A native of Pwllheli, his musical talents seemed to shine from an early age. Having been a member of the youth orchestra of Wales, playing the violin (with his contemporary John Cale). He began his career presenting some of Wales’ first TV pop programmes, and behind the scenes as a floor manager in television studios. Later, he produced ‘Sgrech’, a programme that provided a platform for new Welsh bands at the end of the 70’s.
Endaf released his first album ‘Hiraeth’ in 1974, a combination of folk melodies and original songs of a lyrical nature. Some of the techniques used to create the special sound, such as multi-tracking his voice, and the fact that he recorded parts of the album in his front room, were a sign of an artist following an artistic path of his own. The core themes from ‘Hiraeth’ were expanded on his second album ‘Salem’, a concept album portraying the characters from Curnow Vosper’s celebrated painting. This gave Endaf’s imagination the opportunity to conjure the lives of people such as Sian Ty’n y Fawnog and Robat from Cae’r Meddyg in a series of entrancing songs, and although he is paying tribute to the religious heritage of rural Wales, he does not merely stare wistfully at the past. He knew one had to respect the past while widening the horizons to move the culture forward.
His third album, ‘Syrffio mewn Cariad’ (1976) realized his pledge in ‘Salem’ to travel the world, and the songs are a rich tapestry of adventurous imagination – arriving on the shores of Santiago, thieving from the Andes banks, smoking opium in Shanghai, and being shipwrecked in the South Sea! The musical landscape has also changed a lot, with much more use of synthesizers and studio effects to add atmosphere and taste to the exotic backdrop. Maybe funk was in his blood by then, and he left his solo career for a while, became a member of a short-lived band called ‘Injaroc’ which released a notable album ‘Halen y ddaear’ (1977), and another band called ‘Jip’. Seeds sown during the vigorous musical interchanges and further experimentation of these two groups came to full fruition in his masterpiece ‘Dawsnionara’ (1981). This is a classic, from the first exciting riff on ‘Paranoia’, to the satirical ‘Nol i’r Fro’, and ‘Saff yn y Fro’ up to the Beach Boys-ish choral finale to ‘Rola’. The arrangement and jazz-funk multi-layered complexity of the songs and the band’s playing displayed a mastery and maturity unusual in Welsh rock at that time.
But the audiences of Wales did not fully welcome his musical vision. After the lyrical and more familiar sounds of ‘Hiraeth’ and ‘Salem’, the more alien and complex nature of ‘Syrffio mewn Cariad’ and ‘Dawnsionara’ was too much for those who liked their pleasures more simple and direct. A shy live performer at best, his musical career faded after this album, and he did not release another until ‘Deuwedd‘ in late 2009. Today Endaf Emlyn is better known as a successfull film director with titles such as ‘Un Nos Ola Leuad’, ‘Storom Awst’ and ‘Gadael Lenin’ to his name. However he came to the attention of a new generation after the release of a compilation of his albums ‘Dilyn y Graen’ (2003), and this caused a reappraisal of his work and his contribution to Welsh rock. Without doubt, Endaf Emlyn is in the front rank of Welsh rock pioneeers.