22 June 2016

Y Dyniadon Ynfyd Hirfelyn Tesog (EP)

Label: Sain
Year of Release: 1970

Judging from the sleeve, you'd think that Y Dyniadon Ynfyd Hirfelyn Tesog were a bunch of old-time swingers, a Welsh language version of the Pasadena Roof Orchestra producing good-time music for the gents and ladies. You would, however, be wrong. All four tracks on this EP have heavy folk leanings, albeit particularly wonky folk music infused with brassiness and, so far as I can judge, a bizarre wit.

The sleeve notes are in Welsh, which is frustrating from my point of view but entirely to be expected under the circumstances. The user TheJudge on 45cat has been kind enough to translate them, however, and hopefully won't mind me presenting them here:

"The Dyniadon Ynfyd Hirfelyn Tesog happened in the third quarter of the twentieth century, and already they are safe of their place in the gallery of pillars and pioneers of the rich culture of our dear Western Civilisation, walking alongside greats such as Ysbaddaden, Spartacus, the Son of the Hills, Mr Wimpy and others (i.e. Y Tebot Piws). Despite this, their debt is great.

It started as a group of 79, but because of transportation and other problems, there was a purge, and by today there are only 7 (oops) 6 left.

i.e. (in alphabetical order):

Aric Dafis - a pretty face and red curls; piano, guitar, trumpet
Bai Meical - a pretty smile and big glasses; guitar, banjo, cello
Cruffydd Meils - a hairt face, Nye Bevan specs; cello, foot, nose
Chenfin Ifans - one gold tooth, £5 glasses; trumpet, fingers
Dili Ifans - "like the young Mozart", "a gentleman"; fiddle, guitar
Ddewi Ddomos - the gentle giant with the fair hair; viola, washboard.

And the voices of the group. I quote the (innumerable) critics:

"Lovely"; "Ha, ha", "That second tenor's a bit flat"; "Jew, jew, they're singing in Welsh"; "That big one's on Tregaron choir"; "Fair play to them for trying, eh".

The Songs

Full Belly - written by everyone in the group except G. Meils; sung by Aric and Ddewi; won the Inter-college Eisteddfod 1970.

Yesterday - written by The Beatles; adapted to the Welsh by G. Meils; Aric's charming voice.

Bitch - written by G. Meils; having thoroughly read the cover of D. Thomas' book "Portait Of The Artist As A Young Dog".

Dixie Of The Ears - music by Kurt Weil; adapted to the old language by G. Meils; a song of tribute to the heroes of the Dyniadon.


Here's an opportunity for every member who has paid the membership fee (£3-5-9d) to get a kiss from every Dynad every ten years until 1980. Send your name and car number along with 2 (broken) Tebot Piws records on a postcard to the correct address.

Sain company does not accept any responsibility for the effect of this record on your record player."

None of which really leaves us much the wiser, if I'm being honest, but at least gives us the line-up details and the sense that the Dynads had an obvious sense of mischief and humour. Apparently the word"Jew" in this context is a phonetic spelling of the Welsh word for "God", and is therefore not meant as some kind of anti-semitic insult. 

The track that is likely to be of most interest to "Left and to the Back" readers is "Dyddiau Fu", a Welsh translation of The Beatles' "Yesterday", which is actually incredibly good. Beginning with a simple, mournful, Salvation-Army-band-on-a Sunday-morning arrangement, and progressing into something folksy, eerie, and very touching, it's masterful in its simplicity. "Yesterday" is naturally a very difficult song to ruin, but by stripping it back to its core components and taking it for a walk to a remote, misty Welsh hillside to contemplate its sorrow, Y Dyniadon Ynfyd Hirfelyn Tesog shine it up beautifully.

Elsewhere, though, the band do offer other material of interest. In particular, the shouty, faintly baffling "Gast" which finishes the EP is a sign that just because the rest of the UK woke up to Welsh music in the nineties, it doesn't mean to say that many of the core components weren't already in place by 1970. It's rough around the edges here, for sure, but listeners should be able to recognise stylistic similarities between the band's vision and some of the folkier aspects of Cool Cymru.  

As for what became of the band, you're asking the wrong man, as the details seem to be rather thin on the ground. They did have another EP out on Sain in 1972, which featured the intriguingly titled track "I Couldn't Speak A Word Of English Until I Was Ten", but beyond that I know nothing. Can anyone help?


Billy Smart said...

Helpfully, I have a friend who's an authority on Welsh language pop. He tells me that the Dyniadon were important early figures in the language movement - he describes them as "a Cambric Temperance Seven". Their main man was Gareth Miles, who sadly died in a car crash in the 1970s while he was still young, which would account in part for their relative obscurity four decades on.

23 Daves said...

Thanks for that information, Billy - it's good to have some more details.

Anonymous said...

That is an incredible take on "Yesterday". For those few minutes I was genuinely affected by a song which has been done to death so many times, that it ceases to mean anything any more really. This one really moved me. Thank you for letting me hear this. A real treat.

23 Daves said...

Thanks, I'm really glad you enjoyed it!

Oddly enough, I did slightly rewrite this blog entry before it went live, purely because the praise I gave to "Yesterday" felt in danger of being over-the-top and overly disrespectful to the original song. I sympathise with your viewpoint - the original single does feel as familiar as a nursery rhyme to me these days, and not really particularly moving. This version, though, does shine it up afresh and show it for what it is; a brilliantly crafted song.

My Mum also has a version of "Yesterday" by Richard Clayderman which, on the other hand, doesn't.

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løvgreen said...

In the interests of accuracy, here's a correction to Billy Smart's post - their main man was Gruff Miles. Gareth Miles (no relation) is a Welsh author who was contemporary to the band and was famous for his very satirical writing. He is still very much alive and kicking!

Unknown said...

Cenfyn Evans is also alive and kicking! Now lives in Pontsian (I believe) and is a valued member of the choir at St Michael's Church, Aberystwyth.