various artists,
Y Gwir yn Erbyn y Byd
(Bos, 2003)

"Well, Mr. Cravos, how's the job search going?"
(In Welsh) "I want to have my interview in Welsh."
"That's not helping your case any ... it says here you're a musician -- we have a scheme for young layabouts like you."
-Y Tystion: "New Deal, New Dead"

Y Gwir yn Erbyn y Byd is the offering of three dozen artists ranging from pop and rock, to reggae and ska, to rap and hip-hop, to folk and Celtic, or a mixture of these elements, all in the aid of the protection of Welsh-language communities in Wales' Bro Cymraeg.

Of the many anthologies of Welsh music released in recent years, this collection is easily the most wide-ranging in musical style, the most commercial and the most politically charged.

Y Gwir yn Erbyn y Byd (meaning, approximately, "truth against the world") is a testament to the commitment of Welsh musicians of all genres to the protection of Welsh-language communities against the "second-homes brigade" from England that is depopulating West Wales and making many properties unaffordable for locals. If this seems like an odd crusade to outsiders, it has indeed galvanized Welsh-speakers, who have formed a group, Cymuned, to fight these incursions menacing the world's largest Celtic-speaking community. Profits from this disc will go to that group.

So on to the music: what an eclectic mix it is. Welsh hip-hop artist Y Tystion's brilliant "New Deal, New Dead," quoted above, sets a tone of anger at the "British state" (you'd be angry, too, if you were young, unemployed, your community was dying and your language was being ground into submission through benign neglect); Geraint Jarman sets the message to reggae with "Dal dy dir" and harpist Sian James goes contemporary on a "Trip I Aberystwyth." Folk instrumentalists Crasdant appear with Gwyn Maffia in a kind of Celtic remix; Italo-Celt Francesco Benozzo's acoustic "Can y Gwynt" is easy on the ears, though tough to decipher.

Celt's "Lon Osgoi" is good pop-rock, as is Estella's "Dy Natur Di." Maharishi's soft rock ballad "Pentre Bach" presents a slice of the underside of a small Welsh village; veteran folk-rocker Meic Stevens sings about the spirit of his hometown of Solfa. That's just a sampling of the varied fare here. Not all the songs are political, or even in Welsh -- Tich Gwilym's "Drunken Heap" is sung in the thin language -- but few stray from strong messages.

Although much of this music is more likely to appeal to those born after 1970, there's something to like about the variety of talented musicians working in Wales and the commitment of those artists, who follow in the spirit of the folk troubadours of the '60s.

Quotes from Nelson Mandela, Tecumseh, Welsh nationalist leader Gwynfor Evans and others adorn the liner notes, which, unfortunately for Welsh learners like myself, don't provide lyrics of any kind. But the meaning of this collection is clear enough: communities under threat must be protected. The ancient language and culture of Wales must survive. And based on the spirit of the artists in this collection, it will.

- Rambles
written by David Cox
published 20 March 2004