Before the advent of the modern recording industry live music reigned in the popular imagination of people in the Basque Country. One of the great “stars” of this age was Felisa Arribalzaga, born in Muxika, Bizkaia, on February 3, 1922. To say that she was just a panderojole (Basque tambourine player) is to do her a tremendous disservice because she was also an accomplished dancer, singer, and irrintzilari (a performer of the irrintzi, the Basque yell).
Although born in Muxika, on marrying her husband, Eduardo Egiarte, she moved to his home town of Amorebieta-Etxano (also known as Zornotza). The couple had met as teenagers on Mount Bizkargi, between Muxika and Amorebieta, while they were tending their respective flocks of sheep. Egiarte was an accordion player and the couple began performing in Bizkaia under the name the Zornotzako trikitilariak (Zornotza two-row diatonic accordionists). During the Franco years, they continued to perform their Basque music, often clandestinely as it was banned by the regime.
Arribalzaga died in her adopted home town on June 30, 2015.
She remains a great example of how music and dance in traditional Basque culture, according to CBS author Sabin Bikandi, form in many ways a single entity, given that it is impossible to truly understand one without the other. See Sabin Bikandi, Alejandro Aldekoa: Master of Pipe and Tabor Music in the Basque Country.
For anyone interested in practicing their Western Basque dialect, check out the following 1997 radio interview (with Spanish subtitles) with Egiarte and Arribalzaga:
The Center for Basque Studies had the pleasure of hosting the Ardi Baltza Kontalari from Lamoille, NV in early November. As a contemporary Basque dancing group, Ardi Baltza combines the concepts of tradition and innovation in their mission to preserve and educate about Basque culture.
During their first day at the CBS, Ardi Baltza demonstrated Basque dancing to the Basque Culture and Basque Transnationalism classes. Before each dance, their director, Kiaya Memeo, explained the meaning behind the dances and answered questions from the audience. The students were then invited to learn two dances, Sorgin Dantza, a comical dance where the women (taking on the role of witches) turn the men participating in the dance into women, and Pitx, a children’s dance. Their performance provided many of the students their first up close experience with Basque dance and culture.
See them perform a contemporary version of Makil Dantza here:
The next evening the Ardi Baltza Kontalari performed Etxea: Memoirs of Gernika. The show educated the audience about the fateful day of April 26, 1937, when the Condor Legion and the Italian Air Force, acting on the orders of Franco, dropped 31-46 tons of bombs on the Basque market town of Gernika. The dancers, using a combination of the traditional Basque and contemporary steps, illustrated the experiences of the Basque people before, during, and after the bombing, while Kiaya Memeo narrated the eyewitness accounts of survivors. Their performance served as a reminder about the importance of our history and honored the memory of the people who were in Gernika that day.
From Left: Jennifer Obieta, Amanda Shields Kerr, Franci Mendive Wilkinson, Kiaya Memeo, Olivia Memeo, Olivia Rice, & Hannah Hill
Eskerrik asko to the ladies of the Ardi Baltza Kontalari for traveling to Reno to perform for our students and the Reno community!
Ardi Baltza Kontalari
The William A. Douglass Center for Basque Studies invites you to Etxea: Memoirs of Gernika on November 2, 2018 at 7 p.m. in the UNR Wells Fargo Auditorium (MIKC 124). In this performance by the Lamoille, NV based Basque dancing group, Ardi Baltza Kontalari, the eyewitness accounts of the survivors of the tragic Nazi bombings on Gernika in 1937 are presented and honored. Through their lyrical and contemporary dance styles, mixed with traditional Basque steps, the dancers demonstrate the strength and resilience of the Basque people in the face of adversity.
Etxea: Memoirs of Gernika at the 2018 NABO Convention
This performance will also feature a short introductory talk by Dr. Xabier Irujo, professor at the Center for Basque Studies and author of The Bombing of Gernika: A Short History, on the events leading up to the bombing. Free admission.
To learn more about the Ardi Baltza Kontalari, visit: https://www.facebook.com/ardibaltza/
For information on Dr. Irujo’s book, a companion to this performance, visit: https://basquebooks.com/collections/frontpage/products/the-bombing-of-gernika-a-short-history
A couple of months ago, I came across a few videos on the Nevada Arts Council website highlighting Basque culture in Nevada.
Nevada Stories is an online video series focusing on folk and traditional artists, specific local traditions, and Nevada’s landscape. An outreach activity of the NAC Folklife Program, it supports the Nevada Arts Council’s mission to provide folklife education to all age groups and to highlight the individual folk artists, traditional communities, and cultural sites that make Nevada distinctive. Filming and production are funded through Folk and Traditional Arts grants from the National Endowment for the Arts.
I’ll share the Basque ones here, but be sure to check out the website for more on the many cultures that comprise Nevada!
The Basque Chef: Asier Garcia
Visitors to the 34th National Cowboy Poetry Gathering in Elko (2018)–themed “Basques and Buckaroos”–saw firsthand that Basques know how to have fun! A popular social pastime in the Basque Country involves bar hopping while sampling the pintxo (pronounced “peen-show”) or bite-sized snack specialties of the house. Our guest chef Asier Garcia hails from Bizkaia and is now a resident of Boise. Asier leads a workshop group through the intricacies of creating a dozen different pintxos, deconstructing this artful tradition to enhance their culinary repertoires and satisfy their appetites.
Basque Cooking With Jean Flesher
Utah bandleader, contractor, Basque personality and cook Jean Flesher presents Basque cuisine in traditional fashion with a northern Basque country (French influenced) flavor. The workshop features classic dishes and cooking techniques. Participants learned new recipes (included in the video) and left with satisfied appetites and a full serving of Basque joi de vivre. This film was made possible by a grant from the National Endowment for the Arts and partnerships between the Western Folklife Center, Nevada’s Department of Tourism and Cultural Affairs, and the Nevada Arts Council.
Hunting the Mountain Picassos
For more than half a century, Jean and Phillip Earl of Reno have used clues from old maps, letters, and books to hunt for and document “Mountain Picassos,” distinctive figures carved into aspen trees found in the high country meadows of the Great Basin. These figures– along with names, dates, and sayings– were carved by Basque sheepherders in the early to mid-20th century.
Euskal Jaiak: Celebrating Basque Culture – the 50th Annual National Basque Festival, Elko
For the last 50 years, Basque families from throughout the American West have gathered in Elko, Nevada on 4th of July weekend to celebrate their culture and the opportunities afforded them in the USA. Filmed over the three days of the 2013 National Basque Festival, “Euskal Jaiak: Celebrating Basque Culture” offers the viewer an all-embracing view of this multi-faceted event.
To learn more about Basque’s in Nevada, go to, Home Means Nevada 1896: Folklife in Nevada Historic Radio Series
I like to think of myself as an unofficial ambassador for the Basque wine, Txakolina. Apart from making it a chapter of my dissertation, which demonstrates how Euskara is used to market locally produced foods, I also just love drinking it. So, when this libation is celebrated right here in Reno at Craft Wine and Beer, it’s time to make some noise!
This year, Craft Wine and Beer’s Txakolina Fest will be on Friday, May 25th from 5-9pm. Ty Martin and his crew put on this Basque-inspired event, and seem to amp it up every year. Here is his sneak preview of what is to come this Friday:
Between graduation parties, the first BBQ’s of the season, and all the yard work (so much yard work), we also cram in a bunch of seasonal events, and my favorite event we do might just be TXAKOLINA FEST! It’s always a hustle to get the fresh vintage of our favorite Basques wines to Reno before everyone checks out for summer, but the stars aligned this year. For your sampling pleasure, we’ll be pouring AT LEAST six Txakolina from Bizkaia, Getaria, and Alava alongside various Basque ciders. Glasses can be had all evening on Friday, May 25th, from 5pm until close with a more formal(ish) flight offering from 5p-7p. We will also smoke some chorizo from Villa Basque down Carson way. Rumor has it that some dancers from Zazpiak Bat may be just loose enough by the evening to cut a rug and show you a few steps. Lastly, in the spirit of Basque competition, we’ll have a “Best Porron Pouring” contest and lots of dancing as the night wears on. Ladies, bring your best war cry!
For the oenophiles and foodies out there who would like to learn more about this Basque wine, check out the headlines that list several must-try “Txakolinak“:
Decanter’s “Txakoli: The Spanish wine style you need to try in 2018”
Food and Wine’s “Thirty Roses to drink this summer”
Forbes’ “Txakoli: The Choice Wine for Spring Sipping”
Hope to see you all at Craft Wine and Beer this Friday for some Txakolina sippin’!
By Kate Camino for Astero:
The Resolution for Gaztemundu 2018, was published this week in the Official Bulletin of the Basque Country. This publication triggers the application period for the program that will run September 1-16, 2018 in Vitoria-Gasteiz aimed at individuals between the ages of 18-35 from officially recognized Basque clubs around the world. This year’s Gaztemundu will focus on traditional Basque dance. Eligible applicants will have knowledge of dance instruction and Basque dance, will be of age by January 1, 2018, and will not have participated in a prior edition of Gaztemundu since 2003. See basic requirements here. Applications require submitting a video recording of dance instruction to determine the capability of the individual to interpret, as well as explain the significance of a chosen dance. The jury will also take into consideration other points that are included in this article found on EuskalKultura.com. The deadline to apply is June 18th, and the Resolution is available herein both Basque and Spanish. For clarifications in English, please email: Iñigo Medina. Iñigo recently arrived at the Center for Basque Studies in Reno and will be carrying out a Basque Government internship, from the Directorate for Basque Communities Abroad, through January 2019. Iñigo has a wonderful command of the English language and so for questions about Gaztemundu, or any other Basque Government related issue, feel free to contact him. On behalf of everyone at NABO, we would like to extend a very warm welcome to Iñigo!
Ziortza Gandarias Beldarrain arrived from Galdakao (Bizkaia) in January from her fieldwork abroad and is in her last year of the Ph.D. program. She is currently writing her dissertation, focused on the analysis of the Basque cultural magazine Euzko-Gogoa, the emblematic leader of the press in the Basque language. As a student, she has presented her papers at numerous conferences in the US and Europe throughout the years and presented this November on a panel for the Western Society for French History’s 45th Annual Conference.
The panel, entitled “Nazism, Neo-Nazism, and Exile in the French Basque Country,” was chaired by Robin Walz from the University of Alaska Southeast, with comments provided by our own Joseba Zulaika. First off, Aurélie Arcocha-Scarcia from the University of Bordeaux spoke of Jon Mirande’s “poetic imaginary and the origins of his neo-Nazism.” Next, Mari Jose Olaziregi from the University of the Basque Country presented “The Nazis, a Contested Site of Memory in 21st century Basque Fiction.” Ziortza finished off the panel with her presentation on Eresoinka, the Basque dance, art, and music group formed in 1937. For Lehendakari Aguirre, it was a cultural embassy to share Basque culture throughout Europe. Ziortza’s presentation was entitled “A Basque Cultural Embassy in France: Exile as a Fantasy Space” and it definitely brought another side of exile into the picture.
Ziortza also presented at our own CBS Multidisciplinary Seminar Series in October. In this case, she gave us a look into one of her dissertation chapters, “Transoceanic-Will.” During the lecture, Ziortza focused on the transatlantic history of Euzko-Gogoa, and how the magazine itself could be considered a symbol of transnationalism. Her work on Basque diasporic identity helps us to understand the common history and collective memory of the Basques as presented in Euzko-Gogoa, and its lasting impression in the world of Euskara, elevating the language to what we understand it as today.
We look forward to Ziortza’s dissertation, which she is studiously and laboriously working on. Zorte on!
It is always a pleasure to attend any of the Zazpiak Bat Reno Basque Club events, and the Fall picnic was no exception. A few of us from the CBS and Jon Bilbao Library had a great time, not only eating (this is a Basque event after all), but meeting new people, playing mus, and dancing.
The picnic was held on Sunday, September 17 at the Rancho San Rafael. The weather was fantastic, and we all had a few drinks and chatted before the lunch was served. It was a relaxing afternoon of food, drinks, and of course, friends. While children played, the adults took the time to catch up with old friends and new.
The BBQ menu consisted of Basque beans, veggies, salad, bread, cheese, and wine, with the main course of BBQ lamb. The brownies served for dessert completed a perfect meal. Of course, there was a bar with beers and cocktails, including, of course, Picon Punch and Kalimotxo!
While the adults played mus, many of the girls danced. Overall, it was a great time spent among lagunak and familia! Till next year!
On August 1, 1974, Igor Yebra was born in Bilbao. He grew up to become the premier male Basque ballet dancer, as well as being a choreographer and instructor. He is considered to be a great example of the danseur noble, a male ballet dancer who projects great nobility of character.
Named after the main character in Borodin’s opera Prince Igor, Yebra’s first love was soccer and he dreamed of playing for hometown team Athletic Bilbao, but he soon became involved in the world of dance through the influence of his parents who ran a dance school. He started his formal training at the relatively late age of 13 and first danced professionally, while still a student, for the Ballet de la Comunidad de Madrid; a company with which he went on to become principal dancer. After six years with this company, however, he struck out on his own– despite receiving offers from recognized companies like the New York City Ballet, Ballet Estable del Teatro Colón, Scottish Ballet, and American Ballet Theatre–to become a freelance ballet dancer, working with several companies including the Australian Ballet, the Cuban National Ballet, the Bolshoi, and as guest principal for the Bordeaux National Ballet and the Rome Opera Theatre Ballet.
He has won numerous awards throughout his career, such as the Leonide Massine Prize in 2003 and the “Gialino d’Oro” in 2010, presented by the Italian Ministry of Culture. In 2006 he realized a personal dream by opening his own dance school in Bilbao, and he has been a member of the UNESCO International Dance Council since 2009.