Category: Basque Culture (page 1 of 31)

February 19, 1999: Inauguration of Euskalduna Conference Centre

Photo by Jean-Pierre Dalbera.

On February 19, 1999, the newly completed Euskalduna Conference Centre was inaugurated in Bilbao. Designed by architects Federico Soriano and Dolores Palacios to resemble a ship under construction, because it stands on the site formerly occupied by the Euskalduna shipyard, the building won the Enric Miralles award for architecture at the 6th Spanish Architecture Biennial in 2001 and in 2003 the International Congress Palace Association declared it to be the world’s best congress center. It is without doubt one of the key emblematic sites–historical, cultural, and architectural–of Bilbao and a “must see” building for any visitor to the capital of Bizkaia.

Photo by Tim Tregenza.

The Euskalduna was a shipyard located in the heart of Bilbao that also came to specialize in the construction of rail and road vehicles. It operated between 1900 and 1988, when it closed in controversial circumstances due to downsizing. The famous “Carola” Crane, a symbol of the shipyard in its heyday, still stands and now forms part of the Ria de Bilbao Maritime Museum, which is located alongside the Euskalduna Conference Centre.

Photo by Tim Tregenza.

The Euskalduna is today home to both the city’s opera season and the Bilbao Symphony Orchestra, as well as serving as a multipurpose conference and event center with a 2000-seat auditorium, a 600-seat theater, conference rooms, meeting rooms, a press room, restaurants, an exhibition hall, an a commercial gallery.

Photo by Asier Sarasua Aranberri.

Check out the Euskalduna website here.

The Center has published several books on the transformation of Bilbao (and the Basque Country in general), a story in which the Euskalduna is prominent. See, for example, Joseba Zulaika’s award-winning That Old Bilbao Moon: The Passion and Resurrection of  a City as well as Transforming Cities: Opportunities and Challenges of Urban Regeneration in the Basque Country, edited by Arantxa Rodríguez and Joseba Juaristi and Building the Basque City: The Political Economy of Nation Building, by Nagore Calvo Mendizabal.

Images courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

 

 

Basque traditional musical instrument in the US: Interview with alboka player Joe Memeo

“As soon as I heard about the alboka I became interested in it, and have been learning and researching the instrument and its history ever since.”

Interview with alboka player Joe Memeo by Xavier Irujo.

The alboka is a traditional Basque musical instrument. Its sound is similar to the pipe, and it is also played using circular breathing, that is, the alboka player does not take a break from blowing into the instrument, and inhales while simultaneously exhaling when a breath is needed. This creates continuous, uninterrupted sound.

 

      

Joe is probably one of the very few alboka players in the U.S. and the sole manufacturer of albokas in the country. He has played the alboka for several years now and has participated in events and festivals over the last year with the Elko dance group Ardi Baltza.

How did you get immersed in the Basque culture?

I was able to get involved through my wife, Kiaya Memeo. She grew up within the local Basque community and spent many years Basque dancing and participating in the local festivals. About six years ago she started her own Basque cultural group in the Elko community called Ardi Baltza. Throughout the years I have become more and more involved with the group. I have enjoyed traveling and serving as an Ardi Baltza ambassador to other clubs, such as the Basque Club in Lima, Peru. In addition to this I have also had the opportunity to work with Anamarie and Mikel Lopategui at Ogi, the Basque Pintxo Bar in Elko. I have been able to meet wonderful people all over the US, Basque Country and South America and have been exposed to many facets of this wonderful culture.

How did you become interested in the alboka?

What first attracted me to the alboka was the uniqueness of the instrument. It is unique in almost every aspect: the sound, the build, the playing style, and the limited scale. There is a good metaphor applied to the alboka by Alan Griffin that highlights this: The alboka is like a hedgehog. It is small, spiky, and low on fancy and finesse, but full of individuality. As soon as I heard the alboka I became interested and have been learning and researching the instrument and its history ever since.

How did you learn to play it and, especially, how did you learn to manufacture them?

I bought my first alboka which was made by the incredibly talented alboka luthier Jose Osses and started to learn to play it. I am self-taught by researching music and watching videos of others playing the instrument to learn techniques. Mostly it was a lot of very loud practice (which my wife can attest to) and trying different methods to determine what works and what doesn’t. One of the difficulties was there are only a couple of people in the US that play the alboka, so there were no local resources. There are a few people in Argentina that actively play the alboka that I was able to connect with and they were very helpful with any questions that I had.

Learning to make them started out of necessity. Because the main sources for replacement reeds and expertise for the alboka is in the Basque Country. It took a long time and was expensive to get anything to the US. I was able to get information on the construction of the instrument and purchased the required equipment. One of the appeals of the alboka is its simplicity and simple construction materials. All the parts are made of wood and the horn is a steer horn. Once constructed, the instrument is sealed with bee’s wax. This meant that I can make every part of the alboka by hand. Recently I have been trying out different designs and tunings for the new albokas I have been making.

Besides the instrument itself, I also make and have available accessories and learning aids for the alboka. One of the learning aids I have made is the “Circular Breathing Aid”. The alboka is played using circular breathing (this is where the player does not take a break from blowing into the instrument and inhales while simultaneously exhaling when a breath is needed, this creates a continuous, uninterrupted sound). This can be a very difficult technique to master. The tool I have created mimics the mouthpiece of the alboka and lets the player practice circular breathing while adjusting the air resistance depending on the player’s skill. If you are like me and live with (or around) other people, the most important aspect of this tool is that it is silent and can be used for practice anywhere.

For how long have you participated in cultural events, concerts or celebrations with the alboka?

I have been playing the alboka for several years now but have only been participating in events and festivals over the last year. I have been participating and playing with Ardi Baltza in local festivals and most recently the Cowboy Poetry Gathering in Elko that featured many Basque performers. In the coming year I plan to travel with Ardi Baltza to events and gatherings across the US and to have a booth at many more events with informational material and albokas for sale.

What is the response of the American public to this unique Basque instrument?

The response from Americans has been great. The alboka has not had a lot a representation in the US, so people have been very excited to see it growing, but for a lot of people it is still very new. There has also been a lot of interest in this instrument in the US outside of the Basque communities. Quite a few of the albokas I have made went to people that do not have big ties to Basque communities.  I think this shows the wider appeal and appreciation of the alboka.

My goal is to be a resource for individuals and clubs that are interested in learning to play the instrument or that just want to know more about it. My hope is to connect everybody who is interested in the alboka and to spread knowledge about it as much as I can. I have also started the website Albokak.com (https://www.albokak.com) that has many links to good information and learning material on the internet, as well as all the albokas and accessories I have available.

 

 

Gramera Berria

Euskal Erria publishing house in Montevideo, Uruguay, will soon release a new critical edition of Gramera Berria, edited by Alberto Angulo, Jon Ander Ramos, and Óscar Álvarez from the University of the Basque Country, along with Miren Itziar Enecoiz from the University of Sherbrooke, Canada. This book was originally published in 1860 to help Basque migrants in Río de la Plata (Argentina and Uruguay) learn Spanish.

Gramera Berria, which had two editions, has some peculiar characteristics that make it extremely interesting. On the one hand, its publication is directly linked to emigration, since it was published in Buenos Aires; but above all – although the second point – because it is a manual for learning languages, but as opposed to the present, so that Basque speakers would learn Spanish, not vice versa! The subtitle—Gramera Berria ikasteko eskualdunec mintzatzen espanoles—that is, New grammar to teach the Basques to speak Spanish, makes its aim clear.

It was intended for emigrants, especially from Iparralde, who came to Argentina or Uruguay and needed to learn the Castilian language. The book is basically what we would call today a “conversation guide,” where you can find lists of words – grouped by subject – and useful phrases, such as: I am hungry, how much does this cost, etc … The edition, as far as we know, was paid for by one of the agencies in charge of taking Basque emigrants to Buenos Aires.

Running with Iñaki Etxaniz Tesouro and the Basque Love in Reno

Not only in honor of Valentine’s Day, but to show some love from the Center of Basque Studies, one of our new visitor’s, Iñaki Etxaniz Tesouro, decided he would brave the cold weather this last weekend to benefit a local korrika -the Reno Run 4 Love.  Iñaki and I decided to partake in this run that benefited Catholic Charities of Northern Nevada and St. Vincent’s this last Sunday morning.  It was brisk weather to say the least, but with chocolate and champagne waiting for us at the end of the race, we were able to finish strong.

Here is some information about our new arrival from the Basque Country and some good memories already made from before, during, and after our race:

Tell us a bit about yourself and why you are here:

I am Iñaki Etxaniz Tesouro, graduate in History from the University of the Basque Country. After the degree, like many other history students, I decided to do a Master’s in Secondary Education, which is necessary to be able to work as a high school teacher. After finishing this first M.A., I decided to do a second in Contemporary History. All three of my degrees were earned through the University of the Basque Country. I have gone through all three campuses of this university, but if I had to choose, I would stay with Araba’s (Vitoria-Gasteiz) campus, to which I keep a special affection and in which I made great friends.

After finishing this second Master’s degree, I had to decide if I wanted to start as a high school teacher, or if I wanted to do a PhD. I decided to start with a PhD., and in January 2015, the University of The Basque Country granted me with a pre-doctoral contract for the realization of my research. I am in the last year of my PhD program, and hope to present my thesis titled, “The labor crisis and employment policies during the Second Republic: The case of public works in Bizkaia, Gipuzkoa and Araba”, around mid-December.

What brings you to the Center for Basque Studies?

Currently (January 31-April 30), I am doing an international stay at the Center for Basque Studies, at the University of Nevada, Reno where I have coincided with some great PhD students. During the stay at the Center, I will make a comparative analysis between New Deal policies and the employment policies initiated by both the city and provincial councils of Bizkaia, Gipuzkoa, and Araba.

What are some of your hobbies, or things you like to do in your free time?

I will say that my hobbies are mountain climbing, running and reading a good novel (quite typical). Not forgetting to be with friends and people whose company I enjoy. I suppose I will also have to include History among my hobbies.

It’s great to have your energy and enthusiasm here at the Center for Basque Studies, Iñaki (and as a running partner!)  Ongi etorri!

 

 

 

February 3, 1910: Bishop José Cadena y Eleta bans use of Basque names in christenings

On February 3, 1910, José Cadena y Eleta, Bishop of the Diocese of Vitoria-Gasteiz (comprising Araba, Bizkaia, and Gipuzkoa), issued a pastoral exhortation demanding that both priests and parishioners decease from baptizing children with Basque first names. He argued that the official language of the Church was Latin, and that Spanish was also used in parish documents and records within Spain. He then went on to warn all priests in his diocese to observe Church norms in this regard, especially those younger members who, he suggested, were treading on dangerous ground by sanctioning the use of such names; a move, he contended, that only brought disunion and discord among Basques.

José Cadena y Eleta (1855-1918)

Cadena’s initiative was then submitted for Vatican approval, which responded that baptisms should ideally be carried out in Latin and transcribed in Spanish.  However, the Vatican ruling also acknowledged that, in the final instance, if the parents insisted on giving their children Basque names, these wishes should be respected, stating the name in both Basque and Latin during the service, and transcribing it in Basque and Spanish for the parish records. On receiving the Vatican instructions, Cadena informed the clergy in his diocese and instructed them to do everything in their power to avoid arriving at that final instance.

This ruling lasted until 1938, when, still during the Spanish Civil War (but with the Basque Country having fallen to the military rebels), the nascent Franco regime banned the use of Basque names outright.

January 27, 1806: Birth of composer Juan Crisóstomo Arriaga

On January 27, 1806 Juan Crisóstomo Jacobo Antonio de Arriaga y Balzola was born in Bilbao. A child musical prodigy and accomplished composer who died young, he was christened “the Spanish Mozart” after his death.

Juan Crisóstomo Arriagha (1806-1826). Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

Born in Bilbao into a musical family–his father Juan Simón had been the church organist in Berriatua, Bizkaia, although he later earned a living as a merchant in Bilbao–the young Arriaga showed a great aptitude for music at an early age.  Juan Crisóstomo was duly sent to study music in Paris at age fifteen, where he made an immediate impact. Indeed, his progress was such that he soon became a teaching assistant at the Paris Conservatory, where he was especially renowned for  a natural talent for musically sophisticated harmonies, counterpoint, and related techniques. Within four years he composed numerous works and was a well-known figure in the cultural world of Paris, the musical capital of the world at that time.  However, this intense activity would also take its toll on the young Basque, and he ten days short of his twentieth birthday he died, possibly due to a lung ailment like tuberculosis, or possibly even from sheer exhaustion.

“Perhaps,” argues Barbara Rosen (Arriaga, p. 33) , “Arriaga’s predilection for dramatic, austere, and somber laments for voice and orchestra (Medea, Agar, Erminia) can be traced to this characteristic of the songs originating in the Basque areas of northern Spain.”

Today, Bilbao’s principal theater, the Arriaga Theater, is named in his honor.

Check out Barbara Rosen, Arriaga, The Forgotten Genius: The Short Life Of A Basque Composer (Reno: Basque Studies Program,  University of Nevada, Reno, 1988).

And listen to one of his compositions, Quartet No. 2 in A major: III. Menuetto, below:

 

Maialen Lujanbio won for the second time the Txapela.

December 17th 2017, the BEC (Bilbao Exhibition Center) celebrated the Bertsolari Txapelketa Nagusia (The Great Bertsolari Championship) of the Basque Country. A championship that was lived with great intensity and that gathered almost 15,000 fans from all over the Basque Country.

It was a very special day as Maialen Lujanbio, the only female competitor, won for the second time the Txapela. The runner up was Aitor Mendiluze, and the third was Sustrai Colina. The rankings finished in the order of Amets Arzallus, Igor Elortza, Aitor Sarriegi, Beñat Gaztelumendi and Unai Agirre. It was a final of great quality, with a very dedicated and motivated audience.

Zorionak Maialen!

Bertsolari Txapelketa Nagusia is a championship among bertsolaris from all over the Basque Country and takes place every four years. It was first organized by Euzko-Gaztedi in 1935 and 1936. It was cancelled due to the Spanish Civil War (1936-1939) and its subsequent repression. It wasn’t until the 1960’s when the championship came back from the catacombs of oblivion when Euskaltzaindia (Basque Language Academy) brought back the competition during the 1960’s.  However the competition had to be stopped during the 1970’s. It wasn’t until 1980 when the championship came back and since 1986, the championship is held every four years.

1935eko Bertsolari Gudua

This Friday, January 26, the Center for Basque Studies and the Jon Bilbao Library will celebrate a special evening of Bertsolaritza with Maialen Lujanbio, Miren Artetxe, and Jesus Goñi .

We will love to invite you all to join us during such a beautiful event.

Please Join Us
For A Very Special Evening of Bertsolaritza
You are invited to attend a unique and intimate event showcasing Bertsolaritza, a sung and improvised Basque poem creation performed by two competing Bertsolariaks (Basque poets) Miren Artetxe (left) and Maialen Lujanbio Zugasti (right). 
Miren Artetxe and Maialen Lujanbio Zugasti
The 2017 national champion Maialen Lujanbio Zugasti will be in Reno showcasing her skill before participating in the 34th National Cowboy Poetry Gathering in Elko, Nev. Jan. 29 – Feb. 3. More than 14,600 people gathered to watch Maialen compete in this year’s championship event in December, 2017. This is a rare opportunity to experience firsthand the art that is Bertsolaritza. 
DATE: Friday, Jan. 26
TIME: 5 p.m. – 7 p.m.
LOCATION: Jon Bilbao Basque Library and Center for Basque Studies , Mathewson-IGT Knowledge Center, third floor, north side of building. Guests must access this area by using the north elevator located next to Bytes Café on the second floor. 
For more information or if you have questions, please call (775) 682-5094.
Block N
FRIENDS OF THE LIBRARY
1664 N. Virginia Street
Mail Stop 0332
University of Nevada
Reno, NV 89557

 

These Bertsolaris will be in Elko during the National Cowboy Poetry Gathering with others from the Basque Country and the US.

 

If you want to know more about  Bertsolaritza you might like to read:  Voicing the Moment:Improvised Oral Poetry and Basque Tradition.

Urte berri on! The CBS is back for Spring 2018

After taking a few weeks off during the holiday season, the Center for Basque Studies Blog is back, and so are the faculty, staff, and students at UNR. It is bound to be a busy semester, as usual, but we’ll be here to provide you with unique stories on Basque culture and news from around the world.

When it comes to the CBS, Dr. Vaczi will be teaching “Basque Culture” while I will be embarking on my first teaching experience at UNR, trying to live up to Dr. Ott’s “War, Judgment, and Memory in the Basque Borderlands” course.  And, of course, Kate Camino will continue teaching Basque language courses. Horohito Norhatan will also be teaching, but in the Political Science department. Sorte on to us all!

In grad student news, Horohito and Ziortza Gandarias will be defending their dissertations in just a few months. Time does fly! Kerri Lesh is back from her year of field work, and Marsha Hunter continues in her second semester at the Center.

In the following weeks, we will hear more from all of us at the CBS, and look forward to the Cowboy Poetry Gathering in Elko in just a few weeks. Stay tuned!

Kerri Lesh interviewed by Basque newspaper Berria

 

PC to Monika del Valle

This past month, in between traveling from Bilbo to Donostia for the II. Sagardo Forum – Sagardoaren Lurraldea, I was interviewed by Lander Muñagorri Garmendia from the Basque newspaper Berria  about my dissertation project.  As I am constantly improving my Basque-speaking skills, we switched back and forth between Spanish and Euskara over a beer at a local bar while I described my project and findings over the last year as a doctoral student.

Here is a translated portion of the interview from Basque paper:

 

How did you come to start researching about the use of Basque on labels?

I am a [Teaching Assistant] teacher at the Nevada School of Basque Studies, and I have a small obsession with txakoli: I really like it. I study sociolinguistics, and they told me why I did not connect the two areas. In Northern Europe there is a group [of researchers/scholars] that investigates minority languages and labeling, and from there I started researching. I started with txakoli, and I continued with labels of Rioja Alavesa wine, milk,  craft beers….

Which products are used more in Basque?

Milk, and then cider. And it is  interesting what language is used to export outside the Basque Country, there is a lot of Basque. It is true that it is difficult to make different labels and each with their own destination. [In the case of wine, for example, which is why so many producers make a label focusing on the languages used by the majority, such as English or Spanish].

 

You have studied the languages chosen on beverage labels. Did you have to try a lot of wine and txakoli?

Yes, a lot. I think that I have chosen a good subject (laughter). I went to several cider houses and txakoli bodegas to study local products, and to consumers as well. For example, I carried out interviews in the txokos [gastronomic societies] of Bilbao, where they serve Rioja wine. Many people know and ask for local products, but most just ask for any Rioja wine, and not specifically from Rioja Alavesa.  It was interesting to observe that.

Does the geographic area affect [language use on labels]?

Yes, I think that in the Northern Basque Country they use a lot of symbols and it’s more folkloric. But this difference is still to be investigated, what people consume and how this language is utilized. As for the difference in the marketing of the Southern and Northern Basque Country, I think that there is a different way of living a language. I am now seeing and starting to understand how people that speak a minority language live. I previously did not understand [how this affected daily life], and from an anthropological point of view I think it’s important to see how this affects many people and causes frustration.

 

It was so great to hear from so many of you after reading the article-thank you all for the love, support, and opportunity to continue learning…

 

 

 

 

Territories: Journal of Regional Studies

Iker Arranz, Ph.D. and Lecturer in the Department of Spanish and Portuguese at the University of California, Santa Barbara, and, of course, graduate of the Center for Basque Studies, is now Editor-in-Chief of the new journal Territories. There is Call for Papers for the upcoming issue and I encourage all academics who read this blog to participate. The following is a letter from Dr. Arranz describing the project and inviting you to participate:

Dear colleagues and friends,

I am very much pleased to announce the creation of Territories, a new journal of regional studies with an interdisciplinary and innovative scope on post-national spaces and trans-cultural scenarios.

This journal is an Open Access journal based on the e-Scholarship repository at the University of California. I have been working in this project for more than 4 years now, and this journal represents the joined effort of many scholars in the Basque Country and American Academia that saw the necessity to create this trans-national space for academic debate on many issues that we share with a myriad of communities around the world. The journal takes off with more than 30 scholars and graduate students in its editorial board, and we are opened for new incorporations coming from humanities and social sciences.

Geopolitics in the 21st century are determining the living conditions of thousands, if not millions, of people around the world with a clear dilution of the role of the states in the political configuration of federal realities under strict economic policies. Under these conditions the territorial and social justice of a multiplicity of cultural communities face new challenges that this journal is resolved to discuss. This journal aims to think beyond nations and nationalities and propose the dialogue between diferent disciplines in order to activate what the multiplicity of cultural expressions have to offer when they are put into intersections in order to promote an academic debate.

We will open the first number of the journal with an article by Dr. Igor Calzada (Oxford University) titled Back and Forth Towards the (Political) Basque City-Region (Revisiting ‘Euskal Hiria’ Through the Lenses of Regional Studies).

Finally I would like to thank to everyone that is involved in this project and has supported it from the beginning for contributing to make it possible.

Please check out journal´s website for all the information related for authors, CFPs, etc. at Territories.

All the best,

Iker Arranz Otaegui, Ph.D.

Editor in Chief

Be sure to check out the website for more details and information on the CFP at Territories.

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