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About Brittany

Brittany (Bretagne in French and Breizh in Breton) is located in the north-western part of France, a Channel away from Great-Britain. The people native from this region are called Bretons. Historically, they trace much of their heritage back to groups of Brittonic speakers who emigrated from south-western Great-Britain, including Cornwall, to avoid Germanic tribes’ invasion. Brittany and its people are counted as one of the six Celtic nations amongst Scotland, Ireland, Isle of Man, Wales and Cornwall. It has been called Lesser or Little Britain in the past. Brittany remained a long time independent from France, merely unifying with France in 1532.

Cultural Identity

The Bretons have a strong cultural identity. One of its aspects is that they have their own language. The Breton language was originally brought from Great Britain by Britons during the early Middle Ages. Today, it is the only Celtic language that is not recognized by a government as a regional language. A forced francization in the 19th century caused the number of people speaking Breton to dangerously decrease. It is only spoken fluently by approximately 365,000 people today. It is classified as ”severely endangered” by the UNESCO. Fortunately, numerous revival efforts are in effect today.

It is understandable why more than half of the population of Brittany consider themselves Breton first and French second. In some parts of the region, there is also a strong desire for independence but the Breton political parties have a small audience. And that makes it difficult to ask for more autonomy or more political power.

Music

 Since the beginning of the 1970s, Brittany has experienced a great revival of its traditional music as it gained more renown. Many festivals were set up like Les Vieilles Charues” in Carhaix, ”Le Festival Interceltique” in Lorient, ”Hellfest” in Clisson or the smaller fest-noz.

The bagadoù are bands who only play bagpipes, bombards and drums, and were inspired by Scottish pipe bands. The band Lahn-Bihoué is even part of the French Navy.

There are bands who helped popularize Breton music with american rock music influences and modernizing traditional songs. ”Soldat Louis” and ”Les Ramoneurs de Menhirs” are quite famous Breton rock bands. The best known Breton singers are Gilles Servat, Denez Prigent, Nolwenn Leroy and Yelle.

Legends

Brittany is often associated with the Arthurian Legends. The Brocéliande forest is located in Brittany but is now known as Paimpont forest. There, ruins of a castle surrounded by a lake are associated with the Lady of the Lake, a dolmen is said to be Merlin’s tomb and a path is presented as Morgan le Fay’s “Val sans Retour”. Other famous Breton legends include the story of Ys, a city swallowed by the ocean, and the tale of Tristan and Iseult.

Yech’hed mat! Kenavo!

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