MUSIC FROM WALES
SAIN – THE HISTORY
SAIN is Wales’ leading record company, reflecting the whole spectrum of Welsh music, and specializing in Welsh-language songs and the work of artists and composers, in all genres, based in Wales. “SAIN” is the Welsh word for “sound”, and is pronounced similar to the English word “sign”
Full company name: SAIN (RECORDIAU) Cyf.
Headquarters: Canolfan Sain, Llandwrog, Caernarfon, Gwynedd, LL54 5TG, 4 miles south of Caernarfon in North West Wales.
Labels owned: SAIN, CRAI, RASAL, CAMBRIAN, WELSH TELDISC, TRYFAN, SliC, COPA, GWYMON
(See below for the full range of services provided by the company)
In the beginning:
SAIN was founded in Cardiff in 1969 by Huw Jones (who was then a French student at Oxford) and Dafydd Iwan (who had just graduated in architecture), with the aid of a loan from their partner Brian Morgan Edwards. Both Dafydd and Huw were singer-songwriters, and SAIN’s first release, on October 9th, 1969, was Huw Jones’ “Dwr”, a powerful song about the drowning of the Tryweryn Valley.
The company’s first releases were for the most part recorded at the Rockfield Studio in Monmouth (famed as the recording venue of Queen’s “Bohemian Rhapsody” and as the resident studio of Dave Edmunds). But in the early 70s SAIN moved to the Caernarfon area in Gwynedd, and the company’s first studio (opened in 1975) was a converted cowshed at Gwernafalau (“the apple grove”), a farm near Llandwrog. It had an 8-track custom-built desk by Rosser of Swansea, one of the pioneers of the Welsh recording industry.
SAIN established its head-quarters, known as CANOLFAN SAIN (literally “the sound centre”) nearby, and when the present 24-track Studio 1 was opened there in 1980 it was one of the most advanced in Europe, backed by a mobile facility for recording massed choirs and open-air rock-concerts on location. In 1984 Aled Jones, who made his debut album for SAIN in 1983, opened SAIN’s Studio 2 and today the company employs 34 members of staff, and has recently opened its third studio, Stiwdio 3, which is self-contained, and available for contract hire.
Well-known names who have recorded for SAIN are BRYN TERFEL, CATATONIA, MEIC STEVENS, DONAL LUNNY, STUART BURROWS, CATRIN FINCH, BRYN FÔN, ALED JONES, GERAINT JARMAN, ELIN FFLUR, RHYS MEIRION, HEATHER JONES, GWYN HUGHES JONES and CARYL PARRY JONES.
The company prides itself on keeping pace with the huge advances in audio technology over the years, and the main studio today uses an AMEK Rembrandt 56-channel desk, with all the usual ancillary facilities.
The development in technology has been matched by a similar revolution in formats. The company started selling Welsh videos in 1983, and in 1994 SAIN established a video producing and duplicating unit, which has now been superseded by DVD. This was for the company’s own use as well as outside customers such as BBC Resources, S4C, Shell, University of Wales, North Wales Police, Welsh Water Board and TV production companies. During the 90s, SAIN’s multi-media Unit, based at nearby Pen-y-groes, developed a range of services for the design, duplication and distribution for videos (in NTSC or PAL formats), DVDs, CDs, CD-ROMs, and enhanced CDs. The Unit, now based at the head-quarters, is able to author and edit visual material, and SAIN has been instrumental in creating Welsh language versions of Beatrix Potter characters, and other children’s favourites such as Noddy, Spot the Dog, Thomas the Tank Engine, Bob The Builder and Fireman Sam.
SAIN’s main product is the music of Wales, ranging from the traditional to the most progressive hip-hop and rap, encompassing opera and instrumental, country and folk, classical and choral, and all kinds of pop and rock music. SAIN’s catalogue can proudly claim to be the largest catalogue of Welsh music in the world, including the whole range of Welsh male voice choirs and other choral music, and an exciting choice of harp recordings, the harp being the national instrument of Wales.
SAIN initially specialized in the songs of the young singer-songwriters of the 70s, and that decade and the next saw a blossoming of excellent folk-rock groups like HERGEST, AC ERAILL, AR LOG, TEBOT PIWS, SIDAN, PLETHYN, MYNEDIAD AM DDIM, and possibly the most popular Welsh-language rock group ever, EDWARD H. DAFIS. From the same period there emerged iconic individuals like GERAINT JARMAN and MEIC STEVENS, and several memorable rock groups like SHWN, BRÂN, BANDO and SOBIN A’R SMAELIAID.
The mainstay of SAIN’s sales however has been the popular mix of country/ ballad / folk/ pop singers like DAFYDD IWAN, TECWYN IFAN, HEATHER JONES and BRYN FÔN, the MOR tenors like TREBOR EDWARDS and TIMOTHY EVANS , and a succession of highly popular harmony groups such as HOGIA’R WYDDFA, HOGIA LLANDEGAI and 4 YN Y BAR, folk groups such as PLETHYN, AR LOG and THE HENNESSYS, and country duos like TONY AC ALOMA, JOHN AC ALUN and IONA AC ANDY.
Compared to its size, Welsh-speaking Wales produces a phenomenal amount of musical talent, in the classical as well as the popular field, and the choirs are a significant part of Welsh musical culture in all parts of the country, with young mixed choirs now gradually taking over from the traditionally male choir -dominated scene. The new century has also seen a growth in new young bands who constantly push the boundaries, and are experimenting with a fusion of folk/rock/ska in a creative and entertaining style. Among them are BOB DELYN, MIM TWM LLAI, SIBRYDION, DANIEL LLOYD & MR PINC, GWIBDAITH HEN FRÂN and FRIZBEE. There is also emerging a new generation of talented female singer-composers including ELIN FFLUR, FFLUR DAFYDD, LLEUWEN and 9BACH.
The company has won many awards, including the all-Britain “Best Application of Technology and Knowledge” Award by the Teaching Company Scheme in 2000, and in the same year The Guild for the Promotion of Welsh Music John Edwards Memorial Award “for its outstanding contribution to Welsh Music”. In 2004, SAIN was named as the most successful small business in Wales by the Annual Menter Awards at the National Eisteddfod in Newport, Gwent.
SAIN distributes its products throughout Wales, selling through specialist Welsh shops, Record retailers and Craft shops. It also sells in other countries through distributors, and has licensing links with other record companies, especially in the Celtic countries of Brittany, Scotland and Ireland. Customers all over the world can order SAIN products via the world-wide web, and information regarding the company’s recordings and DVDs and artists is regularly updated on www.sainwales.com.
All the current catalogue, and many deleted titles as well, are available for downloading via iTunes, and this service is available in an increasing number of countries, and forms a rapidly growing sector in SAIN’s activity.
The range of services provided by the company:
- 3 Studios for Recording, producing and publishing music of every genre on CD, enhanced CD, video and DVD
- Recording, producing and publishing spoken-word and educational material on CD, enhanced CD, CD-Rom, video and DVD
- Creating, editing, dubbing and duplicating videos and CDs
- Digital editing and post-editing for television and radio
- Digital archiving and cataloguing of Welsh recorded material from the 1940s onwards
- Recording, editing and publishing library music for film and television on the SliC label
- World-wide selling and distribution of SAIN and related Welsh products
- World-wide e-marketing, including a down-loading service
- Promotion and organizing concerts and tours for SAIN artists
- Music publishing with the MCPS and PRS through Cyhoeddiadau Sain
- Na-Nôg retail outlet at Caernarfon, with on-line facility www.na-nog.com
A new chief executive :
In January 2004, SAIN appointed DAFYDD ROBERTS (of AR LOG fame) as its Chief Executive. He developed a new departmental structure for the company, with a Manager for each department, introduced SAIN’s catalogue to the digital download world, and he set up a new label RASAL for new music with youth in mind. Aled Ifan ran RASAL for three years, and Guto Brychan took over in 2007, setting up two new sub-labels, COPA for indie music and GWYMON for singer-songwriters. 2008 saw the opening of the company’s third studio, which specializes in dubbing cartoons for S4C and DVD releases, and post-production for radio and TV, film and corporate videos.
SAIN now employs 34 full-time staff, plus many more who come through the studio doors every day as performers and producers, and the pioneering continues! But most important of all, new artists are emerging all the time, and their music is being distributed all over the world through the miracle of digital technology as well as by more traditional means. As ever, SAIN’s mission is to take the music and culture of Wales to the world.