Huw M

Bilingual blurts on music // Eang yw'r byd i bawb


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Si hwi hwi, er cof am Merêd

[This blog is also available in English]

Mae ‘na ddylanwad gospel ar yr albym newydd ‘ma rydan ni’n recordio, yn rhannol oherwydd cyfraniad dwy gantores arbennig dwi ‘di bod yn cydweithio efo nhw yn ystod y misoedd diwethaf – y chwiorydd Marshall o Gaerdydd. Ond yn y blog yma dwi isio sôn am un gân yn arbennig o’r albym (sydd wedi dod yn dipyn o ffefryn i mi a’r band), sef y gân werin Si hwi hwi – enghraifft o hwiangerdd ‘spiritual’ Gymraeg.

150 mlynedd yn ôl i eleni daeth Rhyfel Cartref America i ben, a chyda hynny diwedd swyddogol i gaethwasanaeth yn yr Unol Daleithiau. Ac mae ‘na nifer o gysylltiadau diwylliannol rhwng Cymru a’r ymgyrch i ddiddymu caethwasiaeth yn America ar y pryd – yn emynau, cerddi a chaneuon Cymraeg gafodd eu cyfansoddi er enghraifft. Ac mae Si hwi hwi yn perthyn i’r traddodiad anrhydeddus hwnnw.

Awdur geiriau Si hwi hwi ydy Rowland Walter, neu ‘Ionoron Glan Dwyryd’ i roi ei enw barddol iddo – chwarelwr a bardd o ardal Blaenau Ffestiniog ymfudodd i Vermont yn America tua 1853, a dod yn weithgar efo’r mudiad gwrth-gaethwasiaeth.

Mae’r gân wedi ei chyfansoddi o bersbectif mam yn canu i’w phlentyn y noson cyn i’r ddau gael eu dwyn o’i gilydd, eu gwahanu a chael eu ‘gwerthu’ fel caethweision. Mae ‘na dyndra amlwg rhwng yr alaw swynol, hardd a’r geiriau tywyll, dirdynnol.

Ac mae hanes diweddar y gân yn bwysig. Hyd y gwelaf i, mae’r diolch i’r diweddar Dr Meredydd Evans (Merêd) fod y gân wedi goroesi o gwbl. Fel fydd nifer ohonoch yn gwybod – roedd Merêd yn ganwr, yn ysgolhaig, yn athronydd, yn ymgyrchydd iaith ac yn arbenigwr ar ganu gwerin ac yn gyfrifol am gyhoeddi nifer o gyfrolau o hen alawon, gyda’i wraig Phyllis Kinney.

Fe ddaw Merêd  yn wreiddiol o Danygrisiau, Blaenau Ffestiniog – yr un ardal â’r cyfansoddwr – ac roedd o’n cofio clywed ei fam yn canu Si hwi hwi iddo yn blentyn, fel hwiangerdd i helpu iddo gysgu.

Yn y 1950au, aeth Merêd i fyw yn America i astudio yn Princeton, ac mi gafodd o wahoddiad i recordio casgliad o ganeuon gwerin Cymraeg i label recordiau Folkways – record bwysig gafodd ei dewis fel un o recordiau gorau’r flwyddyn gan y New York Times yn 1954.

Tan hynny, doedd dim cofnod o’r gân a’r alaw gyda’i gilydd yn bodoli, felly mae’n debyg byddai’r gân wedi diflannu pe byddai Merêd heb ei recordio. Ac mae’r recordiad hwnnw , ar ryw ystyr, yn cwblhau’r cylch – ganrif union ar ôl i’r cyfansoddwr Rowland Walter symud o Flaenau Ffestiniog i’r Unol Daleithiau a chyfansoddi’r gân, dyma Merêd yn gwneud yr un siwrne er mwyn recordio’r gân a’i rhoi ar gof a chadw. Mae Merêd ei hun yn ran annatod o hanes y gân.

Ganol mis Ionawr eleni, ges i sgwrs ffôn efo Merêd am Si hwi hwi. Sgwrs ddifyr eithriadol ac roeddwn i ar y ffôn am tua awr a hanner – mwy neu lai yn trafod un gân! Er ei fod yn 95 oed, roedd ei feddwl yn finiog a’i gof yn anhygoel. Gyda thristwch mawr y clywyd am ei farwolaeth wythnos diwethaf – mae’n dyled ni’n fawr iddo. Ond mae o wedi ein gadael efo cyfoeth o ganeuon i’w trysori, i’w dehongli, i’w hail-ddiffinio ac, yn bennaf oll, i’w clywed.

Merêd (llun Iestyn Hughes)

Merêd (llun Iestyn Hughes)

Mae ‘na deyrngedau arbennig wedi bod i Merêd – gallwch ddarllen rhai yn yr erthygl hon ar Cymru Fyw.

Gyfeillion, mwynhewch yr anhygoel Meredydd Evans yn canu Si hwi hwi.

spotify:track:3ZpHYvSla9f4R2GK5WrsrI

Er cof annwyl iawn am Merêd.

 


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Si hwi hwi, in memory of ‘Merêd’

[Mae’r blog yma hefyd ar gael yn Gymraeg]

There’s a gospel influence on this new album, partly because of the contribution of two wonderful singers I’ve been working with recently – the Marshall sisters from Cardiff. But, in this blog, I’d like to concentrate on one particular song from the album (which is a firm favourite with myself and the band), which is the folk song Si hwi hwi – an example of a Welsh spiritual lullaby.

150 years ago this year, the American Civl War ended and, with it, the formal abolition of slavery in the United States. And there are many cultural connections between Wales and the abolitionist movement in America at the time – including a number of anti-slavery Welsh hymns, poems and songs. Si hwi hwi belongs to this honourable tradition.

The author of the lyrics is Rowland Walter, bardic name ‘Ionoron Glan Dwyryd’ – a quarryman and poet from the Blaenau Ffestiniog area in north Wales who emigrated to Vermont in America around 1853, and became active in the movement to abolish slavery.

The song is composed from the perspective of a mother singing her baby to sleep on the eve of being torn apart and ‘sold’ as slaves. There’s a clear tension between the beautiful, soothing melody  and the dark, disturbing lyrics.

The recent history of the song is also important. As far as I can tell, the song has survived to this day thanks to the late Dr Meredydd Evans, or ‘Merêd’ as he was fondly known. Merêd was a singer, scholar, campaigner, and historian of Welsh folk music. Along with his wife, Phyllis Kinney, they published several important collections of folk songs over many years which has helped to preserve our musical heritage.

Merêd came from Tanygrisiau, Blaenau Ffestiniog – the same area as the composer of Si hwi hwi – and he remembers his mother singing the song to him as a child, as a lullaby to help him sleep.

A few decades later, in the 1950s, Merêd moved to America to study at Princeton, and he was invited to record a collection of Welsh folk songs for the Folkways label – a seminal record that was chosen as one of the New York Times’ records of the year in 1954.

Until that point, there was no written or audio record of the melody and lyrics together, so we can assume that the song would have disappeared had Merêd not recorded it. And that recording, in many ways, completes the circle – a century after Rowland Walter moved from Blaenau Ffestiniog to the United States and composed the song, Merêd made the same journey to record the song and to ensure it’s preservation. Merêd is as much a part of the song’s history as the composer himself.

In January this year I had a phone conversation with Merêd about Si hwi hwi. It was a fascinating discussion which lasted about an hour and a half – more or less talking about one song! Despite being 95 years old, his mind was razor sharp and his memory impeccable. It was with sadness that we heard of his passing over the weekend – we owe him a great deal, as a nation and as music lovers. But he has left us with a legacy of songs to treasure, to interpret, to re-define and, most importantly, to enjoy.

Merêd (photo Iestyn Hughes)

Merêd (photo Iestyn Hughes)

Here’s the magical Meredydd Evans singing Si hwi hwi.

spotify:track:3ZpHYvSla9f4R2GK5WrsrI

Er cof annwyl iawn am Merêd.