Yann-Fanch Kemener

The ballad of sir Kemener

Picture 1 Yann-Fanch Kemener

How would you paint a picture of Yann-Fanch Kemener? You would show a bard ready for battle, willing to do anything to raise the Breton colours high and to make sure that this region’s music is recognised as a musical style in its own right across the four corners of the globe.

Rock ‘n’ roll, free jazz, new wave, bossa nova, punk rock, kan ha…disco? Kan ha diskan, a musical style strongly rooted in the Breton musical soundscape in which melody and counter melody play off each other, owes much to Yann-Fanch Kemener. This traditional singer-cum-ethnomusicologist from the Côtes-d’Armor is, together with his buddy Erik Marchand, effectively one of the key players in giving this genre a new lease of life in the 70s and 80s. Recognition came early, when the boy from Sainte-Tréphine won the 1977 ‘Kan ar Bobl’, a competition celebrating artists dedicated to conserving and passing on the area’s heritage, which has served a springboard for plenty of Breton artists.

Palme d’Or at the Kan Festival?

They are easily recognisable from that gesture that is so characteristic - the famous hand held to the ear as if the singer is trying to catch their own echo – and there can be no doubt that kan ha diskan owes a huge debt to these crusaders for the Breton tradition. One of the crusaders is the knight Yann Fanch Kemener with his highly distinctive voice. You can hear this voice amongst the group Barzaz, as well as in collaborations with Dan Ar Braz, Didier Squiban or Aldo Ripoche, or beneath the stars at a legendary fest-noz. Awarded the Order of the Ermine on 26th November 2009, he would have got the Palme d’Or if there was a Kan Festival to match its Cannes namesake. And as for kan ha disco – well, maybe we shouldn’t push our luck!