Nolwenn Korbell

All's well for Korbell

Picture 1 Nolwenn Korbell

There’s a warning in the title of the first of her four albums: it’s not over! And she was right – forty years after her first steps onto the music scene, Nolwenn Korbell is still our belle and her love story with the public, with Breton and with all of the world’s languages is still going strong. Nolwenn the saint – all together now, one more time!

A singer and songwriter, Nolwenn Korbell is also an actress. She may have dreamt of the Cannes Palme d’Or, but like Yann-Fanch and Kemener Denez Prigent she received instead the ‘Kan ar Bobl’, awarded to the best artists in the Breton tradition. Which of the two prizes means the most to this young Quimper singer?

Daughter of gwerz singer Andréa Ar Gouil and Hervé Corbel (also a lover of traditional Breton music), Nolwenn could have been a child of Ireland. Or Wales, her partner’s country. Or England, Serbia or Russia, whose languages she borrows from time to time. As a duet with the guitarist Soïg Sibéril or accompanied by her band, she is a fixture at all major events celebrating Celtic culture. At the very end of the world in Crozon (at the Festival du Bout du Monde) or beneath the stars of Bercy’s Nuits Celtiques, this Finistère singer’s modern songs, anchored in tradition, are ablaze with the light of an all too rare female flame.

Saint Nolwenn 

Her tale is a bit like a gospel. A whole life dedicated to faith in humanity, confirmed by the title of her second album Bemdez c’houloù (each light day), released in 2006. Full of unswerving optimism, Nolwenn can still see red and take up the cudgels – as she shows in the two titles dedicated to the Bugaled Breizh shipwreck and to the assassinated Russian journalist Anna Politkovskaya, which uses as a refrain the Breton proverb ‘if you tell the truth, all the dogs will piss on you’. Nolwenn Korbell has a way of stripping herself naked that so far has protected her from a media lynching. Naked, as the title of her fourth and most recent album emphasises, with a heart as solid as a rock. It’s definitely not over.