LATEST NEWS: Cardiff Folk Music Session is raring to go! Robert May tells all…


  1. Tell me about Cardiff Folk Music Session? What are your plans?

The plan is to set up an easy-going session in the centre of Cardiff for all types of folk music and for a wide range of abilities.

  1. Why did you decide to start this group?

I’ve been thinking about starting up a session in Cardiff for a while. I’ve lived here for quite a while, though I only took up an instrument in the past two years, and I’ve found it difficult to get out and meet other people who enjoy the same wide range of music as I do.

  1. What kind of material will you be playing? (Will there also be singing?)

Singing is definitely allowed, though at some point everyone else may be subjected to my poor attempts as well! I want to vary the material a lot and not get bogged down in any one tradition. I personally enjoy playing music from many different countries and many styles, and find single-tradition groups a bit stifling. Traditional (or not traditional) music from all countries and pretty much any instrument you can bring to the pub will be welcome.

  1. Who can come? Are all ages and abilities welcome?

When I finally have the venue sorted out it is most likely to be a pub, which may prevent under 18s from attending depending on the venue. If there are younger people who are interested then we can certainly look at alternatives, as I’ve played with numerous people under 18 who are far better musicians than me!

  1. The folk scene in Cardiff is pretty secretive – do you hope to create a more united landscape and why?

It is quite secretive in a way; unless you know other people or find the one or two websites around which have the single-line listing for the sessions, it’s rather hard to find out where they are.   I’m not too fussed about uniting other people as much as I’d like to offer an easy to get to, light-hearted and fun session for as many people to enjoy as possible. There are sessions both in Cardiff and beyond that offer single tradition music, but there are plenty of people like myself who just love playing any great tune, no matter where it comes from!

  1. What would you say to encourage people to come along for a session one evening?

It’ll be fun! There are so many great and fun people in the folk scene, and we’ll let everyone have a go at the tunes they know and enjoy playing. The chances are that somebody else will know the tunes you know or be able to pick it up, so come along and enjoy playing with other people in a relaxed atmosphere.

bellowhead pic for blog

  1. Folk music can be dark, mysterious and uplifting, while there is also the satisfaction of playing or singing material that is traditional. What is it that you most love about the genre?

I’ve always loved music, and in the past 5 years or so I finally moved more into folk music. My real love of it now comes from having found an instrument that I love playing, and I get huge enjoyment out of being able to play the tunes I love. Folk music is fun; there are memorable tunes with memorable names (I’m afraid that no classical piece names compare with stuff like ‘The Weasel’s Revenge’), and there are hundreds of variations for each tune from various countries and areas. It’s constantly evolving; every time someone learns a tune they inevitably learn it slightly differently to the person before them, and that’s a good thing.

A lot of folk tunes are from small communities, played for dance or in the pub, and yet there’s a lot of music which would have been considered popular and fashionable music at the time which we now see as folk music; and there are so many great new compositions from current musicians that have become commonly played around the UK in sessions. There’s so many styles and types of music to play, and so many different ways of playing them, that I could spend the rest of my life playing folk music and still be finding great new tunes every day.

  1. However, apart from songs by big artists such as Bellowhead, folk music is rarely played via the mainstream media. Would you like to see this change? If yes/no, then why?

Honestly I’m not the best qualified to answer this, as I kinda forget that radio exists and I don’t watch TV either!  

  1. Do you think it will be a problem for the survival of the music?

So much of this music has already survived hundreds of years that I’m not worried about its survival. There did seem to be a lull in folk popularity after the 1970s, but since the internet has appeared it’s easier than ever to find music or get your own out there.

  1. Tell me about yourself. Why did you first become interested in the world of folk?

I didn’t grow up in family steeped in musical history, so instead much of my fascination with folk has been fairly recent. I did a bit of morris dancing as a teenager, but not much else, and had little interest in learning a musical instrument. Instead I spent most of my teenage and university years as a metal fan, before starting the slide into folk music (via folk-metal!) after leaving university. It was partly influenced by my dad also getting into folk, but also a general shift in what I enjoyed in music.  

  1. I hear you only started playing the melodeon recently? How are you finding it and can you play any other instruments?

In November 2012 I bought myself a mandolin and started learning it. That was my first real instrument that I bought as a serious venture. I learnt the piano a little as a child but I honestly had no interest in classical music at the time, and no-one had told me that blues and jazz existed!

6 months after buying the mandolin, I bought a melodeon (a diatonic button accordion). It’s a ridiculous instrument; it can (generally) only play in a few keys, it plays different notes on both the treble and bass ends depending on which way the bellows go, and it’s utterly different to anything I’d tried before. And it turns out to be my first true passion in life. I play it for hours every day; there’s no practice, I just enjoy playing it constantly.

  1. What do you most enjoy about playing for the dancers in Cardiff Morris?

Playing for dance is hard, particularly if you’re not the only musician! Cardiff Morris is a really fun group of people and it’s a great laugh. They have dances and tunes from many different traditions and I always have a good time.

  1. How does the future look for Cardiff’s folk scene?

I think it stands a good chance of becoming more popular, especially as there are plenty of music students in the city. There also seem to be more events happening recently, which should hopefully help people to meet up.

  1. Finally, if you had to choose, would you rather play or dance? (Think carefully :p)

Music, definitely! I’m not a great dancer, although I can at least do justice to the Adderbury tradition (which is to be expected, I guess, as I grew up there). I’ve finally found what I really want to do with my life, and although I’m starting later than I’d like, I want to be able to perform music professionally someday. That might not be especially viable, but it’s good to have an ambitious goal!

Potential venue: a new pub/bar where Barfly/Bogiez used to be (right next to the castle). For updates about the new venue, please visit:


  1. Dorkomatic (@dorkomatic) · December 23, 2014

    Sounds interesting. I could do with someone to practice melodeon with. (I’m still a beginner after years of just “messing about” with it.)


    • folkcardiff · December 23, 2014

      I’m glad to hear that you would be interested in the new session! Be sure to keep an eye out for venue updates on ‘Folk Cardiff’ and on Rob’s Facebook site: Rob says there’s going to be a new bar where Barfly/Bogiez used to be (right next to the castle). The current manager of The City Arms is going to be running it in the new year, so Rob will give them a ring then when the manager will have some more information on when they’ll be opening 🙂


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