Planet 234

Rhian E. Jones reviews
Freedom Music: Wales, Emancipation and Jazz 1850-1950
by Jen Wilson

by Jen Wilson

University of Wales Press, £24.99

When we think of the musical history of Wales, the images that most easily come to mind are those of massed choirs or chapel-singing, or the perennial popularity of Tom Jones and Shirley Bassey. Digging deeper, one might discover the ’70s and ’80s Cardiff post-punk scene, or the later spectacular success of ‘Cool Cymru’. It would take a greater deal of digging, however, to excavate the history of Wales’s relationship with jazz detailed in Jen Wilson’s Freedom Music. This new book, building on the work of Daniel G. Williams in Black Skin, Blue Books: African Americans and Wales, 1845‐1945 (UWP, 2012) and integrating a host of other historical work, also provides an alternative to the focus of much of Welsh history on white male industrial workers. Instead it paints a picture of Wales as a metropolitan and cosmopolitan country shaped by migration, urbanisation and gender relations. Freedom Music also establishes the particular contribution of Welsh women to jazz and its socio-cultural heritage – something its author, a jazz pianist and founder of Jazz Heritage Wales, can personally attest to.

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