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Welsh Odyssey

Super Furry Animals' Gruff Rhys unleashes psychedelic spaghetti western

  • 30/07/2010
  • Elizabeth Alker

This weekend sees Super Furry Animals' Gruff Rhys unleash his new film on the world. It's called Separado! and has taken five years to make.

Described as Star Trek meets Buena Vista Social Club it is a psychedelic western musical, which follows Gruff on a road trip to from the Welsh Hills to the Welsh speaking communities of Argentina in search of his long lost uncle, the Patagonian 70's pop star Rene Griffiths.

Rene arrived in Wales in 1974 and became an overnight sensation with his Latin infused Welsh love songs. Gruff told 6 Music News the familial connection might be loose, but it's certainly there: "People are just aware of it. Gruff explained.

“Rene’s family emigrated in 1880 to join a thriving Welsh community at the time in Patagonia. But there was no contact between the family in Wales for a century before he turned up in Wales singing romantic songs so, everyone was pretty amazed. You know, he's probably related to half of Wales really.”

One of the most surprising elements of the film is Gruff's discovery of Welsh speaking people half way around the world and the story touches on the oppression of both the Welsh and Patagonian people, making a clear political statement: "It's the contradiction of colonisation. It's a very romantic story but there were consequences.

"There were good aspects to it and not so good. It is a very politically charged part of the world so it wouldn't be accurate to shy away from politics."

Reliving Rene's 1974 journey but backwards, Gruff discovered how it felt to perform in front of Welsh speaking people in a foreign land: "That's the strange part, there's not a lot of Welsh speakers in existence. It's very unusual for Welsh people to travel to places and use the Welsh language. There are not a lot of other places where I can play my Welsh songs to people who understand them, so that was pretty incredible."

The director of Separado! Dylan Goch is also a friend of Gruff. Dylan follows Gruff on the tour and films him meeting and performing in front of people in the theatres, nightclubs and desert teahouses of Wales, Brazil and the Argentine Andes. Each stop on the tour uncovers more about Gruff’s family, the Welsh Diaspora and its musical legacy.

Of all the pair’s experiences, however, there is one for Gruff, which especially stands out: "My most profound memory was meeting a guy called Bryn who was a family elder.

“I think he was about 96 years old and unfortunately he's since passed away. But, he shared with me the secret of a long life over a glass of cider. His tip for a long life was never to smoke in bed. That was my favourite memory of the summer."

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