Teenage ankst how a record label made the welsh language cool
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Teenage Ankst : How a record label made the Welsh language cool. Dr Ian Johnson ian.johnson@plaidcymru.org. Teenage Ankst. Introduction Welsh language in context Welsh music in context Recordiau Ankst Records 1980s 1990s Legacy Discussion and conclusion. Introduction.

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Teenage ankst how a record label made the welsh language cool

Teenage Ankst : How a record label made the Welsh language cool

Dr Ian Johnson


Teenage ankst
Teenage Ankst

  • Introduction

  • Welsh language in context

  • Welsh music in context

  • Recordiau Ankst Records

  • 1980s

  • 1990s

  • Legacy

  • Discussion and conclusion


  • Examining importance of extra-curricular activities for minority language usage by teenage L1 (or fluent L2) speakers and prospects of language learning from current non-speakers

  • Uses example of ‘Cool Cymru’ in Wales during 1990s, specifically impact of the record label ‘Recordiau Ankst’

Welsh language in context
Welsh language in context

  • 2001 census shows 580,000 speakers of Welsh in Wales, around 20.5% -

    an increase in numbers and percentage compared to 1991

  • Highest percentage of speakers is 3-15 year olds 37.5%

  • Growth in Welsh language education for non-native Welsh speakers

Welsh music in context
Welsh music in context

  • Wales has a strong musical tradition expressed in Eisteddfod etc.

  • Development of Welsh language music largely comparable to anglo-American scene

  • Largely consensual, Welsh language audiences watched Welsh-language bands

Welsh music in context1
Welsh music in context

  • 1980s saw split in Welsh music scene with bands such as Anrhefn (Disorder) and Datblygu (Progression) playing alternative music, often criticising mainstream Welsh culture

  • Over the years, Welsh youth music well served by media outlets – television programmes such as Fideo 9, i-dot and Bandit and radio such as C2 on Radio Cymru, and fanzines such as Sothach!

Recordiau ankst 1980s
Recordiau Ankst 1980s

  • Formed by students at Aberystwyth Uni in 1987 as part of DIY (Do It Yourself) movement

  • Bands such as Y Cyrff (The Bodies) began to get play or attention from alternative English media, e.g. John Peel on Radio 1 or New Musical Express weekly newspaper

  • Ankst released variety of Welsh music – house, indie, techno, dub rap

Recordiau ankst 1980s1
Recordiau Ankst 1980s

  • Recognition from outside agencies gave increased cultural capital to Welsh bands

  • This led to virtuous circle of bands recognised by alternative peers in England and simultaneous support in Welsh language media through television and radio as well as fanzines and newspaper coverage

Recordiau ankst 1990s
Recordiau Ankst 1990s

  • During mid-1990s Gorky’s Zygotic Mynci (GZM) and Super Furry Animals (SFA) became banner-holders for Welsh music amongst non-Welsh speakers

  • GZM album ‘Bwyd Time’, a mixture of Welsh and English songs, was number 1 in UK independent albums for 4 weeks

  • SFA were signed to Creation, Oasis label

Recordiau ankst 1990s1
Recordiau Ankst 1990s

  • GZM and SFA were both considered ‘cool’ on UK level, with Welsh identity and language prominent in whichever language they sang, e.g. GZM’s bilingual ‘Patio Song’ a Radio One pick of the week

  • However, criticism of bands in Welsh media for singing in English as well as Welsh

Recordiau ankst 1990s2
Recordiau Ankst 1990s

  • Emyr Glyn Williams describes this as a ‘poisoned chalice’ due to politicised nature of language and of language ‘subsidy’ (explicit or implicit) rather than artistic value and reality of bilinguality amongst musicians

  • Ankst split in 1997 after Melys (Sweet) are signed by an international label, becoming a band management company and Ankstmusik, continuing to release records

Recordiau ankst legacy
Recordiau Ankst Legacy

  • Provided the space for a generation of Welsh musicians to develop their targets and compete in a wider cultural sphere inside and outside of their own language group

  • Normalised ‘cool’ and ‘alternative’ music in Welsh amongst native speakers and non-speakers, giving Welsh language cultural capital


  • Factors that created right time for Ankst?

    - Musicians looking to experiment and develop

    - Audience (Welsh-speaking or not) open to music in Welsh

    - Company willing to stretch boundaries and embrace new concepts in promotion


  • Can these factors be replicated or ‘planned’?

    - ‘Cool’ is an abstract concept difficult to pin down

    - Traditions are different for each culture therefore music and notions must be adapted

    - Bilingualism or monolingualism in lyrics?


  • Was Ankst successful because it was not ‘planned’, i.e. other agencies supported an organic movement rather than attempted to stimulate one which can often appear contrived and ‘uncool’?

  • Cultural freedom must therefore be supported by ‘planners’, without ‘targets’. Minority language artists allowed to create for themselves without interference or value judgements on their work.


  • Ankst’s success was in persuading critics and general public that Welsh language music was of quality – and that quality was more important than language of lyrics

  • A specifically Welsh music not aping Anglo-American norms

  • Cannot be ‘planned’ but should be supported


  • Aitchison, J. and H. Carter (2004) Spreading the word: The Welsh language 2001. Talybont: Lolfa

  • Bourdieu, P. (1986) Distinction: A social critique of the judgement of taste (translated by Richard Nice). London: Routledge and Kegan Paul.

  • Bwrdd yr Iaith Gymraeg – the Welsh Language Board (2003) Nifer siaradwyr

  • http://www.byig-wlb.org.uk/Cymraeg/yriaithgymraeg/Pages/PwyywrsiaradwyrCymraegBlemaennhwnbyw.aspx (accessed 06/08/2009)

  • Frith, S. (1978) The Sociology of Rock. London: Constable

  • Foggy Notion fanzine (1997) Ankst Records 1988-1998http://www.axkx15.dsl.pipex.com/webhistory.htm (accessed 05/08/09)

  • Llwyd, E. (2000) Super Furry Animals (English)

    http://edmi.parliament.uk/EDMi/EDMDetails.aspx?EDMID=18173&SESSION=703 (accessed 27/08/09)

  • Williams, E.G. (2009a) Byw dan Jackboots Magi Thatcher (Welsh)

  • http://www.bbc.co.uk/radiocymru/c2/safle/emyrwilliams/cynnwys/rhaglen2.shtml (accessed 05/08/09)

  • Williams, E.G. (2009b) Pop Negatif Wastad - Helo Rhywbeth Newydd (Welsh)

  • http://www.bbc.co.uk/radiocymru/c2/safle/emyrwilliams/cynnwys/rhaglen3.shtml (accessed 05/08/09)

  • Morton, C (2002) Dim a Radio Datblygu (English)

  • http://www.furious.com/perfect/datblygu.html (accessed 06/08/09)