s totally uncompromising. Just does what she wants to do. And it’s brilliant that she’s with Jeff at Heavenly, who puts out the records and allows her to have that creative freedom to take what I imagine a lot of people think must be an incredibly uncommercial decision.