Page last updated at 11:54 GMT, Friday, 7 November 2008

Singer backs Welsh 'Hallelujah'

Leonard Cohen
Cohen's hit Hallelujah was sung by John Cale on the film Shrek

One of the most influential songwriters in the world has given a Welsh language band approval to release their version of his most famous song, Hallelujah.

Leonard Cohen has agreed that Snowdonian outfit Brigyn can finally put out the Welsh language track, which they recorded three years ago.

The song was an international hit after being sung by the Welsh music legend John Cale, in the film Shrek.

Cohen is on his first tour for 15 years, playing Cardiff on Saturday.

"Everyone we ever spoke to in the music industry told us that we'd never get approval for it from Leonard Cohen," admitted Ynyr Roberts, one half of the brother duo that makes up Brigyn.

"We knew that he rarely gives interviews, and shuns publicity, and as far as we're aware he hasn't given permission to release the single in any other language apart from English.

"So, it was quite an honour to be given the thumbs up to release the single."

Unlike other cover versions of the 1984 song by Cohen, the Welsh lyrics of 'Haleliwia' are a complete rewrite of the song, giving it the feel of a festive, if somewhat sombre, carol.

After a summer of festivals, we were hoping to take things easy and relax - I can't see that happening now
Ynyr Roberts, Brigyn

"How we came to record it is a typical Welsh story," explained Roberts.

"Our harpist was judging at an eisteddfod in Nefyn (Gwynedd), when a young lad sang this version of Hallelujah.

"She ran after him and asked for a copy of his lyrics, and then pestered us to record it."

'Great song'

Despite being unable to release their version until now, the band have constantly been requested to perform the track, including an appearance on the Welsh version of Songs of Praise.

Their performance has also been championed by the likes of Tom Robinson on BBC 6 Music, who recently invited them to sing live on his show.

"It's done by a band with great taste, fantastic singer and it would not only cross-over to people who listens to BBC Radio 6 and Radio 2 but to the record buying public," said the presenter.

"Great voices, great song - it could be a Christmas number one."

Brigyn said the response to the song has been phenomenal.

"After a summer of festivals, we were hoping to take things easy and relax - I can't see that happening now," added Roberts.

The 'Godfather of Gloom', as the gravel voiced Cohen has been dubbed over the decades, has entranced generations with his songs and poetry, tales of his drinking, womanising and then a five year retreat in a Buddhist monastery.

The Canadian has embarked on his first tour of the UK in 15 years, and the decision to approve Brigyn's version of Hallelujah comes on the eve of his appearance in Cardiff.

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