Gwenno Saunders

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Gwenno Saunders
Gwenno in 2016
Gwenno in 2016
Background information
Birth nameGwenno Mererid Saunders
Born (1981-05-23) 23 May 1981 (age 41)
Cardiff, Wales
GenresElectropop, indie pop
Occupation(s)Musician, singer, dancer
Years active2002–present
LabelsPeski Records, Heavenly Recordings
Websitehttp://www.gwenno.info/

Gwenno Mererid Saunders (born 23 May 1981) is a Welsh musician, known by the stage name Gwenno. She has released three critically-acclaimed albums [1] as a solo artist: Welsh Music Prize winner Y Dydd Olaf (2014);[2] Le Kov (2018), her first album in Cornish; and Tresor (2022), which was shortlisted for the Mercury Prize.[3]

She was also a singer in the indie pop group The Pipettes, whose debut We Are the Pipettes was described by Pitchfork as "a classic modern indie-pop album."[4]

Biography[edit]

Saunders was born in Cardiff.[5] She is the daughter of Cornish poet and linguist Tim Saunders[6] and Lyn Mererid, who is an activist and member of the choir Côr Cochion Caerdydd and works as a translator.[7] When she grew up, her father spoke Cornish; her mother spoke Welsh.[8]

From the age of five she attended the Seán Éireann-McMahon Academy of Irish Dance[9] and was a cast member of Michael Flatley's productions of Lord of the Dance[10] and Feet of Flames by the age of 17, playing a lead role in a Las Vegas production of the former. In 2001 she had a role in the Welsh language soap opera Pobol y Cwm on S4C, for whom she would later host her own programme Ydy Gwenno'n Gallu...? She is fluent in Welsh and Cornish.[11][12][13] On 18 April 2019 she presented "Songs from the Edgelands", a programme about songs in minority languages on BBC Radio 4.[14]

Music career[edit]

Early career (2002–2010)[edit]

In the years before she joined the Pipettes, she had been a solo electropop singer, mostly in the Welsh and Cornish languages, releasing two solo EPs, Môr Hud[15] (2002) and Vodya[16] (2004).[17] Saunders represented Cornwall in the Liet International song contest, 2003, and won the People's Choice Award for her performance of "Vodya". In December 2004 Gwenno filmed the song "Ysolt y'nn Gweinten" by Celtic Legend for Classic FM TV. It is claimed to be the first video produced in the Cornish language, the text having been written by her father Tim Saunders with music by Cornish composer and ex Gary Numan keyboard player Chris John Payne.

Gwenno performing with the Pipettes in 2006

Gwenno joined the Pipettes in April 2005 after founding member Julia left. She is most notable for her lead vocals on the single "Pull Shapes" and the chorus of "Your Kisses Are Wasted on Me". She has more recently posted solo material to her Myspace page, and made a free download of a mini album titled U & I available in October 2007. In April 2008, Gwenno's younger sister Ani joined the Pipettes, after the departure of singers Rosay and RiotBecki. Ani now also releases music with the band The Lovely Wars and solo under the name Ani Glass.

Solo career (2010–present)[edit]

Gwenno toured as a synth player with Pnau and Elton John in 2012.[18][19]

In June 2012, Saunders released a five-song Welsh language EP, Ymbelydredd, available on hand-painted cassettes on Peski Records.[20]

Gwenno appears on The Boy Least Likely To's 2013 album The Great Perhaps, contributing vocals to the track "It Could Have Been Me".

Gwenno in 2014

She released her first solo full-length album, the Welsh-language Y Dydd Olaf, in October 2014 on Peski Records.[21] In May 2015 Gwenno was signed to Heavenly Recordings. The label re-released her debut album in July.[22][23] The album won Best Welsh Album at the 2015 National Eisteddfod[24] and in November 2015 won the 2014–2015 Welsh Music Prize.[25]

Gwenno also co-produced and co-hosted a Welsh radio show on Cardiff Radio titled "Cam O'r Tywyllwch" ("A Step Away from the Darkness") with her Peski Records colleagues.[26] The team was also behind the CAM '15 music festival in Cardiff, which took place in April 2015 and featured the first live performance in over 20 years by Welsh music post-punk pioneers Datblygu.[27]

She released her second solo album Le Kov in 2018, which was an all-Cornish language album. It centred on themes of "the struggle of Kernewek [the Cornish language] and the concerns of Cornish cultural visibility as the perceptions of a timeless and haunted landscape often clash with the reality of intense poverty and an economy devastated by the demands of tourism." The album saw Gwenno touring and headlining in Europe and Australia, and supporting acts such as Suede and the Manic Street Preachers, with whom she re-recorded a verse of the song "Spectators of Suicide" in Welsh, as well as singing on an English version of the song with the band.[28] A successful performance of "Tir Ha Mor" on Later... with Jools Holland prompted wider conversations on the state of the Cornish language with Michael Portillo, Jon Snow, and Nina Nannar.[29] Le Kov was named one of the best albums of 2018 by The Guardian, Uncut and Mojo.[30]

Her third solo album Tresor, also a Cornish language album, releases on 1 July 2022 on Heavenly Recordings.[31] It is inspired by powerful woman writers and artists such as Ithell Colquhoun, the Cornish language poet Phoebe Proctor, Maya Deren and Monica Sjöö, Tresor is an intimate view of the feminine interior experience, of domesticity and desire, a rare glimmer of life lived in and expressed through Cornish.[29] On 26 July, Tresor became Gwenno's first album to be nominated for the Mercury Prize,[32] and it was named one of the albums of the year by BBC Radio 6 Music.[33]

Cultural influence[edit]

In December 2015, a giant mural of Saunders was erected on the wall of Clwb Ifor Bach on Womanby Street in Cardiff's city centre.[34]

In October 2018, the Cornish Language Board claimed that Saunders' album Le Kov had contributed to a 15% increase in the number of people taking Cornish language exams during 2018.[35]

Wales Arts Review included two of Gwenno's albums on their 2021 list of the greatest Welsh albums of all-time: Le Kov at 18[36] and Y Dydd Olaf at 64.[37]

Personal life[edit]

Saunders is married to producer Rhys Edwards, who is behind the project Jakokoyak,[38] and has one son.[39] She was made a Bard of the Cornish Gorsedh in 2019 for "services to the Cornish language through music and the media".[40]

Saunders is a supporter of Welsh independence. She has said: "What if there are other ways of co-existing? What if we can organise ourselves differently? There is an innate anarchy to art and an absolute potential in utilising it for the good whilst imagining better futures. We want to continue a conversation about an inclusive self-determination by drawing on our past, embracing our neighbours across the UK and the world with open arms, whilst also making sure that we’re singing along to the best possible tune."[41]

Discography[edit]

Solo[edit]

Albums[edit]

Year Name Label Format Language
2014 Y Dydd Olaf Peski, Heavenly Digital download, CD, vinyl Welsh, Cornish
2018 Le Kov Heavenly Digital download, CD, vinyl Cornish
2022 Tresor Heavenly Digital download, CD, vinyl Cornish, Welsh

EPs[edit]

Year Name Label Format Language
2002 Môr Hud Recordiau Sain Digital download Welsh, Cornish, English
2003 Vodya Recordiau Sain Digital download Welsh, Cornish, English
2007 U & I None Digital download English
2012 Ymbelydredd Peski Digital download, cassette Welsh

With the Pipettes[edit]

Year Album Chart positions
UK
2006 We Are The Pipettes 41
2010 Earth vs. The Pipettes

Appears on[edit]

Year Name Additional Information
2003 I'r Brawd Hwdini Compilation of re-recordings of songs by Meic Stevens[42]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ "Gwenno". Metacritic. Archived from the original on 26 July 2022. Retrieved 26 July 2022.
  2. ^ "Gwenno wins Welsh Music Prize 2015". BBC News. 26 November 2015. Archived from the original on 26 July 2022. Retrieved 26 July 2022.
  3. ^ "See the Mercury Prize 2022 shortlist in full". The Independent. 26 July 2022. Archived from the original on 26 July 2022. Retrieved 26 July 2022.
  4. ^ "The Pipettes: We Are the Pipettes". Pitchfork. Retrieved 26 July 2022.
  5. ^ "Sweeping The Nation: A Friendly Chat With... Gwenno". Sweepingthenation.blogspot.com. 7 July 2006. Archived from the original on 6 August 2021. Retrieved 13 August 2015.
  6. ^ "Gwenno". BBC Wales. Archived from the original on 21 December 2007. Retrieved 6 October 2008.
  7. ^ Snapes, Laura (8 September 2015). "Gwenno: the ex-Pipette is leading the Welsh-speaking music revival". The Guardian. Archived from the original on 6 August 2021. Retrieved 6 April 2018.
  8. ^ Williams, Holly (12 April 2018). "The rebirth of Britain's lost languages". BBC. Archived from the original on 27 April 2020. Retrieved 12 April 2018.
  9. ^ [1] Archived 19 August 2003 at the Wayback Machine
  10. ^ "Dotty about The Pipettes". Manchester Evening News. 15 February 2007. Archived from the original on 3 May 2019. Retrieved 29 August 2015.
  11. ^ Price, Bernadette. "Gwenno at the Celtic Cafe". Celtic Cafe. Archived from the original on 11 June 2009. Retrieved 18 June 2016.
  12. ^ "Gwenno - in tune, in Cornish!". BBC Cornwall. September 2003. Archived from the original on 19 February 2011. Retrieved 6 October 2008.
  13. ^ "Gwenno » Artists". WOMAD. Archived from the original on 23 July 2012. Retrieved 13 August 2015.
  14. ^ Radio Times; 13–19 April 2019
  15. ^ "iTunes - Music - Môr Hud - EP by Gwenno". Phobos.apple.com. 1 January 2002. Retrieved 13 August 2015.
  16. ^ "iTunes - Music - Vodya - EP by Gwenno". Phobos.apple.com. 1 January 2003. Retrieved 13 August 2015.
  17. ^ "Steddfod yn Stuffy". BBC Cymru Wales (in Welsh). 2003. Archived from the original on 24 September 2015. Retrieved 13 August 2015.
  18. ^ Gregory, Amelia (6 September 2012). "Ymbelydredd EP: An interview with Gwenno Saunders". Amelia's Magazine. Archived from the original on 19 January 2016. Retrieved 13 August 2015.
  19. ^ "Gwenno". Peski. Archived from the original on 11 August 2015. Retrieved 13 August 2015.
  20. ^ "Gwenno – Home". Gwenno.bigcartel.com. Archived from the original on 19 January 2016. Retrieved 13 August 2015.
  21. ^ "Gwenno / Y Dydd Olaf". Peski. 2014. Archived from the original on 5 July 2015. Retrieved 18 June 2016.
  22. ^ Kenneally, Cerys (11 May 2015). "Welsh singer Gwenno signs to Heavenly and releases sci-fi inspired track, "Patriachaeth"". The Line of Best Fit. Archived from the original on 3 May 2019. Retrieved 6 September 2015.
  23. ^ "HVNLP118 Gwenno 'Y Dydd Olaf'". Heavenly Recordings. 22 June 2015. Archived from the original on 26 July 2015. Retrieved 13 August 2015.
  24. ^ "2015 News". The National Eisteddfod of Wales. 8 August 2015. Archived from the original on 25 September 2015. Retrieved 6 September 2015.
  25. ^ "Nominees Archives". Welsh Music Prize. Archived from the original on 26 September 2015. Retrieved 5 October 2015.
  26. ^ "Cam o'r Tywyllwch". SoundCloud. Archived from the original on 8 July 2015. Retrieved 13 August 2015.
  27. ^ "CAM'15". Camfestival.Wales. Archived from the original on 4 March 2016. Retrieved 13 August 2015.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: unfit URL (link)
  28. ^ Trendell, Andrew (17 December 2020). "Manic Street Preachers release official new version of 'Spectators Of Suicide' with Gwenno". NME. Archived from the original on 22 June 2022. Retrieved 22 June 2022.
  29. ^ a b "Tresor by Gwenno". Bandcamp. Archived from the original on 1 July 2022. Retrieved 22 June 2022.
  30. ^ "Gwenno - Le Kov". Album of The Year. Retrieved 2 December 2022.
  31. ^ "Gwenno - Tresor | Heavenly Recordings".
  32. ^ Singh, Surej (26 July 2022). "Mercury Prize 2022 shortlist revealed". NME. Retrieved 2 December 2022.
  33. ^ "Gwenno - Tresor". Album of The Year. Retrieved 2 December 2022.
  34. ^ "Cardiff singer Gwenno inspires giant street mural". BBC News. 3 December 2015. Archived from the original on 26 July 2022. Retrieved 26 July 2022.
  35. ^ "Gwenno 'sparks record numbers' in Cornish exams". BBC News. 20 October 2018. Archived from the original on 21 July 2021. Retrieved 21 October 2018.
  36. ^ Review, Wales Arts (3 December 2021). "20-11 | The Greatest Welsh Albums of All Time". Wales Arts Review. Archived from the original on 23 August 2022. Retrieved 26 July 2022.
  37. ^ Review, Wales Arts (29 October 2021). "70-61 | The Greatest Welsh Albums of All Time". Wales Arts Review. Archived from the original on 26 July 2022. Retrieved 26 July 2022.
  38. ^ "Introducing GWENNO | The Electricity Club". electricity-club.co.uk. Archived from the original on 20 August 2016. Retrieved 8 August 2016.
  39. ^ Owens, David (26 November 2015). "Welsh Music Prize Winner named as Gwenno Saunders for sci-fi inspired album". Archived from the original on 29 August 2021. Retrieved 8 August 2016.
  40. ^ "12.8.19 Gorsedh Kernow names 12 new Bards for 2019". Gorsedh Kernow. 12 August 2019. Archived from the original on 9 May 2020. Retrieved 18 May 2020.
  41. ^ "Gwenno". yes is more. Archived from the original on 28 April 2021. Retrieved 22 April 2021.
  42. ^ "Various - I'r Brawd Hwdini". discogs. Archived from the original on 23 August 2022. Retrieved 23 April 2019.

External links[edit]