Ummh Give Welsh Rap a Boost; Band's New Album Fuses Hip-Hop and Jazz

Western Mail (Cardiff, Wales), June 11, 2003 | Go to article overview

Ummh Give Welsh Rap a Boost; Band's New Album Fuses Hip-Hop and Jazz


Byline: David Williamson

ELEGANT jazz melodies and free-flowing urban rap with a Swansea accent collide in Amheuthun, the new album from Welsh band Ummh.

As well as showcasing some of the nation's most adventurous musical talent, the recordings may force sceptics to take Welsh rap seriously.

The musical cocktail is the first CD the band has recorded in five years. Ummh claim they are ``pioneering a sound that fuses the power and funk of hip-hop beats with the improvised sensibilities of live jazz''.

Wales has produced numerous rap acts since the 1980s, but while some have won respect among aficionados of the genre, few have captured the mainstream imagination.

Ummh's has the potential to be a breakthrough album which will bring jazz musicians and rappers Nobsta Nutts and Aron Jones to an audience of unprecedented scale.

Recent albums by Moby have appealed to end-ofa-night audiences by combining languorous instrumental tracks with hip-hop and rap-influenced songs. Amheuthun brings together murky yet mesmerising sounds reminiscent of Miles Davies with the energy and experimentation of Nobsta and Aron.

The latter rapper was astonished to learn that a verbal improvisation session recorded in a studio last summer was on the new album. ``I didn't realise it was actually being released,'' he said. ``We had a few beers and improvised.''

Aron, who also plays the double bass and performs Spanish guitar, sees jazz, hip hop and rap as genres of music which flow together naturally.

His love of jazz was inspired by the samples of musicians featured on hip-hop records.

He said, ``Poetry has always been a part of jazz, and rap is just poetry in time with the beats of the music.''

But Ummh do not consider themselves the champions of Welsh rap. Instead, they hope that fans of groups such as Aron's Pep Le Pew and Nobsta's The Headcase Ladz will be introduced to the delights of jazz through the album.

The group's trumpet player, Tomos Williams, said, ``If you say it's jazz, people don't want to listen to it. A lot of the people we play to don't know anything about jazz.''

He is delighted at how the powerful musical improvisation of the band is complimented by the streams of consciousness of the rappers.

``We gave them free run and let them go for it,'' he said.

But even if the album, released by Awen Records, does not win them television appearances and chart positions, Tomos is satisfied with Ummh's artistic achievement. …

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