Category: Basque music (page 1 of 7)

July 14, 1970: Death of popular Basque tenor Luis Mariano

On July 14, 1970, the popular Basque tenor Luis Mariano died in Paris. Although born in Hegolade, the Southern Basque Country, he became an idol of stage and screen in post-World War II France, where he was one of the biggest stars of operetta. Four months before his death in 1970, already ill for some time with what could have been an untreated case of hepatitis, he wrote: “I was born in a wonderful country that is called the Basque Country.” And his popularity both north and south of the Pyrenees in the country of his birth resounds to this day among many people.

Luis Mariano (1914-1970). Image by Karta24. Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

Mariano Eusebio González y García was born in Irun, Gipuzkoa, on August 13, 1914. On the outbreak of the Civil War in 1936, together with his parents, he fled north of the border. Settling initially in Baiona, Lapurdi, he joined the Basque exile folklore group Eresoinka, with whom he traveled and performed across Europe in the period 1937-1939. He was also accepted by the music school of Bordeaux, where he studied opera singing and also sang in cabarets by night. His talent was quickly spotted by Jeanne Lagiscarde, who ran the classical department of a Bordeaux record store, and she began to manage his career, relocating him to Paris in the process.

There he continued to perform in stage shows and also in a minor role in the first of several movies he would appear in throughout his career. These were the years of Nazi-occupied Paris, and in the period 1943-1945 he first came to prominence in the world of operetta, performing alongside the likes of Edith Piaf and Yves Montand. His career really took off after the war, however, as he performed in both operettas and movies. As the operetta genre waned in the 1960s, he moved into television performances, yet remained just as popular. In the late 1960s, though, he fell ill and was forced to cancel various shows on account of a nagging fatigue. This culminated in his death in July 1970.

Grave of Luis Mariano in Arrangoitze. Photo by Tibauk. Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

As per his express wishes, he was buried in the Basque Country, in Arrangoitze (Arcangues), Lapurdi, where he had owned a home for many years. In regard t the Basque Country, he is reported to have said: “I will come to rest forever in this land.”

Musikene and the CBS Compile the History of Basque Music

The Center for Basque Studies and the Higher School of Music of the Basque Country, Musikene, have organized a conference on the history of the Basque music from Prehistory to the present times. The conference took place on June 28 and 29 at Musikene in Donostia-San Sebastian and the pianist and professor Jokin Okiñena offered a piano recital.

After a concert Prof. Okiñena gave in Reno in 2016, he and Xabier Irujo spoke about the existing void in relation to the history of Basque music since the publication of Arana Martija’s work in 1987. To carry out this task, the Center for Basque Studies signed an agreement with Miren Iñarga, director of Musikene.

The resulting volume coordinated by professor Okiñena will be published by the CBS. The project, which emerged thirty years after the publication of the last historical analysis of Basque music by Jose A. Arana Martija, will systematize the history of the Basque music from prehistory to the present and will include a separate section on the contribution of women to this relevant aspect of the Basque history. This is a novel project whose first sketch emerged in 2017 with the signing of an agreement between Musikene and the Center for the celebration of a conference and a piano recital and the publication of a book.

The conference has brought together nine experts on different aspects of the Basque music. Prof. Elixabete Etxebeste lectured about the history of the Basque music from Prehistory to the Middle Ages; Prof. Sergio Barcellona talked about Renaissance and Baroque; Prof. Jon Bagüés about Enlightment; Prof. Isabel Díaz about Basque Music in the 19th century; Prof. Iosu Okiñena about Basque music and Nationalism, Itziar Larrinaga lectured about the Basque music during war and dictatorship (1936-1978) and Mikel Chamizo about contemporary Basque music (from 2000 to the present.) Finally, Prof. Patri Goialde and Mark Barnés lectured about Basque jazz and Prof. Gotzone Higuera focuses on the contribution of Basque women to music.

Program

June 28:

10:00 Opening

10:30 Prof. Elixabete Etxebeste. Prehistory, Antiquity and Middle Ages

11:30 Prof. Sergio Barcellona. Renaissance and Baroque

12:30 Break

13:00 Jon Bagüés. Basque music and Enlightment

14:00 Lunch

15:30 Isabel Díaz. Basque music in the 19th century

16:30 Gotzone Higuera. Basque music and women

17:30 Break

18:00 Patri Goialde y Mark Barnés. Jazz in the Basque Country

20:00 Piano recital by Josu Okiñena

 

June 29

10:00 Josu Okiñena. Basque music and nationalism

11:00 Itziar Larrinaga. Basque music during war and dictatorship (1936-1978)

12:00 Break

12:30 Mikel Chamizo. Basque music in the 21rst century

13:30 Conclusions

14:00 Lunch and meeting of the scientific committee

 

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.

 

 

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:

 

Grad Student News: Ziortza Gandarias Beldarrain

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!

What’s in a Song? Agur Xiberoa

Agur Xiberoa (Farewell Xiberoa) is one of the canonical songs in the Basque songbook, simultaneously a lament to the impact of enforced displacement as well as a testament to the powerful connection between people and place.

It was written in 1946 by Pierre Bordazaharre, also known as Etxahun-Iruri (1908-1979), from Iruri in Xiberoa (today known as Zuberoa). During his compulsory schooling (through age 13) Etxahun-Iruri was a good student and displayed a special interest in literature, becoming an avid reader for the rest of his life. Opportunities for humble rural people, however, to develop such interests further beyond the end of their school years were few and far between at the time and having finished his formal education he carried on the family farming tradition.

This did not prevent him, though, from taking an active part in Basque culture: he was involved in both the maskaradak and pastoralak, two key expressions of Basque culture in Zuberoa. Additionally, he also authored and helped to revolutionize the pastorala in the twentieth century, introducing more specifically Basque themes into the art form; and he was an accomplished xirulari or pipe player, wrote poetry, and was a bertsolari or improvising oral poet.

Agur Xiberua is a lament, the story of the enforced displacement many inhabitants of the province were forced to undertake in search of work and better opportunities than their homeland could offer. It stands as a testament to the cultural importance of Basque exile more generally, although its cheery tune also serves to celebrate the memory of homeland, family, and friends.

The chorus captures all of this perfectly:

Agur Xiberoa                                                            Farewell Zuberoa,

bazter güzietako xokhorik eijerrena          the most beautiful place on earth;

agur sor lekhia                                                         farewell, native land,

zuri ditit ene ametsik goxuenak                    my sweetest dreams go to you

bihotzan erditik                                                      from the bottom of my heart;

bostetan elki deitadazüt hasperena          I have often heaved a sigh,

zü ützi geroztik                                                       since I left you;

bizi niz trixterik                                                       I live in sorrow,

abandonatürik                                                         abandoned,

ez beita herririk                                                      for there is no city,

Parisez besterik,                                                    except Paris,

zü bezalakorik.                                                       which is your equal.

Some of the themes mentioned here, such as the new emphasis on Basque instead of more generically religious or French themes in the cultural expression of the pastorala as well as the impact of emigration from Zuberoa, are discussed in detail by Igor Ahedo Gurrutxaga in The Transformation of National Identity in the Basque Country of France, 1789-2006.

*Information sourced for this post from Orhipean, The Country of Basque.

Trout, Trixitixa, and Song: Being Basque in the Big Horns

Harri Mutil high in the Big Horn Mountains of Wyoming

It was your Basque Book Editor’s absolute honor to be able to attend the 2017 NABO Convention and Basque Festival in Buffalo, Wyoming this. On the Monday following the festival, being a thousand miles from home, I also took advantage of the moment to attend the Basque Sheepherder’s Barbecue held the day after in the Big Horn Mountains of Wyoming. The Big Horn Mountains are absolutely beautiful and it was so great to be able to meet and talk to so many Basques from sheep raising and ranching backgrounds similar to my own but in the lush green of northeastern Wyoming rather than the stark yellow and russets of Nevada.

In the morning carloads of attendees were carted off to local creeks and streams to make the best of the day: cast iron deep fried trout painstakingly prepared along with lukainka sausages by the dozens and side dishes lovingly made and brought to share. Children ran and played and oldsters held down their camp chairs and swapped stories old and new.

Basque performers Errabal, who had been wowing us all weekend, set up on log stumps and started to play and soon Jesus Goñi sang some bertsos for the crowd.

As I would depart straight for Reno early the next morning, I set up my tent and camped at the site and got to the visit with the owners of this little piece of ground. They told me about what they called a “sheepherder’s monument” out on a high ridge a few miles down the road and so I drove down to visit it as the sun set. I climbed up to a giant harri mutil (read another post about these here) on the mountainside and stood and watch the sun set west. It was a lonely life for those early sheepherders whether in the mountains of Wyoming or Nevada, but with communities like the one I had the privilege to visit, it must have made the solitude all that much more bearable for those boys turning into men and men missing families and loved ones in the old country.

A Basque community, like any other immigrant community, changes in the United States, integrates and also makes new traditions all of their own. This post is the first of a series I am planning to write on the events of the Basque festival in Buffalo, so please keep checking back often! Anyone interested in Basques in Buffalo, and the experience of Basques in the West, should definitely check out Buffalotarrak!

Euskal Jaiak

For those of you lucky enough to be in the Basque Country, jaiak (festivity) season is well underway. This past weekend brought thousands out to celebrate San Inazio, with jaiak across the Basque Country.

We will try to highlight some of these festivities here at the CBS books blog throughout the month. But for now, check out the website http://www.jaiak.net for complete schedules of these colorful festivities, not only in the Basque Country but throughout the peninsula.

All I can say for now is that, man, I wish I was over there!

July 13, 1955: Birth of pilotari Panpi Ladutxe

On July 13, 1955, one of the great characters in the modern age of pilota (also spelled pelota) was born in Azkaine, Lapurdi: Panpi Ladutxe (also spelled Pampi Laduche). The son of another famous pilotari or Basque handball player, Joseph Ladutxe, he began his career in the four-walled trinkete (closed court) version of the sport more common in Iparralde or the Northern Basque Country, where he was from, becoming world champion in this version at the tender age of 19. He later switched to the three-walled (open court) fronton variety more common in Hegoalde or the Southern Basque Country in his mid-20s, winning two doubles titles in 1987 and 1989, partnered by Joxean Tolosa.

Ladutxe stood out in many ways, being the first player from Iparralde to gain success in Hegoalde in the modern age. After retirement he went on to promote and develop the sport in and train fellow players from Iparralde, two of whom in particular–Sebastien Gonzalez and Yves Salaberri or “Xala”–went on to enjoy great success, following in his footsteps. He has also been a great showman away from the court, enjoying some success as a singer of traditional Basque songs both live and in the release of two records: Aitari (1995) and Chansons du Pays Basque (2002).

Summer fun in the Basque Country

For those of you living in the Basque Country, Eresbil–the National Archive of Basque Music in Errenteria (Gipuzkoa)–has put together a map and website of upcoming music and dance festivals celebrated across Euskal Herria.

Here’s a bit of information about the organization itself, from its website:

ERESBIL comes forth in 1974 as a result of the repertoire needs for programming MUSIKASTE, a week’s festival devoted to the diffusion of works by Basque composers in the town of Errenteria. The initiative for creating a centre, which would gather the works to be spread by the above mentioned festival, is born by the hand of José Luis Ansorena in the bosom of the Choir Andra Mari, the organiser of MUSIKASTE since 1973. During that same year 1974 began the compilation of scores created by Basque composers throughout the time. The first list of composers, comprising up to 300 names, is made up in September. On 31st December 2008, ERESBIL had already identified 1.775 authors as Basque-navarraise composers.

Be sure to check out the concerts, which kick off on Thursday in Urkizu, near Tolosa, with the group Et Incarnatus to celebrate the summer solstice. To learn more, be sure to read “Eresbil publishes a guide and map of music and dance festivals for summer 2017 in the Basque Country online” by Euskal Kultura.

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