Music of Wales


Wales is a part of the United Kingdom, but has had a long history as a culturally distinct Celtic country. Its music is thus related to the Celtic music of Ireland and Scotland. Welsh folk music has distinctive instrumentation and song types, and is often played at twmpathau (singular: twmpath), or communal dances, and gwyl werin, a form of music festival. Unlike its Celtic neighbors, Welsh folk musicians of the latter half of the 20th century have had to largely reconstruct the country's traditions, which had been moribund for some time, as well as compete with imported and indigenous rock and pop trends. The label Fflach Tradd has become especially influential, releasing albums by some of Wales' biggest-selling acts.

Traditional music

Welsh folk is known for a variety of instrumental and vocal music, including the well-known men's choirs, and more recent singer-songwriters that draw from folk traditions. The Welsh triple harp (telyn) is another distinctive tradition; it is complexly chromatic and has three rows of stringers, the middle of which sounds sympathetic to the two duplicate notes in the other two rows. The instrument dates to Wales only back to the 17th century, but has taken root there. Its use has entered the Welsh folk revival through the efforts of Nansi Richards and Robin Huw Bowen.

The fiddle is also an integral part of Welsh folk. Its best-known modern proponents are The Killbrides from Cardiff, who play mostly in the South Welsh tradition but also perform tunes from throughout the British Isles.


For many years, Welsh folk music had been suppressed, due to the effects of the Act of Union, which promoted the English language, and the rise of the Methodist church in the 18th and 19th century. The church frowned on traditional music and dance, though folk tunes were sometimes used in hymns.

Since 1176, Welsh bards and musicians have participated in musical contests called eisteddfodau; this is the equivalent of the Scottish mod and the Irish Fleadh Cheoil. Key types of music include the male vocal choirs, and a type of close harmony singing by groups. The words might be called bluesy, stereotypically referring to downtrodden miners whose lives had been ruined by the collapse of the mining industry in Wales.

Some Welsh performers have mixed traditional influences, especially the language, into imported genres, especially John ac Alun, a Welsh language-country duo who are perhaps the best-known contemporary performers in Welsh. Since the 16th century, however, Welsh culture degenerated and its traditions were denigrated, especially after the rise of Nonconformist religion in the 18th century which emphasised choral singing over traditional instruments.

In the 1860s, however, a revival of sorts began, with the formation of the National Eisteddfod Society, followed by the foundation of London-area Welsh Societies and the publication of Nicholas Bennett's Alawon Fy Nghwlad, a compilation of traditional tunes, in the 1890s.

By the late 1970s, Wales, like many of its neighbors, had seen the beginning of a roots revival, the beginnings of which can be traced back to the 1960s singer Dafydd Iwan. Iwan was instrumental in the creation of a modern Welsh folk scene, and is remembered for fiercely patriotic and nationalistic songs, as well as the foundation of the Sain record label. The Festival Interceltique in Lorient saw the formation of Ar Log, who spearheaded a revival of Welsh fiddling, and continued recording into the 90s. Welsh folk-rock includes a number of bands, such as Moniars, Blue Horses and Bob Delyn a'r Ebillion.

Sain was founded by Iwan, Brian Morgan Edwards and Huw Jones. Originally, the label signed a bevy of Welsh singers, mostly with overtly political lyrics, eventually branching out into a myriad of different styles. These included country music (John Ac Alun), stadium rock (The Alarm) and classical singers (Aled Jones, Bryn Terfel).

The folk revival picked up energy in the 1980s with Robin Huw Bowen and other musicians achieving great commercial and critical success. Later into the 1990s, a new wave of bands including Fernhill, Bob Delyn A'r Ebyllion, Moniars, Carreg Lafar, Jac y Do and Gwerinos.




  • (cordofoni) telyn, fiddle

  • (aerofoni)

  • (ancia libera)

  • (membranofoni)

  • (idiofoni)

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