Adwaith hold a special place in my heart, not just because they are an amazing band but because my first ever published Joyzine article was a review of their gig at The Islington in London at the start of 2019. But the track ‘Yn y Sŵn (Nijo)’ is more than a new single by Adwaith but a joining of musical forces with Massimo Silverio who sings in Friulian, the indigenous language of Friuli, northern Italy
‘Yn Y Sŵn (Nijo)/ Nijo (Yn Y Sŵn)‘ comes out of a collaboration between the SUNS Europe Festival and the Welsh National Eisteddfod. The Eisteddfod is an annual celebration of the culture and language in Wales which can be traced back a little further than Glastonbury and Reading to 1176, although the modern festival dates back to 1861, SUNS was started in 2009 as “a music contest for minority communities in Alpine-Mediterranean Europe, the festival has now developed into a place of encounter and exchange between artists of minoritized language groups in Europe”.
On the release there are two versions of the same song ‘Yn y Swn (Nijo)’ which is in Welsh with Hollie from Adwaith taking the lead, and ‘Nijo (Yn y swn)’ which is bilingual and sees Massimo taking lead vocals. ‘Nijo’ is an ancient Friulian word meaning ‘Nowhere’. Haunting is an overused descriptor in music reviews but I struggled to find a more suitable word for this true gem of a song. It’s atmosphere evokes a widescreen landscape that could be valleys or Alps with a soft, undulating mood that builds from a rotational guitar line with deep, deep keyboard washes. In ‘Nijo’ Massimo’s voice floats overhead like the spirit of João Gilberto or Chico Buarque and on ‘Yn y Swn’ Hollie Singer elongates the words into a hypnotic dream. Halfway through guitar and drums dial up the heat that saturates this song and they take a bite out of the cirrus clouds that holds the whole track aloft.
‘Nijo (Yn y swn) // Yn y Swn (Nijo)’ completely dispels any preconception that a collaboration is a diluted version of both acts with Adwaith and Massimo Silverio fusing their talents so seamlessly that I hope they consider expanding this double A-side in to a double album.
You can listen to ‘Yn y Swn (Nijo)’, Adwaith’s version of the track, at the bottom of this post but drummer Heledd was kind enough to coordinate with the band to answer some questions for Joyzine about the release:
This release is a result of the collaboration between the Eisteddfod and Europe’s SUNS festival. You played at the SUNS in 2017 so can you tell the Joyzine readers about the festival and your experiences of playing there?
It’s a really beautiful festival held in Udine that celebrates minority languages. It’s quite a definitive and important festival for us as it was the first place we played outside the UK and also Heledd’s first time on a plane – So two big life changing moments! We met some really lovely musicians there whom we’re still in contact with now.
How were you approached to collaborate with Massimo Silverio? Who had the idea, and were you aware of Massimo’s music before this?
Leo from Suns and the Eisteddfod had the idea that we should collaborate on a track. We’d heard his name floating around Udine, so we spent some time with him over dinner and a few drinks which was really nice!
‘Nijo (Yn y swn) // Yn y Swn (Nijo)’ is a very beautiful song and it’s impossible to spot any joins between the two acts. How did you handle the writing and recording process during a lockdown as I assume that Massimo Silverio is in Italy and you’re in Wales?
We got sent the track while we were in the studio recording our second album back in November. Massimo’s guitar part really stood out for me (Heledd) and I really wanted to exaggerate that in the drums. Those parts just kind of revolve around the rhythmic elements of the guitar for a while – until the end of the track where the drums evolve into a much bigger sound.
The track has evolved quite dramatically from Massimo’s original version. Hollie wrote some really beautiful lyrics on our version of the track and there’s lots of different instruments being played throughout – including a Turkish cumbus, which is a really definitive sound in the track.
It was quite an easy process from start to finish – we just seemed to gel musically with Massimo which was great!
How’s his Welsh and how’s your Friulian?
Good question! Not actually sure what Massimo’s Welsh is like, but to be honest with you our Friulian is not great! we do know a few phrases – and it’s a very beautiful language, would definitely like to learn some more.
At a time when nationalism and the alt-right are on the rise, music, and the arts in general, seem to be one of the few things that want to bring people together across borders. How important do you feel music is in building borders and relationships around the world?
It is so important! We’ve had so many amazing experiences as a band and usually it’s the people we meet that make those experiences so special. It’s so, so important to learn about other people’s cultures and I think music is crucial in the understanding of that
Brilliantly, the Welsh language is now stronger than it’s been in the last 30 years, but what do you say to non-speakers who might think it’s not that important to keep languages like Welsh, Cornish and Friulian alive?
Yes, it’s a very positive step forward. It’s sad that we have to fight for the protection of minority languages and that they’re not respected enough. I think it’s all about educating yourself and looking beyond your individual perspective.
Finally, as a fan of Welsh acts such as yourself, Accü, Gwenno, Georgia Ruth, Mêl and Jaffro, amongst others, is there anyone else you would encourage the Joyzine listeners to check out?
Yes! Those are all really great acts ! Really loving these artists at the moment:
Review by Paul F Cook