Why the FAW’s epic Yma o Hyd video is a brave (and controversial) take on what it means to be Welsh
Ifan Morgan Jones
Having chosen Yma o Hyd at its song for the World Cup, the FAW have not held back with the official video released today.
The FAW could have largely ignored the meaning of Dafydd Iwan’s song and just focused on the fact that it was a good tune that fans loved singing at football matches.
However in this video – through their use of historical and archive footage – they have fully embraced the overtly political vision behind Dafydd Iwan’s song, and all the layers of meaning and interpretation of Welsh history that come along with it.
This isn’t without its controversies. It’s worth remembering that Yma o Hyd was first released at the start of the 1980s, and was very much an anti-establishment protest song.
It was written at a time of personal struggle for its author – who was leading a protest movement while going through a divorce – but also what its author saw as a national struggle for Wales under a Conservative government.
And it’s very much still that establishment, still in power at a UK level today, that the song, and this video, defines its Welshness against.
The video itself tells two stories – that of the Welsh football team’s 64-year journey to qualify for a World Cup and that of a Welsh nation coming into existence.
It also asks us to see similarities there. They have both struggled against the odds. They have both had their setbacks. But they have both ultimately triumphed despite that.
Er gwaethaf pawb a phopeth, r’yn ni yma o hyd. Despite everyone and everything, we’re still here.
By going through the video scene by scene we will note that it’s a very particular view of Welsh history and politics that is presented here.
‘You don’t remember Macsen, nobody remembers him,’ Dafydd Iwan intones at the start as a manuscript with Macsen Wledig’s visage appears on the screen.
Macsen Wledig or Magnus Maximus was a historical Roman Senator but is mentioned in Welsh myth as the man who gave Wales its freedom from Roman rule.
The suggestion here is that Wales once gained its independence but this had been lost in the meantime.
‘1,600 years is a time too old to remember.’
This is what might be referred to in academic circles as a primordialist view of the nation-state – that is, that Wales has always existed or has been waiting to be born, but has been somehow suppressed.
This is then followed up by archive footage of a series of protests that have defined Wales’ journey towards devolution.
There is footage of a protest against the flooding of Capel Celyn, the valley itself being flooded, a pro-Welsh language protest, and Dafydd Iwan emerging from one of his spells in prison for campaigning in the 1960s.
Perhaps most politically controversial at all we see footage of a republican protest against the (now King) Prince Charles at the Urdd Eisteddfod in Aberystwyth in 1969.
Dafydd Iwan was of course a prominent campaigner against the 1969 investiture – an event that is now of particular political relevance.
Following on from that, and in conjunction with Dafydd Iwan singing “er gwaetha’r hen Fagi a’i chriw” (despite Maragret Thatcher and her supporters) we get footage of the General Strike and Miners’ strike in the 1980s.
There is then a quick fire of images of Nye Bevan, Gwynfor Evans and Betty Campbell’s statue being unveiled in Cardiff, a march by the LGTB rainbow wall, and Ron Davies announcing the dawn of Welsh devolution.
This is an overtly-left wing, republican, pro-devolution and progressive and patriotic view of Welsh history. All in all, it’s as subtle in its messaging as Paul Mullin’s boots.
Spliced throughout is footage of Wales’ footballing struggles – including Paul Bodin hitting the crossbar when Wales were a spot kick away from the World Cup in 1993.
But also here is footage of the great moment of triumph itself, with Dafydd Iwan’s call to arms at the World Cup qualification final and Wales’ players and fans celebrating that victory together.
In a way, the video celebrates a double victory – that of the Welsh team in finally reaching the World Cup, yes, but also that of what might be described as ‘the rebirth of the Welsh nation’.
And from a personal point of view, as he appears throughout the video at various ages and embroiled in various causes, Dafydd Iwan himself having his once minority view of Welshness accepted as mainstream.
The music also subtly does the same job – by including not just Dafydd Iwan’s voice but that of the entire Red Wall singing along.
By doing this, it gives the impression that the entire Welsh nation has now joined in with what was at its beginning a lonely song.
All in all, this is about as overtly a political video as possible that directly links Wales’ history of political oppression with its footballing woes and triumphs.
It interprets Welsh history as one fight against injustice and for recognition, with ultimate triumph awaiting at its end if we the nation keep going.
All in all – let’s put it this way – it’s a world away from the goat-cam and fireworks served up by the Welsh Rugby Union on match day.
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It’s a great song and the chorus, to me, says it all. Wales the nation still here.
Great to see the archive footage of the heroic political struggle for Wales and Welsh identity and the language. Yma o hyd!
With the pro indy march before every home game, I think the FAW capture in the video, a certain vibe given off in a section of its current support. Made me feel proud.
Welsh learner here. Does anyone know why Magi is mutated (to Fagi). Its not normally done with names. Is this a way to show disapproval/disrespect?
“Hen” always causes a soft mutation, i.e. hen geffyl. Usually we don’t mutate names (although we did in the past). I guess here it’s mutated simply because it sounds better although there may be other reasons?
I’d probably say its to show disrespect to Margaret Thatcher, Iwan does the same in other songs such as Carlo, he refers to Charles as Carlo and during the song says ‘a Charlo’. It’s almost a subtle dig that only people who understand the mutation would recognise.
Pre-noun adjectives usually soft mutate the following noun. But not usually people’s names. However this was done in older literary Welsh, and it is allowable on the basis of ‘poetic licence’. Dafydd has used poetic licence in his song.
In short, it’s OK to soft-mutate the word following ‘hen’ because ‘hen’ always soft mutates nouns following it, and this can include so-called ‘proper niuns’ ie names of places and people’.
The FAW have done more for Welsh independence in the past 5 years than Plaid have done in the last 50.
FAW haven’t done anything for independence other than football independence. They have embraced Welshness and promoted that and if people walk from Welshness to independence then so be it, but this is very much football and culture rather than politics. Together Stronger means that people who feel Welsh not British, people who feel Welsh and British and people who feel Welsh then British are all welcome. Heck, even those who feel British but born in Wales and want to support their local side are welcome – goodness knows where their heads are – but this is all about each of… Read more »
And they don’t have the German three feathers like the rugby team does.
Im afraid that’s claptrap Glen. There is no mechanism by which the Welsh football team (or indeed any sports team) can bring about Welsh independence. The only way we’ll bring about independence for is by voting for it at the ballot box – and that means voting for plaid cymru, the party which only 18 months ago campaigned on a platform of holding a referendum on welsh indy. PS i would also point out that Dafydd Iwan is a former president of plaid cymru
So you don’t think that football has inspired the young and Indy-curious? As a recruiting tool it’s better than any number of elserly fellas intoning serious speeches on stages at rallies, trying to be Owain Glyndŵr. In fairness, Leeann Wood brought me to voting PC. Adam Price is very good but very “trained politician”. None of the other leaders made any real impact on me. So the defiant, joyful and rebellious Cymru team, unabashedly embracing their nationhood and playing for each other, certainly keeps the Indy fire stoked in me and I don’t really even care about football. Also let’s… Read more »
It’s not a case of either or.
Feelings and expressions for independence people have need to be represented by politicians in local councils, Senedd and Westminster.
And that means voting for candidates and parties that espouse such independence.
Oh I completely agree. But I didn’t call someone else’s response – apropos of nothing – “claptrap”.
AUOB means ALL Under One Banner … or it does not. Gatekeepers don’t help.
I used the term ‘claptrap’ because the assertion made in that post was. PS. AUOB doesnt mean refraining from grown up debate with each other when it’s necessary or not taking someone to task if they are talking nonsense. PPS. trust me mild terms like ‘claptrap’ are nothing compared to vitriol and abuse we can expect from the gatekeepers of the british state as our movement continues to grow
Oh trust me, when the time comes I’m ready for the fight. I have a lot of frustrations to get out. But I’d much rather direct it at Mordor, not at our own. Not to say I won’t if the need arises though.
The statement was not “claptrap”. You simply disagreed with it with an absolutist statement. Maybe we have different definitions of grown up debate.
Without Euro2016 Yes Cymru would never have taken off in the way it did.
Very true, great comment.
Plaid have been spectacularly poor at getting their message across for years, they could learn a lot from the FAW.
I disagree totally with you, but what they have achieved is to increase the depth by which the population identify with being Welsh and encouraging them to embrace this for some new found, identity.
Diolch o galon i CBC am fabwysiadu y gan ac am y fideo arbennig yma sy’n gwneud mwy i’n uno fel cenedl nag unrhywbweth arall ers blynyddoedd lawer. Sylwi fod ‘na ambell i Dic Sion Dafydd wedi gwneud sylw, gan gynnwys un sydd a golwg ddiddorol, os nad estron iawn o’n hanes – ond ‘na fe, fel ma’ hanes yn ein dysgu, ma’ hynna i’w ddisgwyl!
POB HWYL I CHI BOIS – AC MI FYDDWN NI YMA O HYD PAN DDEWCH ‘NOL.
The video accurately captures the feelings of the majority of Welsh football supporters who regularly attend Wales home and away games. The essence of Yma o Hyd lyrics are reflected in the video footage – real events impacting on Welsh peoples lives. In my opinion this is the boldest statement I’ve ever seen by a high profile Welsh organisation, it shows real courage and connects with our proud nonconformist traditions. I think the FAW have done an amazing job.
That’s one hell of a gauntlet CBC/FAW have thrown down.
Let’s see how much of the four and a half minute challenge ITV and BBC (UK channels) broadcast.
We’ve seen recently the famous Brazil yellow shirt become a right-wing symbol because of their Trump.
I’m loving how Cymru/Wales and the FAW are embracing our Welshness, but we have the above example of how things can go wrong and need to be careful not to step in wrong direction. At the moment, nothing like that has happened, but nothing wrong with being mindful of where there is risk.
Just about to watch the video, I’m sure it’s going to be brilliant.
It’s delightful to see how the Unionists have gone into meltdown on WOL! Da iawn CBC!
As a welsh republican i naturally enjoyed the video’s unashamedly left leaning/indy leaning content but i would nevertheless caution people in the welsh indy movement there are risks in trying to link the cause of welsh independence so closely with the recent if wonderful success of the Wales men’s football team. Namely what if the football teams fortunes should experience a rapid decline? What impact might that have on a political movement now seemingly so closely tied up with the Wales football team’s fortunes? Such a decline might seem unlikely to people right now but people probably thought that in… Read more »
Accepting Aneurin Bevan’s Unionist credentials I think for most people for quite some time it’s the creation of the NHS that they overwhelmingly associate him with. A very positive achievement that developed out of Bevan’s Welsh working class upbringing regardless of how he identified his nationaliys. Bevan’s attitude towards Cymru, Cymry and Cymraeg seems to be a product not untypical of that generated by the environment at the time and perhaps it’s not so much that the Labour party “made” Bevan but that Bevan contributed to “making” the Labour party. In the which came first – the Labour Party or… Read more »
You’ll see in my post i recognise Bevan’s important role in helping to to bring about significant social reforms by the british state CapM – but think it’s stretching things for the welsh indy movement to try to incorporate someone who despised the very concept of welsh nationhood and thought welsh identity should be subsumed into britishness. Indeed for years unionists in welsh labour have employed figures like Bevan as a stick to beat the welsh indy movement with.
The NHS has it’s roots in Cymru.
Bevan is the personality associated with those roots.
That Cymru is so intimately linked with the establishment of the NHS should be an inspiration for what we in Cymru could achieve,
In that sense Bevan’s preference for a British nation state is about as relevant as what type of sandwiches he preferred!
We should point that out to the Welsh branch of Labour.
Not just the NHS but the unemployment benefit and old age pension were products rooted in Welsh community culture
The BBC has just shown extensive coverage of the Yma o Hyd video and managed to exclude all footage of the protests that are part of the original video.
It looked to me that the BBC went even further than that and remixed the image and sound to avoid any of the political footage. Perhaps next we can expect the BBC to remove or adulterate “inappropriate” images like Stalin did in the USSR.
Where and when was that broadcast? If they did they should be reported for bias. I know the complaints process is pants, but they need to be told in no uncertain terms. Yn ni yma o hyd!
It was broadcast on BBC’s Breakfast programme at about 9am.
Alas they are and have always been the BBC in Wales…..and not BBC for Wales. There’s a subtle but very important difference ie. the corporation in Wales exists to promote and protect the interests of the british state.
WRU could learn a lot from FAW but there again the culture of Unionist/Loyalist arse licking is embedded and will take a lot of time and effort to remove. Given the latest troubles within the oval ball game in Wales we may hope that the Union will implode and something of greater utility and relevance to our nation will emerge from the dust. Rugby union is as much our sport as is football but it has fallen into disrepute. A failure to rediscover its relevant role would be harmful just as a slump in round ball fortunes would hurt us… Read more »
It’s honest, that’s all I want from history.
This should be Wales’ official national anthem.