Welsh Country Rap

Moving back to Wales and finally getting around to learning the Welsh language has made me look again at my native culture in a new light. As a younger man I did wonder why so many people don’t have as ‘eclectic’ or wide ranging musical tastes as I do.

I grew up in rural Wales and like many rural cultures is deeply conservative and that is part of me. The culture promotes self-reliance, because services are usually far away and difficult to access. So there is a tendency to take personal responsibility for your daily needs. For example, I have ingrained the idea of keeping enough food in my kitchen to survive a week, in case of bad weather and inability to access food shops for a period (such as heavy snow or flooding). Rural folk tend to seek support from their family and neighbours should they hit trouble and wider statewide structures are seen as unreliable as they don’t cater for the specific needs of the community.

In contrast, the urban dweller tends to rely on easily accessible services, such as using public transport and tend not to have the space to have all their needs on hand, the need to pool and share resources more widely. Large towns and cities don’t get their electricity cut off for days or the internet going down for extended periods which rural people are more used to. The town person has to be more reliant on public services and hence strangers, than the country person. There is also the issue of space, the country person has more space and in consequence can store tools and supplies to an extent that the urban dweller cannot

Music is about cultures, in particular folk music, describing the trials and tribulations of life within cultures. There is a tendency of different genres of music  to be associated with different cultures. The example that comes to mind is that of Rap music being of the city and Country of the countryside.

I like all genres of music, but sometimes they don’t quite fit in with our surroundings. When listening to some Rap in the countryside it doesn’t fit, the beats do not chime with the wide open spaces, whereas Country does seem to blend in more with the landscape. However even if the music doesn’t fit it can still be enjoyed and appreciated. It is possible to enjoy a song about the hot summers day in the cold and damp of winter.

It’s not merely the music, it’s the lyrics, the words. Songs from rural areas are about life in the country and songs from the urban areas are about life in the town or from the perspective of the town. So, if you listen to a song from an artist from your own culture and locality, then there is a greater likelihood that the song will resonate with your own experience, to touch your soul in a profound way. However music from other cultures and traditions can still be enjoyed, indeed some feelings, such as emotional joy or loss are universal. However, some ways of viewing the world are culturally based, so resonate more deeply.

There is a tendency for people to predominantly listen to music from their own culture, certainly in the case of my parents and grandparents generation. I could never understand why people seemed not to be open to hearing about other cultures and different ways of  being. Perhaps a certain exercise of the imagination is required, to suspend reality to temporarily immerse yourself in another culture to appreciate what they are saying. Or it may simply be that the resonance with our own perspectives of the world, our own culture is such a warm, life-affirming feeling compared to that of the relatively weaker emotions of listening to songs from other places, that many people never make the leap to being able to really appreciate the music for what it is.

Furthermore in a conservative rural culture, that is more physically separated from interactions with other cultures in daily life and one that ascribes value to its own culture, the opportunities for such immersion are rarer. This, to such an extent that a concert by a visiting artist, may simply be an enjoyable experience but not be enough for the music to resonate in daily life.

Rural Wales is still much more limited in it’s exposure to other cultures than for more urban populations. Yet in my experience the rural conservatism of Wales is much more open minded, and less judgemental of other cultures, for example in comparison with the Southern United States, the home of Country music. There is an appreciation that things are different a few miles down the road and more so further afield, that we shouldn’t expect to be able to judge other cultures without understanding them better.

Perhaps the principle reasons for this difference between Welsh rural cultures and those found in England and America, may be due to their relation with the state they are a part of. British and American culture has sprung from the imperialist expansive culture of a world power. Such cultures where preservation of native cultures are not seen as of value or important. For example the scant regard of the British for the Welsh language and culture and historically a lack of respect for Native American culture by the American state.

Whereas Wales has lived beside the giant power of England for all of modern history, yet many in Wales have passionately defended Welsh culture and our language from the ignorance of lack of regard from the centralised British elite. As such there is a tendency for the people of Wales to understand the feelings of oppressed minorities everywhere, for example the people of the deprived projects of America that gave birth to Rap music. Or it may be just that Wales is small and minority groups within our culture are less easily ignored.

As both the power of influence of Britain and America decline, there is perhaps an understandable realisation of the perils of a culture under threat, particularly if it’s built on foundations of dominance. As such we see crises in these cultures and a desire to preserve them. Associated with this is a reduction in valuing cultural diversity as this suggests itself as a way to preserve a culture. We can see evidence for this in Brexit and the language of Donald Trump. These cultures are new to feeling their culture threatened, whereas in Wales we have a very long history of feeling our way of life threatened. You don’t get anywhere by being fearful of diversity or trying to escape your own culture, the best way is to embrace both, embracing who you are as a person and embracing everyone around you.

As I keep harking on, binary choices are a false choice. You can like Country music and Rap music, You can be a conservative and a socialist. Understanding other cultures only deepens your love and connection with your own culture, in music and perhaps everything else. My perception of people ignoring diversity, wasn’t a conscious choice, but merely a example of a the false tendency to fear the unknown, rather than find more out about it. To conserve a culture by defending it through fighting against other cultures doesn’t work. Conserving a culture comes from an appreciation of other cultures and using that energy to enrich and grow our own cultures. You

 

For some examples, listen to some: Welsh Rap, Dafydd Iwan’s anthem”Yma o hyd” [“Still here”], or even Welsh Country. Mwynhewch/ Enjoy.

 

Town mice and Country mice

When I was a little boy my grandmother helped me learn to read with the Beatrix Potter books. in one of these tales “The Tale of Johnny Town-Mouse” concerns how a country mouse visits the city and struggles to cope and escapes back to the country. The country mouse then invites the town mouse they be-friended to the country, the town mouse also struggles and escapes back to the city. This is true for me, the longer I spend in town the more I yearn to escape back to the country.

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It always takes time to mentally adapt to new places, change patterns of thought and new ways of living. Living organisms are hugely adaptable and find ways of surviving in new habitats. Human beings often have the choice about where they live, and will make compromises about living places they don’t particularly like for the sake of their career or their partner.

Generally there is a trend towards urban living as the worlds population expands. However, at least in the UK, they’re is a significant shift of people moving away from the cities to the countryside. These movers are generally relatively wealthy and highly skilled so the transition is possible without a drop in living standards. So, whilst much of humanity has or is undergoing adaptation to urban living there are also ‘town mice trying to live in the country’.

Having looked through various message boards and read about some of the issues city folk have with living in the country, it seems as though country folk have often the opposite attitude to issues with city living. It is perhaps that country folk grew up with the countryside and have found a sense of comfort and belonging with it and it is these very things that city folk struggle with and vice versa. To put it another way, it seems as though the things the country person misses about the country are the very things the city person struggles with in the country (again and vice versa).

Some examples:

Isolation and everybody knowing your business is a country issue, with the city opposite of too many big crowds and a sense of anonymity when walking down the street. Country folk being at ease with the former and uncomfortable with the latter (and vice versa).

Having to take the car everywhere and only walking for pleasure in the country, compared with having facilities close by and accessible via public transportation.

Having to talk to the locals, compared with only ever speaking to people in my social circle. As a country person I like and think it’s a good thing to talk to everyone, rather than just people we find interesting or similar to ourselves.

Feeling the need to be able to escape back the country/city.

Power cuts and bad weather, compared with  the opportunity  being forced to share wonderful candlelit evenings and get the board games out!

As a country lad myself, after having having lived in big towns and cities, I have learned and adapted, but never quite achieving the sense of becoming a city person. Cities are places I tolerate rather than derive energy from. It is a mental adjustment that people have to give up things they learnt strongly in childhood, they are hard and seem scary to shift.

I don’t get the City dwellers perception of distances. For example, I can say, I don’t miss out culturally in the countryside as I can drive to the city in two hours, an 80 odd mile journey. However it seems that City dwellers express shock at an 160 mile round trip just to go to a concert. However the City dweller may spend the same two hours travelling to a concert, that is perhaps 15 miles away, but the other side of the city. It’s still two hours, perhaps the city dweller has the expectation that things are close at hand and not far away. I wrote recently about where I grew up having to drive 8 miles to the supermarket. Well I’m currently in a large town, where it takes the same time to get to the supermarket, progress is slower due to the traffic.

Perhaps this is the issue. When I was a child i imagined cities to be these wonderful places, where everything was much more efficient, you had access to more wonderful experiences. I have grown up to discover that this isn’t true. It seems that as cities become more crowded, they become even less efficient, whilst things are getting easier in the countryside (we’ve even got broadband too now in most places). Perhaps this is partly the reason for these movement or aspiration of people moving back to the countryside?

When I was at school I went on work experience, during this the boss was describing why he’s rather be a big fish in a small pool, than a small fish in a big pool (i.e he preferred being responsible for his decisions in a Welsh backwater, rather than be at the centre of the company by working at the head office. This is analogous of the big cultural difference between the Country and the City.

City dwellers seem to argue that they have the concerts by the great artists on their doorstep, whilst in the country we attend concerts by local artists or put on concerts ourselves. The Country way seems better as they is a greater sense of involvement, a greater intimacy with other people and greater insight because of it. Rather than begin a mere passive observer of a great artist at a distance. Another example of this is food, city dwellers have easier access to more exotic foods and a wider range, whilst in the Country there is more time to cook things ourselves or be handmade locally.

Actually, objectively, perhaps neither is superior to the other, it’s just what people are used to and i think they’re is a human need for a bit of familiarity from time to time, so we can appreciate the joy of different experiences.