Monday, 29 January 2007
'Hendrix Anthem' mystery unresolved
The recording of Hen Wlad Fy Nhadau (Land of My Fathers), the Welsh National Anthem, which was embedded along with a story placing its moment of creation tantalisingly close to the death of American guitar legend Jimi Hendrix, has now been taken down the page.
Since the story broke in the Western Mail on December 30, our website has taken more than 35 million hits. The Guardian and the BBC both carried the story and it travelled around the world on the Internet, often passed on by the Welsh diaspora in countries as far apart as Argentina, Australia, Canada, New Zealand and the USA. It provoked considerable interest in the US after being aired on ABC News and in France after featuring on TF1, the main French television channel, and in Libération, the national daily newspaper.
The story was also featured on the BBC’s flagship Newsnight programme, which happens to have a Welsh producer who is also a Hendrix fan, on two consecutive evenings. It went on to generate an extraordinary amount of media coverage right around the globe and it provoked a heated debate as to whether Hendrix was actually responsible for the recording or not. (I now know a lot about pickup types and whammy bar techniques, thanks to all those who contributed!)
I was a little the worse for wear in a pub in St Mary’s Street, Cardiff, when I got an email from a friend of a friend who was visiting Kathmandu, Nepal, to tell me that the story was on the back page of the Himalayan Times. People in the pub must have thought I was mad when I jumped for joy. I later got an email from some people in the Solomon Islands to tell me they were playing air guitar to Hen Wlad Fy Nhadau.
At the height of media interest, a Google search for “Jimi Hendrix Welsh National Anthem” produced 95,000 results, while a search in French for “Jimi Hendrix l’hymne Gallois” produced more than 10,000 results. These results represent the number of articles published on the Internet that contain a combination of the searched keywords.
It might be the case that Jimi Hendrix is now forever associated with the Welsh National Anthem, and one or two people have labelled this ‘cultural vandalism’. I can see their point. Nevertheless, I maintain it takes something like this to counter the English propaganda that has, over centuries, indoctrinated the Welsh with a lack of confidence in their own nationhood. You think I’m exaggerating? Look up the verb ‘welsh’ in the Oxford English Dictionary and compare what you find there with what was said by English racists on Big Brother.
If you live in another country, you’ll know that Wales is almost invisible to the rest of the world. It’s no wonder that CNN publishes a map showing only England, Scotland and Ireland, with Wales deemed a part of England, just like Yorkshire. Well, now a lot of people know a little bit more about Wales, even if it’s just that they can hum our national anthem.
So the story has run its course. We never found Viv Williams, the one person who might have shed more light on the veracity of the recording, but it would be wrong to say that we haven’t learnt anything new. In fact, we’ve found people we didn’t expect to find who revealed associations between Jimi Hendrix and Wales that we previously knew nothing about. These may be published, or may form the basis of a screenplay, once the facts have been checked.
IF NOT JIMI, THEN WHO?
On Wednesday, 3rd January 2007, the BBC showed archive footage of Welsh guitarist Tich Gwilym playing Hen Wlad Fy Nhadau on Newsnight, fuelling speculation about the identity of the player, assuming it wasn't Jimi Hendrix.
Seeing this film gave us mixed emotions since Tich, whose real name was Robert Gilliam, was killed in a house fire in Cardiff in 2005. Yet it was wonderful seeing him play Land of My Fathers on television.
We may not know much, but we do know that our recording could not have been by Tich, even if the style of playing were similar, which it isn't.
So, for the benefit of the thousands of visitors who wanted a to make a comparison with the ‘Hendrix’ version, we’ve arranged with Tich Gwilym’s good friend and manager, Mike Monk, to make a recording available from our site. Simply click on the following link to hear it (or just copy the URL to your browser) http://www.thereddragonhood.com/pages/jimi.html
Having listened, you might wish to make a donation to the Tich Gwilym Foundation, a charity established in his memory, which helps to provide musical instruments and lessons for underprivileged kids in south Wales. There is a button on the page that allows you to do this directly via PayPal.
We have also arranged for Sain Records to reissue Geraint Jarman’s album Goreuon from 1991 for download on iTunes. The last track on the album features Tich playing a wonderful rendition of Hen Wlad Fy Nhadau.
Play it loud and with pride! Remember Tich Gwilym, a fine son of Wales.
Cymru am byth!
Click here to go to The Red Dragonhood