Gwenno’s nomination for the psych-pop album Tresor is a boost for the language once declared extinct.
Tresor by the Welsh singer-songwriter Gwenno is written predominately in Cornish and has just been nominated for the 2022 Mercury Prize. The prestigious award was won by Arlo Parks last year and previous winners include Wolf Alice, PJ Harvey and Skepta.
Gwenno (full name Gwenno Mererid Saunders) was born and raised in Wales. As the daughter of a Welsh translator mother and Cornish poet father, she grew up speaking both languages. Subsequently, she wrote her first solo album, Y Dydd Olaf, in Welsh and her second album, Le Kov, in Cornish. Tresor (translation: Treasure) is her third album and was released on Heavenly Records in July.
The album weaves together the personal and the political, touching on themes of isolation and nature in its psychedelic and bewitching soundscape. For instance, the single Welsh language track, NYCAW (Nid yw Cymru ar Werth, translation: Wales is not for Sale) is an urgent call to action for communities suffering under the housing crisis.
The nomination marks a new achievement for Cornish language speaking communities. Cornish was declared extinct in the 18th century, however thanks to a grass roots movement in recent years it’s experiencing a revival. In 2010, UNESCO removed it from the list and recategorised the language as ‘critically endangered’. Today, it’s taught in certain schools and bilingual signage is a common sight in Cornwall.
Tresor faces stiff competition for the prize and the nominees in her category are: Harry’s House (Harry Styles), Sometimes I Might Be Introvert (Little Simz) , Wet Leg (Wet Leg), For All Our Days That Tear the Heart (Jessie Buckley and Bernard Butler), Skin (Joy Crookes), Seventeen Going Under (Sam Fender), Reason to Smile (Kojey Radical), Forest Floor (Fergus McCreadie), Supernova (Nova Twins), Prioritise Pleasure (Self Esteem) and The Overload (Yard Act).
The Mercury Prize will take place on September 8th at the Eventim Apollo, Hammersmith.