Sain – celebrating half a century of Welsh music

13 December 2019

"The Welsh language pop scene is Sain's legacy; there's no doubt about that. They were the exciting young dudes with cool factor that attracted all these groups to record with them," said the singer and presenter Caryl Parry Jones.

Sain, Wales's biggest record company has given a special platform for Welsh music and has provided the soundtrack to the lives of people in Wales since the end of the 1960s. This year, they are celebrating a milestone of 50 years since Dafydd Iwan and Huw Jones established the label.

Sain yn 50, a special programme which will be broadcast on 15 December at 8.00pm, will take us on a nostalgic journey through the music of various periods in our history, bringing the memories of the last half a century alive.

The documentary will include iconic archive performances and interviews with big names from the world of music, to chart the colourful story behind the development of the Welsh language entertainment industry.

The biggest names from the Welsh music scene have all recorded with Sain, including; Meic Stevens, Edward H, Geraint Jarman, Heather Jones, Bando, Elin Fflur, Swnami and Lleuwen Steffan, as well as classical singers Aled Jones and Bryn Terfel.

More recently, bands such as Catatonia, Anrhefn, Anweledig, Big Leaves a Bryn Fôn a'r Band, who have recorded under the company's alternative music label, Crai.

Dafydd Iwan, one of the founders of the Sain label.

The story begins at the start of the '60s – a time of change across the world – both musically and politically. Here in Wales, the battle to protect the language sparked a sense of rebellion and revolution among the younger generation. This feeling was encapsulated perfectly by Sain, as they released Huw Jones's Dŵr as the label's first single, a song referring to the drowning of Tryweryn:

"Unlike a lot of pop music in the 60s, we were not singing love songs, we were signing about the subjects of the day. And at that time in Wales, those subjects were things like the battle for the Welsh language and Tryweryn," said Huw Jones.

"I was aware that Welsh records generally did not sound as good as English records. I didn't understand why that had to be so. I wanted my next record to sound good," he added.

"The music was a vehicle to this new spirit," said Dafydd Iwan.

"It's the late Brian Morgan Evans who should be thanked for setting up the company. He gave us a loan of £500 and to Huw, a student, and I, unemployed at the time, £500 was a fortune – 'here is your filing cabinet, here is your phone and here is your room on Ninian Road in Cardiff' – that's where it began."

From singles to LPs and from vinyl to CDs, there have been significant changes in how people listen to music over the years, and many record labels have been unable to cope with those challenges.

Sain however, have adapted and pioneered over the decades, as Huw Jones explains:

"As the song goes, Yma o Hyd; well, you have to take pride in the fact that we are still here, but we can't be content with that – we have to continue moving forward and face the challenges, but still acknowledge and celebrate what was achieved yesterday."

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