- Words Ben Tibbits
- Photo Credit Alfie Reddy
We dive into the burgeoning Welsh music scene and speak to some of its rising stars.
UK alternative music has truly come into its own over the past couple of years. Never has the underground scene had such scores of unique talents, hybrid sounds and burgeoning scenes. There’s no doubt that some will inevitably be overlooked however, flourishing in their own right yet unreasonably neglected. One such example comes from deep within the verdure valleys of Wales and its various enigmatic talents.
Wales; the home of Snowdon, sheep and dragons, of Roald Dahl, Anthony Hopkins and Gareth Bale. Musically though, there has always been a scarcity of musicians who have managed to have an impact on the wider creative climate. Of course, there’s been Shirley Bassey, Tom Jones, Stereophonics and Catfish and the Bottleman, but in terms of the modern music scene, specifically in hip-hop, R&B and pop, there has been a distinct lack of discovery.
In terms of alternative musicians who have elevated their appeal outside of their country or gained plaudits amongst a more niche audience, the names are sadly few and far between. Deyah, the slick Cardiff born spitter proceeds the Welsh reputation, instead pitched more in the UK space as an artist who’s eerily thoughtful musings have had a fundamental impact as a female rapper, exploding onto the scene with the superb ‘Ultimate Dinner Party’ and augmenting her acclaim ever since with various impressive releases. Local, a hypeman-esque MC who has collaborated with the likes of Jaykae and featured on two of Jammer’s Lord of the Mics series, is another Welsh-native who has pushed beyond the border, sitting comfortably at the UK’s garage / DnB table.
Dig further however, and there are scores of talent yet untapped. Luke RV is a prolific songwriter, with six bodies of work to his name since his 2018 emergence. A DIY artist to the core, and if you listen back through his admirable discography, you can see the steady progression in craft and perspective, with last year’s EP ‘Travel Pack’ and this year’s singles like “LONG TERM PARKING” amongst his best work, highlighting his growth and the refinement of his sound. He has just unveiled his newest EP ‘WHAT’S THAT, over there’, a stylistically refined and emotionally mature body of work that could prove to be his big break. “Growing up in Neath, I definitely think I’ve got a bit of a unique perspective in the sense that it’s a small Welsh town, rich with history, and you don’t really tend to hear from too many people from my neck of the woods”, Luke tells us. “Whether that will help me stand out or not, if I do, I’d like to think it’s for the right reasons”. The uniqueness of Luke’s come up is reflected in his sound – over booming yet emotionally potent instrumentals, Luke switches between melody and meanderings, his thick accent apparent but not overawing. Telling relatable tales of love, resolution and intrepidness, there’s a warmth to his music. “I think being branded a ‘Welsh’ artist can be off putting for some people maybe. I think a lot of people get the wrong impression of Wales,” he muses, “That being said, I don’t want to say it’s been any more difficult than anyone coming from any other background. The music has to speak for itself at the end of the day”.
JUICE MENACE has a mainstream-friendly sound that flirts with baseline, garage, drill and grime, and has seen impressive success with tastemakers and listeners. Her 2020 smash hit “Sundown” took her from the unknown, to boasting a song with over a million streams, with a diverse array of releases over the past few years cementing her skill and laudation. On the scene, Juice tells us, “The amount of new talent emerging from the Welsh scene is exactly what we needed and it’s only going to open more doors for what’s to come next. It’s like being a part of a team, we all understand each other’s situation and I think it’s creating a strong support system for artists in Wales”. That sense of togetherness is essential, with the need to support each other’s art more paramount than ever. Rather than fighting for a way out of the bucket like starving crabs, it’s pivotal for the artists in the scene to help one another, push each other’s agenda and support from the ground up”.
One particularly enigmatic piece in Welsh music’s wider chess game is the raw, genre-bending sounds of Kiddus. His sound leans more towards the avant-garde than the other highlighted artists, with the dingy, disorientating sonics and crooning vocals finding Kiddus sitting alone amongst his peers. Despite stylistically being an outsider, the ex Future Bubbler is very much part of the fledgling scene, working with fellow upcomers like L E M F R E C K and and recently playing a show supporting hotly tipped West London spitter Bawo with Luke RV. “There’s just been a lack of meaningful platforms, infrastructure and support in areas of the arts industry here,” criticises Kiddus when discussing the difficulties of his rise.
The talent appearing from Wales is varied in style, and unique in its approach, but can it have a larger impact on the wider UK rap and alternative scenes? Let’s hope so. To date, these artists have struggled to match the heights of some of their peers, instead floating beneath the surface, swimming purposefully, but only occasionally coming up for air. It’s a growing scene that should be taken seriously. Soon enough success will seep into the Welsh valleys.