'India is an incredible place'

'India is an incredible place'

welsh tunes

'India is an incredible place'

Of the few bands that combine traditional folk melodies with modern elements of jazz, one that stands out is Welsh sextet Burum (meaning ‘yeast’). Having performed at BFlat recently, they tell Metrolife how they’ve created a new musical vernacular for Welsh traditional music.

Asked about the choice of name, trumpeter Tomos Williams explains, “Our music is about what you add to something to make it something else.” He elaborates, “We’ve all been playing jazz in Wales for quite a long time. But we increasingly felt like doing something more relevant to us. So we started joining traditional Welsh melodies with a jazz aesthetic using improvisation.

Even during the performance, the tunes stay in the memory because they’re very strong melodies. So we let them speak for themselves.”

Ceri Rhys Matthews, the ‘joker in the pack’ who plays the flute and bagpipe, adds, “There’s improvisation in the tunes itself. They are never played the same way twice but mixed around based on the situation and mood.”

What is interesting about this particular bunch of musicians is the varying influences on each member. “I know nothing about the jazz world and they don’t know who certain people in the Welsh tradition were. When we’re playing together, however, it’s all in the same space,” shares Ceri, to which Tomos adds, “It’s both and neither. We all listen to similar stuff but it’s completely different.” Pianist Dave Jones, the quiet one in the group, notes, “Even in the jazz space itself, we’re all in extremely different places.”

Was it a conscious decision to not have a guitarist? Aidan Thorne, who plays bass, replies, “I’m working on trying to get the guitar.” However, Tomos adds that while anything would be an interesting addition, the piano is enough for now. “I don’t like to play with both the guitar and piano unless it’s really well thought out. Besides, if we had a guitarist, Dave wouldn’t be in the band!” he jokes.

India has treated the band well and they can’t wait to return. Drummer Mark O’Connor remarks, “I’ve never been here before, so I can only speak for myself. But India is an incredible place. I’d describe it as beautiful chaos.” 

Ceri, the father figure in the band, adds, “We’ve also heard Indian music by people like Hari Prasad Chaurasia and Ravi Shankar, who are great. And since Britain is full of Indians, we’ve even heard the Bollywood numbers!”

The band has collaborated with musicians of international repute like flautist Jean-Michel Veillon, triple-harpist Llio Rhydderch and guitarist Jean-Paul Bourelly in the past. But while collaborations are enjoyable, they prefer working as the six of them. “We’ve collaborated over the years, which has been interesting.

But you can’t get carried away thinking that you need another ingredient. We’ve got our own sound as a band and we’re working on fine-tuning that,” wraps up Tomos.