Music & UMCA

To celebrate Wales Music Day, UMCA have created a document which looks at the current exciting music scene in Wales' oldest Welsh Students' Union. 

The Welsh Society in Aberystwyth has been central to musical developments in Wales from the beginning, with early bands from the '60s and '70s like Y Blew and Mynediad am Ddim featuring Aber Students. Linda Griffiths describes her experiences as a student in the late 1970s:

"When I started Uni in Aber (1976) Plethyn had just been formed; it was very early days for us.  I wasn't part of the music scene in Aber during my first year, when I lived in Pantycelyn (at the time, Panty had a very successful Cerdd Dant choir).  Lack of confidence on my part was responsible for this.

 During my second year, I got to know Myrddin ap Dafydd, who was also in Aber at the time.  He started to write lyrics for Plethyn, and that important connection made a big difference for us as a group.  Plethyn performed at the Angel several times, and the audience was nearly all students. They were pretty wild nights! We sang the songs for 'Cân i Gymru' (Song for Wales) in 1980 in the Angel (I was a student in Llanbadarn at the time).  The gig was broadcast live by Radio Cymru, and by the end of 'Tân yn Llyn', the students were all singing with us!   
There was a great deal of musical activity in Aber during the late '70s, and I gradually became part of it.  By the time I was in my second year, I was singing with Aber students, competing as an individual and as a member of choirs, parties and the Noson Lawen team. 
This gave me a lot more confidence, and my time as a student in Aber gave me a huge boost, both as a singer and as a person.”
One aspect which has been essential in promoting live music in Aberystwyth is the venues where it's possible to hold live gigs all over town. Nights held at these locations have stayed with many former students. Rhodri Llwyd Morgan from the band Cerrig Melys describes the excitement of the town's music scene in the early '90s:

 "My time in Aber had a huge influence on me.  Although the band was originally put together when we were in school, two of my fellow students became members, and the band played regularly during our time at Uni.  Much of the excitement was around the experience of making so many new friends from all over Wales, many with widely differing experiences of the Welsh Scene.  Welsh music became something that was entirely 'normal' in a way that was difficult to imagine as a young person growing up in the Cardigan area.  Welsh gigs and disco nights (!) were held regularly in a wide variety of locations - upstairs in the Coopers, the Angel, the Hospital Club or the Students' Union - and the huge selection of Welsh records on the jukebox in the Black Lion was a bit of a revelation, not to mention the famous posters in the Coopers. 

This didn't happen by chance, of course; rather as the result of the irrepressible enthusiasm of Aberystwyth University's Welsh students.  Later on, I came to realise that the scene was a vital link between the university and the local community - the Welsh gigs were a very effective way of including everyone, and of promoting a feeling of Welsh inclusion, especially amongst the younger generation, be they Welsh speakers or not."

One building in particular has had a huge influence on those who have been members of UMCA - Pantycelyn. This is every bit as true in the case of artists who have lived there. Griff Lynch is a former resident, and a member of Yr Ods, a band that grew out of the corridors of Pantycelyn, and are still one of Wales' leading bands:

"I wrote several songs while I lived in Pantycelyn. There's a warm atmosphere that relaxes the senses; this allows people to be creative. There was so much going on, such a close community, and the memories remain strong. In fact the song Fel Hyn am Byth (Like This for Ever), tries to embody those feelings about the good times in Pantycelyn."

Lewys Wyn, lead vocalist with Yr Eira, who graduated in 2016, explains the importance of Pantycelyn to his musical development:

"When I left home in Bangor and headed for Aberystwyth in September 2013, I was aware of the body of music that had originated from Aberystwyth Uni, and more specifically from Pantycelyn. I was also already a member of a band Ayes a'r Eira, but I consider Aberystwyth to be the place where I became really interested in music. I also remember taking my amp down to the lounge with a few other people who played guitars; we were there for hours, messing around and jamming. The kind of place Pantycelyn was, made things like that possible. Aber also gets a lot of attention in some of Yr Eira's lyrics, especially 'Pan Na Fyddai'n Llon' (When I'm Not Happy). The scenery and the experiences you have here provide you with enough material for an album."

Lewys describes the influence Aberystwyth has had on some if his lyrics. This can be seen as a constant influence on artists who were members of UMCA, as Iolo Jones, lead vocalist for Ysgol Sul, said:

"It's evident that Aberystwyth was a huge influence on the stuff I was composing when I was a student. I'm certain that the town has inspired a number of Welsh musicians in the past, and it will continue to influence Welsh music in the future. UMCA has always been supportive of Welsh music, more so than students' unions in other institutions, one could say. From the Coops to the Union, UMCA has been responsible for organising some of the gigs I've enjoyed playing in the most in Aberystwyth."

Throughout the years, UMCA members have been creating and performing live music. It's as if music is an integral part of Welsh students' social life in Aberystwyth University, with new bands and artists still appearing in Aberystwyth. Gwern ap Gwyn who is a member of a band called Mosco, which consists of UMCA students, is a recent example. He attributes much of the band's development to his time in Pantycelyn:

"From generation to generation, Pantycelyn has succeeded in bringing musicians together to create all kinds of music. Its influence on the Welsh rock scene is legendary and it's an honour to know that we've experienced the effect that this historic building has had on Welsh music.”

Here's a short list of other artist who were influenced by UMCA:

Trwynau Coch
Chwarter i un
Geraint Lovegreen
Neil Rosser
Ysbryd Chouchen
Hufen Ia Poeth
Catrin Herbet