Fest-noz

Blog, Musicians' Diary

List of Breton music essentials you’ve been waiting for!


Have you ever dream of a list of Breton music to listen to? Essentials that you could be introduced to ? Fascinated by breton fest-noz music and not knowing where to start from?

We’ve had the request quite often, and since we’re catching-up on all we postponed during Inês album recording and release, here it is: a WIP list of breton music that we like and that has influenced us. You can find the list on this section of tour web-site that we plan on up-dating regularly, as well as books recommended for artists, online ressources and links to the gear we use for music and video. But, without further due, let’s get in to the world of fest-noz and breton music: 

Fest-noz & modern breton music

From late XXc – 80’s and 90’s power!

From 00’s on

  • Karma – fest-noz, fest-noz by the Diwan generation.
  • Plantec – a band around two brothers, and in the beginning quite influenced by Ar Re Yaouank, then experimented also with some live electro.

Experimental, world, cross-over, others

  • Bugel Koar – Ar solier, with the singer Marthe Vassalo. A very interesting project, with a lot of gwerz (breton type of lament) from Trégor (and we love gwerz from Trégor!). N’ebaon the second album by the duet is also really good. (and more likely to be available)
  • Any album by/with Erik Marchand worth it! His collaboration with the french oud player Thierry Titi Robin in the 80’s: chants du centre Bretagne and An Tri Breur deeply and profoundly inspired and nourished our musical experiences. He’s also famous for his fusion world music with musicians from the Balkans. Our favorite ever is Pruna (although Unu, daou, tri easily available or Dor are totally worth it). Another favorite of ours is his collab with the french indie musician Rodolphe Burger which resulted in the unexpected album Before Bach.
  • Norkst and Kreiz Breizh Akademi. It sounds weird to add an album in which we personally performed, but when it was released in 2005, it was quite a unique project, both artistic and pedagogic, upon an idea from Erik Marchand. The project still goes on with several albums released by different KBA bands, but Norkst being the very first one, it certainly would be the one to listen to as it opened the road to all the later ones. (let us know if you’d like us to elaborate on the project!)
  • Au Café Breton by Rolland Becker and Regis Huiban. A project around breton music as played in the 20’s 30’s and influenced by Parisian accordion musette style (it has influenced a few fest-noz bands like Le Bour / Bodros )
  • Jacques Pellen – Celtic Procession. A project that started in the 90’s, with loads of versions, guests, etc, but generally with a jazz flavour.

Gwerz, kan ha diskan and a-capella albums

  • Tradition Chantée En Bretagne – Les Sources Du Barzaz Breiz Aujourd’Hui . More specialised, this is a collection of gatherings from the XXth century from songs that were previously to be found on the XIXc book “Barzaz Breizh”. Raw a-capella singing, but a treasure if you fancy authentic traditional style. The booklet is quite thick and very useful and contains all the lyrics with french translations.
  • Kan ha Diskan by Loeiz Roparz. A collection of kan ha diskan with several singers and Loeiz Roparz, known to be the “inventor” of fest-noz in its actual form.
  • Kan ha Diskan – Yann-Fañch Kemener. Kan ha diskan from Yann-Fañch Kemener with most of big names from the breton kan ha diskan scene, both old and new scene: Erik Marchand, Annie Ebrel, Patrick Marie, Valentine Colleter, Claudine Flohic, Marcel Guilloux, Ifig Troadeg. A must have!
  • Fest-Noz en Poher. Not very often available, but pay close attention to the name and picture, so far there isn’t any re-edit, but if it at some point would show up on the second hand market, be quick! Simone has practically learned all the basics from Kan ha Diskan with this excellent very traditional album. Features gavotte from Annie Ebrel with Noluen Le Buhez (excellent and brilliant energy!), from Fustec/Le Corre and Les Frères Dilasser – both huge favorites and role models for kan ha diskan when Yann was a child (and also probably the only recording available from the Dilasser Brothers).

Enjoy, and let us know in the comment section if you have any request or suggestion!

Links are amazon affiliated, if you decide to buy any of these based on our recommendations, please, do use our links, you will pay the exact same price, but we’ll receive a little percentage that can help us producing more music and share more useful links.

Also, this list is based on our personal musical journey, on what made a difference to us, and also on our personal tastes! This ain’t meant to be a chart, or any “ultimate” listing! Get inspired, enjoy our story sharing, but create your own story and connection with breton music.

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Sound & Video

Kan ha Diskan in Paris


We’re just back from Paris where we had a few gigs and also the chance to sing an a-capella Kan ha Diskan for a danse at a fest-noz. Image is quite blurry but sound is cool!

Musicians' Diary, Sound & Video

(afternoon) Breton music in Istanbul


[youtube http://youtu.be/sBEr41uL6s8]

Breton 100% fest-noz music with an Hanter-dro by Yann with Richard Laniepce, a musician from Istanbul with some origins in Brittany too (you might check his band Kolektif Istanbul)

Hanter-dro is a dance from Vannes area, similar to our “7 Hills” although our version isn’t meant to be danced.

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Album Songs and Lyrics

O soñjal


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[ lyrics, translation & facts for the 8th song from our album >here< ]

This particular song – and in a way it is funny that it will happen to be the last one I’m translating – might be the true origin of Astrakan Project.

Magic Tree in Saint Servais Brittany

Back to 2007, we were both living in Brittany and playing in various bands, among which in a fest-noz band – basically… Breton dancing music ! Yann started to record parts of tunes so that the other members could practice home – in this song for instance, the rhythm is slightly “shifted” to get closer to what singers actually do. For some reasons, we never got to play it on stage in Brittany, but… Yann had learned that he could bring all the music he had in his head to life !

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When we moved to Istanbul in 2008, Yann started to work on that song again, and it’s one of the first we recorded for our demo in 2009 – and finally his dream come true : we are playing it at every concert !

For me, this song is very personal too, when I’m singing:

O sonjal an devezh, kalonad am e oa bet, me partias d’eus ar gêr”

“Thinking about that day, my heart is full of sorrow, I left home”

I can only but relate to my father that left his home country Portugal when he was only 17, like many young men in his age, before they would be taken to serve the army.

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Music : 1st tune was sung by the famous Frères Morvan (3 brothers among whom 2 are still singing all around Brittany) , the 2nd was composed by Yann in 2007

Instruments : guitar + loops

Rhythm : Plinn (dance from Central East Brittany, around Bourbriac)

[ don’t forget to start the music while you’re reading the translation 🙂 ]

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Ar bempvet devezh warnugent, demeus ar viz genver
Kalonad me am boe bet, sevel ‘maez ma gwele

On the 25th of January
I had a lot of sorrow while I was getting out of my bed

Kalonad me am boe bet maez ma gwele sevel
O sonjal an devezh,  pezhani ’m boe da dremen

I had a lot of sorrow while I was getting out of my bed
Just thinking about the day I’ll have to get threw

O sonjal an devezh, pezhani ’m boe da dremen
Allas a benn pe oe noz, / / me am boe bet anken

Just thinking about the day I’ll have to get threw
Unfortunately when the night came, I was still anxious

Me partias eus ar ger, (na) oen ket gwall diwehat
Ar c’hentan ker a antreen, oa en Sant Nikolas

I left home, it was quite early
The firtst village I got to was Sant Nikolas

Ar c’hentan ker a antreen, oa en Sant Nikolas
Na disdostit d’ar c’houvi, dindan an doen mein glas

The firtst village I got to was Sant Nikolas
Approaching to the halls, under their slates roof

Na pa oamp erru enan, ni oa digemeret
Gant paotred al livitenn, o pe an tokou trouset

When we got there we were welcomed
By guys with hoods and bicornes

Kalonad am me boe bet / E soñjal barzh un devez
Me partias d’eus ar gêr / Kalonad am me boe bet

My heart was full of sorrow / Thinking about that day
I left home / My heart was full of sorrow 

A pa oa lanset an ordr, astenet an drapo
Na da gentan ‘vit koumans tennan ‘reas ar maeriou

And when the order was given and the flag unfurled
Mayors where to first to pick up the tickets (*)

Ha goude e teue war-lerc’h tro ar baotred yaouank
Ha peb hini a denne der ma hae deus a renk

And right after them, the young ones, 
Each was picking up a ticket as his turn came

Benn pa oa erru ma renk evit tennan ar bilhed
Ma c’hamarad ‚denne unneg, me a denne douzeg

When it came to me to pick up one, 
My friend picked up eleven, and I did twelve (**)

Ma c’hamarad ‚denne unneg me a denne douzeg
Soudarded an assurans, partiet e zo ret

My friend picked up eleven, and I did twelve
We were insured to become soldiers, and would have to leave

saint nikolas

A French translation >here<

(*) at that time (probably around Napoleon III wars, end of XIX century), not every young man would go to serve the army, the ones who would have to go were “drawn” among all young men from the same village

(**) we’ve heard the the meaning of this particular sentence could be that being from lower extraction, these two young man and their families had received money in order to pick up more than one ticket – picking up the ones from luckier ones who would so avoid for sure going to the military service.

Notes: As usual, it’s a personal translation, with no attempt to translate the poetic style, it might not be fully accurate, the purpose is more to give an idea about what it is about.

§ Simone

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Album Songs and Lyrics

Twist en-dro war al leur goat


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Twist en-dro is this month within >fRoots playlist<, it is time for some explanations + translations!

There is be too much to say about this odd title, en-dro means “again”, but it is also the name of a particular dance from the Vannes area. Al leur goat is a wooden generally non-permanant flooring used outside or in ballrooms for fest-noz, our favorite ones are smooth enough so that you feel lighter while dancing, but not too much either, and it responds by a sharp sound while you dance (see notes bellow from the translation…. )

Plancher de fest-noz Wooden floor for fest-noz
Image source >http://www.relaisdelocean.com&lt;

Lyrics used are a very common text mostly sung as a “gavotte” like here, and know under the title “Ar Poatr Yaouank Kozh”. They are however much longer, you may find the full version >here<, with French translation.

Instruments : guitar, violin, ‘oud, electric ‘oud, derbouka

Rythme : gavotte dance

Music: a mix of traditional tunes with Yann’s compositions

[ don’t forget to click on the cover image bellow, so that you can listen to it while reading the translation… ]

Ar Poatr Yaouank Kozh 

The Bachelor

Me zo chomet da goshaat ha n’on ket c’hoazh dimezet
Ha dre-se on gwelet fall gant an dimezelled

I’m getting older but I’m still not married
This is why I get mocked by young Ladies

Ar merc’hed a oa gwechall a glaske labourat
Kannañ gwenn ar rochedoù, ober stamm ha gwriad

Girls used to work hard
To wash, sew and repair clothes

Met ar re yaouank zo bremañ a zo o klask bezañ koant
Setu aze ‘vit petra on chomet poatr yaouank

But young ones now are trying nothing but to look pretty
This is why I’m still a bachelor

Pa vo pardonioù ‘barzh ar vro, ‘hay en noz da zañsal
Neuze ‘vo klevet o c’hoarzhin hag he zreid o strakal (*)

When they are fairs around the country, they’re going at night to dance
You’ll only hear laughing and their feet hitting the floor (*)

Hag an deiz war-lerc’h ‘chomo ‘pad an deiz en he gwele
Gant ar boan ba’n he divhar pe an droug ‘n he c’hostez

And then the next day they stay in bed for the all day
With pain in their legs or on their stomach

Un dilhad eus ar c’haerañ ‘renko c’hoazh da gaoued
Ur robenn brodet gant seiz hag un tok alaouret

They’ll also claim for the most beautiful clothing
A dress embroidered with silk and a goldish hat

An dra-se ‘vez ket gwall-bell ‘tegas ur mil da bemp kant
Setu aze ‘vit petra on chomet poatr yaouank

Before you notice it you’ll out of money

And this is why I’m still a bachelor

Notes:

(*) strakañ : hitting and making a “bang” noise all together, mostly used for the noise made by dancers feet and… like in aSTRAKAn

This is as usual a personal translation, with emphasis on the meaning than on the exact-correct-official translation

§ Simone

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Album Songs and Lyrics

Mouezhioù


[ lyrics, translation & facts for the 7th song from our album >here< ]

We’ve played this song for many years, in fest-noz (breton balrooms). The dance itself is called kas a-barh, and it has origins in the south of Brittany (in the Vannes area). The rhythm is similar to many traditional dances from various places in Europe and in the Balkans.

Traditionally in that area of Brittany, the assembly will repeat the lyrics after the leader while dancing. Our way to add extra voices however is more influenced by the time we recorded it, in Shiroka Laka, a small mountain village from the Bulgarian Rodopi Mountains. During our breaks we used to watch Folk TV. The result then of course doesn’t sound Bulgarian at all, maybe more Albanian?

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Because of these voices, we named  the song “mouezhioù” which means “voices”. Indeed, most of Breton songs, unlike Irish ones, don’t have any official title, we tend to refer to them by the beginning of the first verse, this one being referred to as “pa garche ma mamm”

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Music & Lyrics: traditional

Instruments : guitar, darbuka

Rythme : kas a-barh dance.

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Pa garche ma mamm ha ma zad / Ma’m behe bet ur chansig vat

Ma’m behe bet ur chansig vat / Ma’m behe mab un avokat

Ma’m behe mab un avokat / Breman m’eus bet un astralhuiad

Breman m’eus bet un astralhuiad / Na oar na devoam nag arad

Na oar na devoam nag arad / Med konduin e c’har a c’huitellad

Med konduin e c’har a c’huitellad / Monet d’en davarn mintin mat

Ha leun an ti a vugale / Pevar ar bank pemb e gwele

Pevar ar bank pemb e gwele / C’hoaz a vo c’hoaz ma vez danvez

C’hoaz a vo c’hoaz ma vez danvez / Ya ma bez bolontez Doue

Ya ma bez bolontez Doue / Bolontez an dud gwech a vez

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If my mother and father had wanted to / I would have been more chanceful

I would have been more chanceful / I had married a lawyer

I had married a lawyer / Now I’m with a drunkard

Now I’m with a drunkard / He doesn’t know how to plow a field

He doesn’t know how to plow a field / But he drives his wagon and whistles

But he drives his wagon and whistles / And goes to the pub early in the morning

And the house is full of kids / Four on the bench and five more on the bed

Four on the bench and five more on the bed /  And there will be more if there is willingness

And there will be more if there is willingness / Or if it’s God’s will

Or if it’s God’s will / And also people’s will sometimes

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Notes: As usual, it’s a personal translation, with no attempt to translate the poetic style, it might not be fully accurate, the purpose is more to give an idea about what it is.

Astrakan world music album on band camp