Breton Music is a style of Celtic Music that originated in the North Western region of France. The Breton music tradition dates back several centuries, and much like Irish music, it recently saw a regrowth in popularity following the 1970s folk revival.
“Traditional” Breton music (and I say this very generally) typically is defined by pairs such as bombarde-biniou (a oboe-like instrument and the Breton version of the bagpipes) or a call and response style of singing called kan ha diskan. More recent variations of the genre include everything from Celtic style instrumentations (guitar, flute, violin, harp, etc.) to Rock (electric guitar, bass, drums) to jazz fusion (saxophone, trumpet, bass, keyboards, drums) to jazz manouche (accordion, clarinet, saxophone, etc.) and more.
The repertoire consists of vocal music, hymns, ballads, shanties and instrumental music. Because of the music’s expansion into other styles, it also includes quite a bit of modern repertoire in the rock, jazz and pop styles.
The music is deeply rooted in the region’s geographical, political and linguistic history and so the music can often be quite politically charged (sometimes this is the choice of the performer while other times it is often because of the performance environment). The Breton music repertoire can be quite nationalistic – it often celebrates the Breton language and the region’s history.
Popular performers of the style are primarily based in Brittany, although there are Breton musicians in other areas of the world. The music is not well-known outside of France. Some of the genre’s key figures include Alan Stivell, Jacky Molard, Jean-Michel Veillon, Kornog, Skolvan, Red Cardell, Glenmor, Gilles Servat, Patrick Molard, Barzaz, Gilles Le Bigot, Jacques Pellen, Nicolas Quemener, Christian LeMaitre, Erik Marchand, Les Soeurs Goadec and Yann-Fanch Kemener.
The majority of the resources surrounding the genre are in French, but here are a few I recommend:
- L’identite bretonne (Essais) (French Edition) by Ronan Le Coadic (Recommended)
- The Bretons by Patrick Galliou
- The Bretons Against France: Ethnic Minority Nationalism in Twentieth-Century Brittany by Jack E Reece
- La Musique Bretonne by Roland Becker (not available in the US)
- Traditional Breton Dance Tunes “Fest Breizh” by David Surrette