I started 2018 partying in Brno to a balkan band, after playing a set with my own travelling folk collective, Transglobal Troubadours (chucked in some Worldwide Welshman songs, of course). As the new year came in I was dancing in the street with Nemat, a beautiful Palestinian-Jordanian singer and dancer who lives in Sweden.
A few days after Christmas I'd taken the bus to Gent, where we began our road trip to the folk marathon in Brno, Czech Republic. Jonas Malfliet, Joachim Thyrs, Vilma Tavitie and I drove through Europe. Well, they drove, because I still didn't get round to learning to drive. We stopped over in Tubingen, in the house of Steph who I would later meet on Ethno England. We arrived in Brno to meet my brother, Sion, and many friends including my EthnoEngland pal and fellow Transglobal Troubadour, Frankie Archer, Joseph Woods from Jay Sunaway, Susi Evans from the London balkan scene, and many friends from Rila Music Exchange (where Jonas, Frankie and me went in September 2017), Ethno Flanders (also a significant occassion) and Tubingen (my favourite German town).
On the way to Brno, Jonas was called by master accordionist Keiren Alexander, who asked us if we would perform that night. So we made a set in the car. Half way through this video you can hear the Transglobal Troubadours balfolk set, curated by Jonas Malfliet our accordion maestro. In this one we had Jonas, Joachim and Arthur from Belgium, Frankie from Newcastle, Vilma from Finland and me from Wales (singing a Russian song taught to me by Granny Bella).
Another highlights was dancing to, and jamming with, an amazing Israeli balkan band, Gute Gute, who you shoould definietly check out: https://www.facebook.com/GuteGuteMusic. They also make orginal Israeli indie-folk music.
After Brno, Jonas, Vilma and I drove onwards to Pazin, Croatia, for the Trad-In-Etno Mini-Folk-Marathon where we made a lot of new friends who we'd see later in the year. We were joined by our friends Gabriel and Angelika, and Joachim went back to Belgium, and my brother went to Wales via Prague.
This event was the reason I later went to Folktrepo in Italy and Ethno Portugal, and also was lucky enough to host the talented Ray & Luna in London. I say host, they actually spent most of the time with some friends of a friend, just down the road in a property guardianship. My flat isn't really kitted out for guests, or even for me...
I've been living without a fridge or a shower for three years...I put my food in a cooler box on the balcony, and I was by tipping a bucket of water over my head; I use the kettle to heat the water. Now my kettle has broken; no problem in summer, but I need to get this situation sorted before winter.
Above: Rayo De Luna, French-Venezuelan and Turkish-Kurdish-Danish duo. When they played in the Bunker I thought, "I need to bring them to London" so I took this video to show to venues here...and it actually happened! They played in Meyhane, The Golden Hinde, Ravensdale Warehouse and Jam in a Jar.
Across The Sea
I set up "Across The Sea" in order to promote gigs for friends I met on ethnos. The first was in December on the Golden Hinde, with myself, Anna McAndrew, Deda Lera and THE EMBERS COLLECTIVE (but a mini version...you need to see this crew in their full glory, they are quite something).
The second was the best ever, with Old Salt from Gent. I met the main man, Daniel Wall, in Rila music exchange, and I met his band mate Lote in folk marathon Brno. They came to London in February and plaed a sold out show on the Golden Hinde.
but that's another story...
After Brno we drove onwards to Pazin, with two new travel companions, our friends Angelika and Gabriel who Jonas and I met on Rila music exchange. for more magical experiences in Pazin, Croatia.
Then in easter came Folktrepo in Italy, organised by Elisa Mandriola and her friends. She was on the Pazin one and was inspired to make a similar event in her home town.
For this one I again traveled overland with the two members of Transglobal Troubadours who couldn't make it in the winter - Lewis and Helen from Edinburgh. On the way to Italy we played a show in Robinialand, Gent, and in...you'll never guess.... Tubingen, the Epplehaus! But we were interrailing this time, and we went through a new place - Lugano in Switzerland! It is indeed rather expensive.
After the folk camp in Spessa Po, near Pavia, N.Italy, I visited Sofia (my Italian friend from Tubingen) in her home up in the hills, near a pretty town called St Sebastian. Amazing food, amazing place! After a day or so here, I went to Antonio's flat in Stradella to record a version of Easy to Be Happy which will come out on my debut CD (its been NEARLY finished for nearly a year now...it just keeps growing bigger). Then I took a trip to Bologna, where I bumped into an Italian girl who I know from London, then to Rome to stay with an old uni friend, Cristiano.
After a few exhausting but interesting days here, I travelled on an overnight train from there to Munich, then to Dusseldorf to see Gaurav Sinha, my friend from the architecture office where I worked in New Delhi.
Then soon enough it was summer, and I was volunteering on Ethno England. My volunteering mainly involved making a nice painting for the tour poster, which we then neglected to finish in time to advertise the wales part of the show. But, we succeded in taking Ethno England on tour to Neuadd Ogwen in Bethesda (where I stayed with my parents), then Cobalt Studios in Newcastle (where I stayed with my Uncle and Aunty) and in Edinburgh (we stayed in a hostel, but I stayed on a few days with my Scottish ethno friends, and of course bumped into people I know, new and old, as happens whereever I go in this surprisingly small world).
Soon after this my brother and I went by bus to Ethno Catalonia in Banyoles, where we taught a kickass welsh song and tune that always got the crowd going. The best bit was when two of the Algerians, Hamza and Medhi, would jump up and play their Quarkaboe's whilst dancing.
After this we went onto Ethno Portugal. We thought it couldn't get any better, but it did! Portugal was great, I was surrounded by amazing musicans, dancers and all round lovely people...I remember at somepoint getting down because I couldn't pull anyone, and other people seemed to be coping off with each other fairly easily... I thought "how can I be in folk music and dance camp surrounded by beautiful women, yet not manage to 'get lucky'.?"...but the problem was that I was walking around with a big "desperate" sign on my forehead, so after I realised this I felt my luck changing, and I became attractive once again.
Ethno Portugal ended with an epic folk dancing festival in the searing heat. It was the hottest place I've been, up there with South India (I was in Delhi during Autumn and Winter, and left in spring just as it was starting to get hot, so I was spared that experience)
coming up in part 2: Ethno Portugal photos & ethno Algeria!!!
Liam Rickard is a musician & illustrator from North Wales, performing multilingual, global-alt-pop, party music and comedy under the name Worldwide Welshman.