This Welsh trio, who took their name from the Patron Saint of festivals in Wales, was established as Siwsann George (b. Suzanne George, 2 April 1956, East Glamorgan Hospital, Church Village, Wales; guitar, harp, concertina, spoons, vocals), Stuart Brown (b. 7 May 1956, Springburn, Glasgow, Scotland; recorder, bouzouki, whistle, keyboards), and Steve Whitehead (b. 10 March 1960, Coventry, Warwickshire, England; clarinet/saxophone). The group was formed in mid-1978, playing Welsh and Irish songs and tunes in Cardiff pubs. The line-up at the time was Siwsann George, together with Pete Meazey (mandolin, banjo, mouth organ, dulcimer, vocals), Alun Roberts (mandolin) and Chris Jones. Following the departure of Jones, and Roberts falling ill, Stuart Brown joined the group, this was to be the first of a number of personnel changes. After a three-week tour of Brittany in 1980, Meazey stayed behind, making way for Duncan Brown (Stuart’s older brother) to join on double bass. Later the same year, Gareth Westacott (mandolin) and Non Harris (vocals) were added. Their debut album was followed by television work and touring. The following year, Siwsann won the Pan-Celtic traditional singing competition (solo category) with a song called ‘Aberfan’. Mabsant were the first Welsh group to appear at the Inverness Folk Festival in Scotland in 1982.
Mabsant turned fully professional in 1984 and toured extensively. In November 1986, Robin Huw Bowen (b. 7 June 1957, Liverpool, England; harp), joined the group, and in 1987 Mabsant toured the Far East for the British Council. In 1988, they appeared at London’s Royal Albert Hall and toured Hungary, Ireland, Denmark and Brittany. Bowen left in 1989 to pursue a solo career and continue his research work of Welsh folk tunes. Peter Stacey (pipes/saxophone/flute) joined temporarily, but family commitments forced him to play less and less and Steve Whitehead was recruited. In December 1989, Mabsant toured Germany for the first time, and by 1990 they were recording music for television. Despite the changes in personnel, Mabsant’s sound has continued to develop with each change, without losing sight of the original feel for the music. Cofeb was almost folk/jazz, but still had the unmistakable Mabsant touch. Owing to Mabsant’s success, the folk world was forced to acknowledge that (good) folk music existed outside Scotland and Ireland, paving the way for a number of other highly talented Welsh artists.