An Lon Dubh

Diarmuid Johnson


An Lon Dubh (Y Deryn Du); album, 40 minutes; LP Vinyl.

Two hundred tunes harvested from books and manuscripts

An Lon Dubh, an album of music by flute player and writer Diarmuid Johnson, features both Welsh and Irish music, most of which belongs to the period between the years 2002 and 2006, while living in Ceredigion in west Wales.

“Most of the music on this album I learned between 2002 and 2006 in Ceredigion, West Wales. A meeting with piper and artist Ceri Matthews and singer Julie Murphy set the wheels of the adventure in motion. Subsequently, during these years, I discovered parts of a hidden Wales little mapped or documented, learned two hundred tunes that Ceri and others had harvested largely from old books and manuscripts, and became acquainted with dimly-lit and homely slate-roofed pubs such as The Angel in Llansawel, The Eagle in Llanfihangel-ar-Arth, The Allt-yr-Odyn by Capel Dewi, and the legendary Betsi’s of Cwm Gwaun.”

Breathing new life into dormant treasures

“One of the best known collector of songs in Ceredigion was J. Ffos Davies (1882–1931). In a recent book, Man Gwyn y Smotyn Du (Y Lolfa 2022, p. 27), Cyril Jones states that J. Ffos Davies collected scores of songs from various parts of the county. Many of these songs were later published in Forty Traditional Tunes Issued by The Cardiganshire Antiquarian Society.

The blackbird will sing for all men and for all women

“The songs and tunes that anthropologists such as J. Ffos Davies collected over a hundred years ago form part of the corpus that Ceri Matthews and like-minded contemporaries have used in our time to breath new life into dormant treasures on the banks of the river Teifi and its shy tributaries, the Clettwr and the Cledlyn.

“The gold we dug, however, is ours neither to hoard nor to possess. It is ours only to admire, to polish, and to hand on to others whose paths we cross on our journey. It is the gold that shines in the beak of the blackbird – y deryn du, an lon dubh. Because the blackbird will sing for all men and for all women, regardless of their creed, their tongue, or the colour of their skin.”

An Lon Dubh was produced by Ceri Rhys Matthew in conjunction with Fflach Tradd, Aberteifi.