A Short Guide to Breton Music

Over on mel.net, someone asked for recommendations on Breton music to listen to. In response, Yannick Laridon, of the band Planchée, posted the following amazing wealth of information. The post was too good to let die in the middle of a mel.net thread, so I asked if I could post it here. Truly an embarrassment of riches. Thank you! (I will also mention that I have a Breton playlist over on Spotify, if that’s how you roll.)

Brittany is a very active area regarding traditional music. Here are some personal picks, it’s not by any means a comprehensive list, and the comments are mine and phrased rapidly. I’ll add some bold font where there’s an accordion. Some good references were already mentioned, so here are some more, sorted by a somewhat chronological order.

The “early” recordings date from the Folk revival era, with names as well-known as Alan Stivell or Tri Yann for instance, which are centered on concert music rather than dance music. As often with prolific and long careers, all their production is not really relevant.

Frères Morvan - Wikipedia
The Morvan Bros.

But from the same period, you could not go wrong with the recordings of the Goadec Sisters or the Morvan Brothers, two well-known acappella dance ensembles from the center of Brittany. Two songs among many :

During the 80s, maybe one missing reference is the band Gwerz, although I find it’s a bit aged, its historical importance has to be noted, as it’s synthetizing many influences, such as Irish music. The 80’s are a really important decade for Breton music, despite a relatively moderate number of recordings, as it’s in that period that major figures emerged and defined their styles, that influenced all the musicians afterwards. Perhaps even more so than the artists in the 70s did.
Here is a live recording of Gwerz : https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=U0EosB3uK8M

In the late 80s you can also find the same people you find in Gwerz, Barzaz or Kornog in the band Den, that you cannot listen without thinking about some Donal Luny experiments :
https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLQMZD0e8YHDL3xA1_oIX_JyLSjYQMRq– (Beware: traces of 80s synthetizer)

In many ways, Den somehow prefigures the later work of Jacky Molard (and the Molard brothers), that you can find later associated with the late guitarist Jacques Pellen, either in Celtic Procession ( https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WBTFXcj9daw ) , Tryptique ( https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=OLAK5uy_n3e3x1u86SOTUyW1JlG-SdBHtVDKbtT7M ) or Bal Tribal ( https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uGGenEiDgX0 ).

For a dance band regrouping many of the above, there’s Pennou Skoulm (breton for dickheads): https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=OLAK5uy_niPaPEp5PPQ7swOohDoqAa4s0Hj2NLnOg

Fred “Gazman” Lambierge

In this album appears Fred “Gazman” Lambierge on the accordion (he recently passed away), a discrete but important player, that did background work to infuse jazz music into Breton accordion music. He notably influenced Janick Martin, but we’ll come to that later.
Beautiful rendition of a tradition song by Fred : * https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aZeP8N-oo0Y

As an aside, you can also hear Fred in the child music band Les Ours du Scorff, by which many of Breton children were cradled : nice music, funny lyrics, it’s really a bliss for all the family : https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=OLAK5uy_nGVE62l5p1TPUX84KwbE_nssI3o64mXwU

In the meantime, the major dance band from the 90’s is perhaps Ar Re Yaouank. They have something like 3 albums, that many Breton musicians are able to hum in full. They’re the first to really embed a truly rock attitude, and their influence still persists today.
My personal favorite is this one : https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=OLAK5uy_nsLezMXz35RF18Pu_lfrHnFvy5vLTLR7k

But you can’t go wrong with the others. One major accomplishment of theirs is to have played in a major festival, that had nothing to do with trad music, Les Francofolies de La Rochelle (which is really an exploit in a country where traditional music is that much segreggated than France) : * https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-XwGW2IJpJA

Today, Fred and Jean-Charles Guichen still play together in fest-noz, with a plethoric production. My favorite album is Mémoire Vive, but I fear you can only have excerpts online: http://www.nozbreizh.fr/php2/artiste.php?band=854
You can find the solo album of Fred Guichen (the accordionist) here : * https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLur76V3vyCI_MEAHdbRvIE5LxnOJI1e2j (it’s bit ‘aged’, but still interesting to listen to).

Other notable 90’s dance bands include Carré Manchot that had many forms, here is one among many: https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=OLAK5uy_lHcBApiPDTz0KGMW9T3IXltDdKhyD7SYQ

A duet, Burn’s duo, with Ronan Robert and Christophe Caron :

Ronan is of course a prominent accordion player, but it’s even more so the influence of Christophe Caron on the bombarde (the Breton oboe) that is remarkable : is among the firsts to look for a sound closer to regular oboes, and to push the boundaries of what was deemed possible with the instrument. There’s a distinctive 90s sound to this album, but it’s still good music.
Some people mentioned Yann-Fañch Perroches, I think that perhaps his best album was with violonist and ex co-star of Skolvan Fañch Landreau : https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLjbn89rrBfsI16Vyh8sDRlJFl1qgCXZPq

Beginning in the 90s and still playing today, there’s also the band Spontus https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=OLAK5uy_l6IQecgngThyiaiW-qrQvsqdwYOJFTRkc (one of my favorite Breton dance band)

Moving on to the 00s, there’s many band that went further still than their elders. Startijenn (still active today), which somehow digested the influence of Ar Re Yaouank and made it something different :

Karma, with what I still find today the most stunning Breton album : https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLQMZD0e8YHDJAYfuMBef6WF8d_KFXdxZT

Plantec and Hiks, two bands that, in different styles, make room for electronic music

For both these bands, there’s a great work on the bombarde.

And, last but not least, Hamon-Martin (either in duo, quartet or quintet), which is THE major band for the 00’s and 10’s I think. Their masterpiece is, IMO, L’Habit de plume : https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UAkvblqYMP4
But you can’t go wrong with any of their albums ( https://www.youtube.com/channel/UC_XUBnEeOpn74dM-_l-K_Kg )
In duet, the album ‘Sous le tilleul’ is inescapable I found only one track here : https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PwfGG5AITII

And some more recent bands :
Modkozmik : https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vNuteX3q-Sc
Fleuves : https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLQMZD0e8YHDLbHE2nfn_p60bR_KevjAP7
Ampouailh https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=OLAK5uy_kOaedO16DcpFni97EYIBURcXEdW1M0dmw
Barba Loutig : https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=csxEO7WmjaQ
Dour-Le Pottier Quartet : https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gLV3G4ICfMw
Vincendeau-Pichard : https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=OLAK5uy_nOBdJtHjW24Z0ozPvL0r-nUl-j03HuOXo
Le Bour – Bodros https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Fg5OjchzTzs
Ndiaz https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=OLAK5uy_m3tSDZ9OHVuxz8oUTak7ZJYbKt-QYpAAA
There’s also my band : https://soundcloud.com/planchee/sets/planchee-premier-album

And, at last, a few picks of more traditional formulas

Patrick Bardoul (accordion) : https://www.facebook.com/nuccia.mancina/videos/2158861424243484/
L’Haridon – Nedelec (biniou-bombarde) : https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BWzRIzJ3_SE
Trimaud – Belliard (biniou-bombarde) : https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gpJwrEJsoOE
Foll – Le Dissez (biniou-bombarde) : https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Qzj7rMLq-MU
Ebrel – Le Buhé (singers) : https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3BTCHgyoh_s
Quéré – Le Menn (singers) : https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Jb0_0Fg7GKQ
Manglo (singers) : https://soundcloud.com/user-manglo/tracks
Le Féon – Léhart (biniou-bombarde) : https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5vuhxVB2C0U
Manu Bouthillier (violin) : https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kLmX1duw82I

If you have any questions, feel free to ask!