Denez Prigent – Breizh ato !

Thunderlights on Le Croisic - © Thierry Lucas

This is going to be a really personal post as I want to share with you part of my culture. Well for sure, speaking about music reveals something always personal, but this time, i’m going to speak about my roots !
Even if I’m living in the Pyrenees for couple years now, my heart-town is a small old harbor on the west coast of France called ‘Le Croisic‘ in French, ‘Little Cross’ in English and ‘Ar Groazig’ in Breton.
Brittany is my roots and historically a Celtic country with its own language : le ‘Breton’, and its own “Gwenn ha Du” Flag.
On my Father’s family side many were fishermen. Shanties, sing-along and other drinking songs are always my favorites – sounds a bit weird to shout them out in the middle of my current mountains… I’ve maried my wife – 10 years ago – under the sound of a single biniaoù – a kind of bag-pipe – playing ‘Amazing Grace‘, and we both opened the dancing time on ‘The Fairytale of New York‘ from the Pogues !

Denez PrigentSo I would like to introduce you to a part of this rich musical heritage : Gwerz ! With Kan ha Diskan (call and response singing), gwerz is the most common typical Breton vocal music. As many of ancient languages, Breton survives ages with oral tradition, story-tellers and singers. A Gwerz is a kind of lament where lyrics prevails. Most of the time, it describes tragic events.

For introducing this really specific singing, Denez Prigent is undoubtly the best and by far the most accessible singer. Denez is one of the leader of the new brittany songwriter generation mixing modern music with traditional instruments – uilleann pipes, bag-pipes – and singing – ‘gwerz’ and ‘kan ha diskan’ Breton styles. With five albums already released, his reputation exceeds our regional borders. Denez recorded couple duets with Lisa Gerrard, one was choosen by Ridley Scott for the movie ‘Black Hawk Down’. Even if this song is under the scope of the RIAA, I couldn’t resist to post it – may the record company understands my sharing point of view! Gortoz Az Ran (I’m Waiting) is also available on Denez’s Irvi album.

The other song i’ve selected is ‘Copsa Mica’ which is one of the most shivering live song i’ve ever heard. It’s a “gwerz” about the most polluted city in Europe : Copşa Mică in Romania. The original version has been recorded with Romanian singers Ludmila Dinova, Ivelina Baltcheva and Elena Bozova, and is available on the Me’ Zalc’h Ennon Ur Fulenn Aour‘ full length.

Thanks to my friend Brigitte, native from another celtic country – Eire, who translated the Breton lyrics into English via a French version. Even, if it’s not an easy song – due to the use of Breton language, please be sure to listen it till the end and feel its entire power delivered with his unique voice and bag-pipes !

The two tracks are also available on ‘Holl A-Gevret‘ (All Together) a live album recorded in the Lorient Interceltic Festival !

Artist : Denez PrigentLisa Gerrard
Label : Rosebud / Barclay (UMGroup)

Read the Copsa Mica lyrics

Copsa Mica – Denez Prigent
Copsa Mica - Romania

Those following lyrics are translated from the original version which could differ from the live song

E Copsa Mica ‘n heol ‘zo savet
‘N heol ‘zo savet ‘n noz ‘zo chomet
Du ar c’houadoù, du ar menez
Du al liozhoù, du an tiez
Du ar brini, du an avel
Du ar glizh hag ar vogidell
Du an aven, du an douar
Du ar c’houmoul, du al latar
Du an daouarn, du an dremmoù
Ha du ivez ar c’halonoù
Du ar merc’hed ‘vont d’ar vered
‘Oaront mat an hent da vonet
E Copsa Mica ‘n heol ‘zo savet
Met ‘glever ket al laboused
E-harz ar gwez ‘vezont kavet
Dre gantadoù hanter mouget
Dastum ‘reer ne(zho) war an douar
‘Vel an delioù sec’h er razrac’h
Ne glever ken al laboused
‘R glaz o senin ne lâran ket
‘Vez ket un deiz na sonfe ket
E Copsa Mica neb a vije
‘Vije rannet korf hag ene
Gwelet div vaouez o vale
War hent ar vourc’h an devezh-se
Ar yaouankañ ‘ouele true’
An hini all a c’houlenne:
«-Katellig paour din a lâret
Piv hiniv’ vez interet
‘Vit ho kwelet ken glac’haret
Piv hiniv’ vez interet
Pelec’h ‘z eoc’h ken du gwisket?- Piv hiniv’ vez interet
Ma mab siwazh eñ a vez graet
Aet d’an anaon en nozvezh-mañ
D’e oferenn ez an bremañ
- Tavit Katell na ouelit ket
Ganet ho peus tri mab n’eo ket?
Daou all ‘peus c’hoazh ‘c’hortoz en ti
Ganin siwazh ne chom hini
Den ebet ken d’am frealziñ
- Tri mab hollgaer ya’m eus ganet
‘N uzin’ deus din holl laeret
Aet d’an anaon ‘n hini kentañ
N’en doa ket bet c’hoazh tregont vloa(z)
An eil ‘zo klañv en e wele
Bemdez, bemnoz e klemm ‘true’
A-benn nebeut ‘varvo ive’
An eil ‘zo klañv en e wele
Nec’het bras on gant an trede
N’eus ket miz ‘zo eo deu’t d’e oad
Dija ‘deus c’hoant da labourat
Da labourat ‘deus c’hoant dija
En uzin blom Copsa Mica
Nac’hañ outañ me na n’on ket
Rak et vro-mañ labour ebetMarv ma mab en nozvezh-mañ
‘Z an d’an iliz’n e ofern-gañv
Marv ma mab,’re all ‘heulio
‘Vo ket pell din ‘raok mont en-dro-Na ouelit ket Katellig kaezh
En em gavet oc’h dougerez
E c’hortozit ur bugel bihan
Ho tizoanio eus ho tourman
E c’hortozit ur c’hrouadur
Hemañ ‘roio deoc’h plijadur
A sento deoc’h ha ‘vezo fur
A sento deoc’h ha ‘vezo fur
Bezit dinec’h me ho asur
Me ho asur bezit dinec’h
Dre c’hras Doue ‘vezo ur verc’h
-Ma vije paotr pe vije plac’h
Pa wilioudin ‘vin pell a-walc’h
Pa wilioudin ‘m bo cheñchet lec’h
‘Vije ur mab, ‘vije ur verc’h
‘M bo cheñchet kêr, ‘m bo cheñchet bro
E zaoulagad pa zigoro
Pa zogoro e zaoulagad
‘Vo splann an heol ha glan an oabl
‘Vo splann an heol ha glan an ne’
Sklêrijenn aour pa ‘n noz pa ‘n de’
Ha gwez bleuniek a-hed ar ble’
Ha gwez bleuniek a-hed ar bloaz
Lapoused warno o kanãn
Lapoused ruz, lapoused gwenn
Lapoused glas ha re velen
Lapoused du ne vo biken
Pa wilioudin ‘m bo cheñchet bed
Doue ‘bardono din zorfed.»
Ar bloaz-mañ da Santez-Berc’hed
A uzin foll ‘zo bet serret
A uzin foll ‘zo bet serret
Hag an deiz-se erc’h a zo kou’et
Erc’h a zo kou’et fu ‘vel ar plu
Deiz adarre war ar gêr zu
War ar gêr zu deiz adarre
Lapoused c’hoazh war ar menez
Ar bloaz-mañ gouel da Sant-Andrev
Hon eus gwel’t war skourroù ar gwe’
O tiwanañ delioù neve’.
The sun rose on Copsa Mica
The sun rose on Copsa Mica but night remained
Black is the forest, black is the mountain
Black are the gardens, black are the houses
Black are the crows, black is the wind
Black is the dew, black is the drizzle
Black is the river, black is the earth
Black are the clouds, black is the fog
Black are the hands, black are the faces
and black are the hearts
Black are the women
treading their way to the cemetery
A road they know well
Dawn has arisen at Copsa Mica
But the birds make no sound
At the foot of the trees they lie
By hundreds half-choked
People gather them,
as they would dead leaves in autumn
The birds make no sound
but the death knell resounds
Not a day goes by without its sound
It would tear the body and soul of anyone
In Copsa Mica to see two women
walk on the road that day
The youngest was crying with anguish
The other asked her:”-Katerina, do tell me,
Who is being buried today
That you weep so,
Who is being buried today
That you are thus dressed in black?
Who is being buried today?
-Alas it’s my son who is being buried
He died last night
And it’s to his funeral I’m going
-Stop, do not cry
Have you not borne three sons?
You still have two waiting at home
Whereas I have none left
No one to comfort me
-Yes, I bore three wonderful sons
But the factory took them all away
The first is dead,
Not even thirty years old
The second is in bed, lying ill,
Night and day screaming with pain
He too will die soon
My third one torments me
Not even a month
that he is of age to work
And he wants to join the factory of Copsa Mica
And there is nothing I can do to prevent him
For in this country there is no other work
My son died last night
I’m on my way to church to bury him
My son died,
the rest will follow
Not long now until I tread this same path
-Katerina, don’t cry
You are expecting a child
He will bring you joy
He will obey you
Do not torment yourself any longer
It might be a girl
Whether a boy, whether a girl
When it is born, I will be far
Whether a boy, whether a girl
When it is born,
I will have moved elsewhere.
I will be in another city,
another country.
When its eyes will open,
When its eyes will open,
Bright will be the sun
and pure will be the moon
Bright will be the sun a
nd pure will be the sky
Light, gold, day and night
Trees blooming all year
And trees blooming all year
And on their branches, birds will sing
Red birds, white birds,
blue birds, yellow birds
Gone will be the black birds
When your child is born,
I will have gone to another world
God will forgive me.
That year on the feast of St Berc’hed
The factory closed
The factory closed
And that day, snow fell
Snow fell in mid July
Snow fell in the valley
The flakes thin as feathers
Day rose again on the black town
And the birds returned to the mountain.
That year, on the feast of St Andrev,
People saw on the branches of the trees
New leaves grow.

2 Responses to “Denez Prigent – Breizh ato !”


  • Olly, You’ve done it yet again and I am ever so grateful for turning me on to Mr. Prigent music. i had never heard of him before and the duet with Lisa is stunning. What a pair of pipes eh? Right up there with Iarla Ó’Lionáird, who I absolutely adore.

  • because there was no alternative music before Nirvana….

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