#1 Y Niwl
Why go to the opposite side of the world when there are such interesting stories across the border in Wales, a country with a vast and rich musical heritage.
Y Niwl (pronounced Uh Nule and translated as The Fog) are a Welsh language band that I have the pleasure of listening to every Saturday lunchtime. So do hundreds of thousands of other people too although they may not know it. This small band has a song that are the opening credits to Football Focus. Bigger bands such as The Wombats with ‘Kill the Director’ and Doves with ‘Jetstream’ had been picked in previous seasons so this was a major change of direction choosing a band that most couldn’t even pronounce correctly and sounds like it is from the 1960s. The uplifting guitar riffs fit the footballing montage perfectly and goes hand in hand with the sounds of football crowds cheering. Actually, it wouldn’t seem out of place on the beaches of America with surf rock reminiscent of The Shadows. Although they aren’t exactly well-known they have been given favourable reviews with NME giving their album 7/10 and describing it as ‘playful surf-rock from the Welsh shores‘. The album was also announced as CD of the week in the Sunday Times.
They are also the backing band to Gruff Rhys who you may know as the frontman of Super Furry Animals. He now has a successful solo career with albums such as the colourful ‘Hotel Shampoo’. He was one of the support acts for the Kaiser Chiefs at a gig in Kirkstall Abbey, Leeds. After his set, Gruff Rhys ran off and let his backing band take centre stage. The last song ‘Undegpedwar’ was the theme tune which had me shouting in my girlfriend’s face ‘THAT’S THE FOOTBALL FOCUS THEME TUNE’ excitedly as it had bugged me for weeks what it was. Now I have the app Shazam on my iPod for that but this was before I had such luxuries.
The decision to choose a small Welsh band to soundtrack this successful mainstream BBC football show seemed to be a metaphor for Welsh football as a whole. Swansea are currently riding high in the premiership and Cardiff recently took Liverpool all the way to penalties in the Carling Cup Final. Tottenham’s Gareth Bale is becoming a world class player and Aaron Ramsey of Arsenal is also becoming a very fine midfielder. Because of this, the Welsh national team had been making massive strides under manager Gary Speed. As we all know this came to a halt after the tragic death of Speed in November. His achievements were celebrated in a memorial match against Costa Rica in February. Another celebrated Welsh frontman, Kelly Jones from Stereophonics recorded a tribute to Gary Speed in the form of an acoustic version of Andy Williams’s classic ‘Can’t Take My Eyes Off You’. The song was chosen because it became an adopted anthem of Welsh football fans during Speed’s playing career with Wales after being used in a promo for BBC Wales for the 1994 World Cup qualifying campaign. It is hard not to end a depressing note but these two very different songs show what different emotions the world of music and sport can entail.