Sat. Feb 4th, 2023

January generally is a bleak time of 12 months right here – chilly, gray and drenched by the dreaded Cornish mizzle. However within the harbour city of Falmouth, a moist Sunday night time in midwinter isn’t any excuse to not celebration.

On the Cornish Financial institution, the city’s buzzy new music venue, the month-to-month Klub Nos Lowen is in full swing and the place is packed to capability. Inside, it’s a sonic swirl of pipes, fiddle, clarinet, bouzouki and trombone. Cornish band Skillywidden are holding courtroom on stage, whereas on the dancefloor folks hyperlink arms and twirl across the room in a snaking, conga-like reel often called a serpent dance. Some are clearly previous professionals; others are evidently novices, tripping over their toes as they battle to observe the steps. Not that it issues: everybody’s clearly having a blast.

I’m haunted by how a lot has been misplaced to landfill as a result of folks didn’t know its worth

Nos Lowen means “comfortable night time” in Cornish. Although rooted in Cornish folks dance, it’s a surprisingly latest invention: the brainchild of musicians Neil Davey and Hilary Coleman, veterans of native bands Sowena, Dalla and now Skillywidden. The concept, Coleman explains, was impressed by Breton Fest Noz (pageant nights), which they got here throughout whereas touring within the early 2000s. Their model is a form of madcap Cornish ceilidh, combining previous types just like the circle, couple, processional and serpent dance with strikingly trendy takes on conventional tunes.

“Our raison d’etre has all the time been to lift consciousness of Cornish music,” she says. “Most individuals suppose it’s simply the Helston Furry, or Padstow Could Day, or – heaven forbid – sea shanties. However there’s this wealthy, various physique of Cornish songs on the market that individuals don’t realise exist. We needed to vary that.”

After periodic one-offs in pubs and village halls, Klub Nos Lowen is now a month-to-month fixture on the Cornish Financial institution. “It’s one in all our hottest nights by far,” says venue founder Rufus Maurice. “The perfect factor is that it doesn’t really feel like a bunch of individuals pretending to do some conventional factor. It’s such a beautiful, heat neighborhood occasion, and attracts totally different ages, genders and backgrounds. On the first one we did, 350 folks turned up and everybody ended up dancing down the road. That’s once I knew we had been on to one thing.”

Nos Lowen’s reputation is a part of a rising resurgence of Cornish tradition, from the revival of Kernewek, Cornwall’s native language, to the movies of Bafta-winning Cornish director Mark Jenkin, the neighborhood artwork initiatives of Golden Tree or the crossover success of Cornish-speaking Welsh producer Gwenno. Tellingly, within the 2021 census, 99,754 folks gave their nationality as Cornish, or Cornish and British – a 52% rise since 2011.

‘A dwelling, dynamic factor’ … Klub Nos Lowen. {Photograph}: Danny North/The Guardian

Amongst these is Chris Trevena, a soft-spoken Cornishman in his late 20s, who started collating his personal on-line archive of Cornish music, Sounds Like Cornwall, in 2020, looking for forgotten recordings in charity retailers and secondhand document bins. He’s amassed a formidable assortment of greater than 600 bodily data, and is passionate in regards to the relevance the music nonetheless has for up to date listeners.

“Music was – is – such an vital a part of Cornwall’s identification,” he says. “Folks sang these songs at work, at house, within the church, down the pub. It’s about preserving these artefacts for the long run. I’m haunted by how a lot has been misplaced to landfill as a result of somebody didn’t know the worth of it.”

Trevena’s challenge builds on the Cornish Nationwide Music Archive, a repository of people tunes, hymns, miners’ songs, shanties, brass bands and electronica co-curated by Exeter College’s Institute of Cornish Research and the music pageant Lownder Peran. However the place the CNMA is an instructional challenge, Trevena’s archive is an off-the-cuff celebration of Cornish music, previous and current; alongside his historic finds, he’s steadily constructing a library of contemporary Cornish music which he hopes will discover a world listenership.

We are able to’t simply play the identical previous tunes from 100 years in the past the identical previous manner

“For those who ask 10 folks what Cornish music is, you’ll get 10 solutions,” Trevena says. “The choirs, city bands and folks tunes are the muse, however after that, for my part, something goes. Aphex Twin, Gwenno, Mark Jenkin’s soundtracks: to me, they’re all a part of Cornwall’s musical tapestry.” And Cornwall’s musical historical past is extra different than some traditionalists let on: from Penzance’s little-known 70s punk scene (documented in Simon Parker’s new ebook PZ77) to the sphere and quarry raves of the 90s the place Aphex Twin and Luke Vibert minimize their tooth, there’s all the time been extra to Cornish music than Trelawny and Camborne Hill.

For performers corresponding to Coleman and Skillywidden, a very powerful factor is for the music to maintain evolving. “Music is a part of who we’re so I perceive folks really feel treasured about it,” she says. “Nevertheless it’s a dwelling, dynamic factor. We are able to’t simply play the identical previous tunes from 100 years in the past, the identical previous manner. That’s historic reenactment. Who says Cornish music can’t have drum’n’bass, or African drums, or didgeridoos? All we needed was a tremendous, comfortable night time to have fun Cornish music. And I stand there on stage and go, ‘Bloody hell! Have a look at this! The place will it take us subsequent?’”

By Admin

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