Category: Basque sports (page 1 of 4)

The Ariñak Project: Learning about the many sides of Basque culture through music and dance

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The Ariñak Project, co-founded by Mercedes Mendive and Janet Iribarne in Elko, Nevada, is an ambitious attempt to learn about the multiple dimensions of Basque culture, centered on music and dance but also encompassing, for example, the Basque language and traditional Basque sports. According to Mercedes:

This endeavor was developed to teach important elements of music, including pandero (tambourine), accordion, txistu, alboka, txalaparta, singing as well as introducing our kids/members to the Basque language and Basque sports. It’s our goal to incrementally start our participants on a cultural journey that will stay with them for a lifetime.

As part of the project camp days are held on which participants learn the fundamentals of both music and dance from experienced instructors. The ultimate goal is to extend this learning to a more comprehensive understanding of how the instruments, the music, and the dance all form part of a greater whole that is Basque culture in general. For example, the project seeks to teach people the meanings behind popular Basque songs and dances, how and why they may be important in Basque culture more generally.

Check out Mercedes Mendive’s webpage (with contact information) here.

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And Euskal Kultura report on the project here.

This ambitious project mirrors similar efforts in the Basque Country itself that seek to interpret Basque dance as part of a wider cultural framework: first and foremost, and perhaps most obviously, as a cultural form intimately connected to music. As he notes, while doing research for his marvelous book, Alejandro Aldekoa: Master of Pipe and Tabor Dance Music, Sabin Bikandi was himself an accomplished musician who (p.31),

suddenly realized that I had no idea of how to play for the dance, no idea of the repertoire, the repetitions, or the meaning of “following the dancers.” If I was going to write about Aldekoa, a pipe and tabor player and a dance master, I felt I had to learn the job, and the only way was to do just that—to learn to perform.

However (p.33),

the learning process was slow and complicated, and my knowledge is still a long way behind that of the great master, Aldekoa. However, the little that I learned helped me to reinterpret and understand the relationship between choreography and music, and in the end, how music and dance form a single entity. As I have observed, at present, dance and music are taught as separate subjects. Musicians do not learn anything but music, and dancers do basically the same as regards dance. Many dancers are not able to sing what they dance or the rhythm they mark while dancing. This has been a problem during my own learning process, for my musical-analytical approach found no response from the dance teachers. On the other hand, I found that many dancers are afraid of musicians’ knowledge about rhythm analysis and their knowledge of the science of music.

In short, as Bikandi observes in his work, stepping up to the next level, at least attempting to comprehend a true master like Aldekoa, required that kind of commitment to a greater understanding of how music and dance are one and the same thing, and how in this particular case, they are are also central to Basque cultural norms as a whole.

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Basque Country women’s soccer team loses to Ireland

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Elixabete Sarasola Nieto, from Donostia, who plays for AFC Ajax and the Basque Country. Photo by Xavier Rondón Medina, courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

The Basque Country women’s soccer team narrowly lost 2-1 against the Republic of Ireland, ranked 30th in the world, on Saturday, November 26. The Irish team went ahead in the first half with a spectacular free-kick by Stephanie Roche, but the Basque Country equalized with an equally great strike by Athletic Bilbao striker Yulema Corres. Ireland scored the winning goal in the second half, in which it clearly dominated the Basque Country, courtesy of Leanne Kiernan. Ireland thus got revenge for its 2-0 defeat by the Basque Country in a corresponding game in Azpeitia, Guipuzkoa, in 2014.

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Marta Unzué Urdániz, from Berriozar (Navarre), a defender who plays for Barcelona and the Basque Country. Photo by Xavier Rondón Medina, courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

Like their male counterparts the Basque Country women’s soccer team does not have an official status and can only play friendly matches. The game, held at Tallaght Stadium in South Dublin, was the eighth time that the Basque national team has turned out, and its second game against Ireland, having also played against Argentina (twice), Chile, Catalonia (twice), and Estonia. with a record of 3 wins, 2 ties, and 3 losses.

Teams

Republic of Ireland WNT: Byrne (McQuillan 85), Berrill (McCarthy 46), Caldwell, Quinn, Fahey, Duggan (Murray 71), O’Gorman (Kavanagh 85), Kiernan (Prior 79), O’Sullivan, Russell (De Burca 79), Roche (McLaughlin 46).

Basque Country: Ainhoa (Eli Sarasola 46), Iraia, Garazi Murua (Esti Aizpurua 60), Joana Arranz (Baños 67), Ramajo, Unzué, Erika, Moraza (María Díaz 46), Beristain (Anne Mugarza 77), Manu Lareo (Ibarrola 74), Yulema Corres.

Check out a report on the game here: https://www.fai.ie/ireland/match/55501/2016/999943238?tab=report

For general information on the Basque Country women’s soccer team: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Basque_Country_women%27s_national_football_team

See also a complete record of all the Basque Country’s international games here: http://www.eff-fvf.eus/pub/calendarioEliminatoriaSelEspecial.asp?idioma=eu&idCompeticion=17

November 3, 1968: Mountaineer Alberto Iñurrategi born

One of the world’s great mountaineers, Alberto Iñurrategi Iriarte, was born on November 3, 1968 in Aretxabaleta, Gipuzkoa. He became the tenth person–and the youngest to that date at thirty-three years of age–to complete all fourteen eight-thousander summits, the highest mountains on earth, in 2002 (see an earlier post we did on Juanito Oiarzabal climbing these peaks here).

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Alberto Iñurrategi Iriarte

He climbed twelve of those peaks with his brother, Felix, who tragically died on the descent of one of them, Gasherbrum II, in 2000. What’s more,  Iñurrategi climbed the peaks in an Alpine style using few lines or sherpas and no bottled oxygen, making him the fourth person to have climbed all fourteen peaks without bottled oxygen.

Here are the figures for his successful ascents of all fourteen eight-thousander summits with the years he did so in parentheses.

  1. Makalu (1991)
  2. Everest (1992)
  3. K2 (1994)
  4. Cho Oyu (1995)
  5. Lhotse (1995)
  6. Kangchenjunga (1996)
  7. Shishapangma (1996)
  8. Broad Peak (1997)
  9. Dhaulagiri I (1998)
  10. Nanga Parbat (1999)
  11. Manaslu (2000)
  12. Gasherbrum II (2000)
  13. Gasherbrum I (aka Hidden Peak) (2001)
  14. Annapurna I (2002)

Iñurrategi thus joins a long line of distinguished Basque mountaineers and today stands, alongside Juanito Oiarzabal and Edurne Pasaban (the latter of whom we have also posted about here), as the most famous member of this intrepid group of Basques.

September 23, 1956: Stone lifter Iñaki Perurena born

Iñaki Perurena Gartziarena, arguably the most emblematic of all contemporary harri-jasotzaileak or Basque stone lifters, was born in Leitza, Nafarroa, on September 23, 1956. Despite making his name in the world of traditional Basque sports, though, Perurena is also an all-round cultural icon in the Basque Country, having been an actor, poet, sculptor, and bertsolari or improvised oral versifier as well as vociferous defender of the Basque language and culture. Despite all this activity, he still runs his family butcher shop in Leitza, and if that were not enough, in 2009 he opened the Peru-Harri Museum, a site devoted to the material of stone itself and traditional Basque sports as well as Basque culture and history in general.

Stone lifting remains one one of the most iconic of traditional Basque sports (check out a previous post here with a video showing just what it entails).  Its roots lie in the grueling work of quarries, and the challenges that emerged out of such work as to who could lift the heaviest stones (for gambling purposes of course). These challenges eventually became more organized affairs, often taking place during annual village festivals, with locals cheering on different competitors and betting on their own particular favorites. By the late twentieth century such sports were televised in the Basque Country and the participants became major public figures.

Perurena’s own personal best in the straight two-handed weight-lifting category is 320 kg (just over 705 pounds), which was a world record mark when he established it in 1994 and is still the second best ever mark today. He is also the world record-holder for the best one-handed lift, at 267 kg (just under 589 pounds). When it comes to stone lifting nowadays, however, he limits himself to carrying out exhibitions.

In many ways, Perurena has been the most media savvy exponent of traditional Basque sports. A natural showman comfortable in front of the camera, he appeared in the role of “Imanol” in Basque TV’s long-running soap opera Goenkale. And he even made a memorable appearance demonstrating stone lifting on the hit US show LIve with Regis and Kathie Lee (if you search online you may even find some images of Regis Philbin wearing a Basque beret!).

He was awarded the gold medal for sporting merit by the Government of Nafarroa in 1999 and in 2011 received the Manuel Irujo Award by the Irujo Etxea Elkartea foundation.

Check out a fascinating report by The New York Times on Iñaki Perurena and Basque stone lifting here.

 

Amazing Footage of Basque Kayak Expedition to Greenland

A trailer has just been released for a forthcoming documentary on a Basque kayak expedition to the Kurssuaq River (meaning “Big River” in the local Greenlandic Inuit language) in Greenland. Aitor Goikoetxea and Mikel Sarasola from Gipuzkoa, together with Fermín Pérez and Edu Sola from Navarre,  spent August and part of September this year in the little visited southwest corner of Greenland in search of challenging river descents.

This is, apparently, the first time such a descent has been attempted on this river by kayak. What’s more, following an unusually dry, mild, and warm spring and summer, water levels were particularly high with glacial run-off. Despite the potential hazards, the team opted for the biggest river of all, the Kurssuaq, and filmed the results for their forthcoming documentary. The actual descent involved a 12-day trek upriver before setting off.

Check out the amazing footage here:

The documentary will be released in 2017. Check out the team’s website here.

Basques star at 2016 Tug of War World Championships

Teams representing the Basque Country enjoyed a lot of success at the recent Tug of War International Federation (TWIF) World Championships, held in Malmö, Sweden, September 8-11.

The Basque national team won a gold medal in the men’s 580 kg category, silver medals in the women’s 500 kg, the mixed 600 kg, and men’s 640 kg categories, respectively. Meanwhile, in the club competition, the Gaztedi team won bronze in the 500 kg and 580 kg competitions.

See the full list of results here.

Check out the following videos of teams leaving Sweden at Malmö Airport

…and the reception for the victorious competitors at Loiu Airport in the Basque Country.

 

 

Basque sports, and sports in general, are discussed in the Center publication Playing Fields; Power, Practice, and Passion in Sport, edited by Mariann Vaczi.

Great mountain biking video from Iparralde

Short, sweet, and fast today! The Arrosa Crew recently uploaded a great mountain biking video showcasing its skills in Lower Navarre. As well as some action-packed downhill scenes in several upland locations, the video also shows mountain bikers contending with the old city streets and walls in Donibane Garazi. Check it out here:

August 9, 1846: Famous pilota match held in Irun

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Errebotea match played in Hondarribia, Gipuzkoa, 1863. Painting by Gustave Colin (1828-1910), courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

Sunday, August 9, 1846, witnessed one of the most famous ever pilota or pelota matches, held in the border town of Irun, Gipuzkoa. It was the errebotea (rebound) form of the game, a long-style form in which the teams return the ball to each other directly without hitting it against any wall. Moreover, as in Jai-Alaia, xisterak or hand-held baskets are typically used to strike the ball.

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Jean Errachun, “Kaskoina” (1817-1859).

That August day, the match involved one team from Hegoalde competing against another from Iparralde. And the latter–the eventual winners–featured the greatest player of the day, Jean Errachun (Erratxun in modern Basque orthography), who also went by the surname Darritchon, from Hazparne, Lapurdi. Knicknamed “Gaskoi(n)a” or “Kaskoi(n)a” poetry was even composed in his honor:

Kaskoinaren trunkoa/Trunko bat iduri/Orotarik hartza du iduri.
The bust of Gaskoina/ is like a tree trunk/ he himself is just like a bear.

“But beneath the rough exterior,” notes Philippe Veyrin in The Basques of Lapurdi, Zuberoa, and Lower Navarre (p. 349), “was concealed the strength of a Hercules, an imperturbable composure, and a dazzlingly adroit technique.”

In Basque Pelota: A Ritual, An Aesthetic, Olatz González Abrisketa states (p. 186):

According to the French newspaper Journal du Havre, twelve thousand people turned up for the game in Irun, and campsites had to be set up in the vicinity. People from all the Basque provinces converged on Irun; they left their homes two or three days earlier on horseback, by oxen, or other means, sufficiently supplied with money in order to wager on the game.

The centripetal force of pelota attracted thousands of people to a specific place, normally an open ground by the more representative areas of the village or villa. Grounds were leveled and slopes eliminated, and courts situated by churches or ramparts whose walls were used for the game. At first these grounds were probably unfenced, and it was the crowd itself, its bodies, that marked the boundaries of the court.

What’s more, Veyrin goes on to say that those present:

were at such a fever-pitch that some of them, unable to afford a ticket, wagered their heads of cattle, and even their future maize harvests! The hero of this joust is said to have won four thousand gold francs; he won with the help of Gamio, a priest from the Baztan Valley, Harriague of Hazparne, Saint-Jean of Uztaritze (Ustaritz), and Domingo of Ezpeleta. We know the names and nicknames of only three of their opponents: Melchior, Tripero, and Molinero. Gaskoina fell prey to typhus in 1859 and died at the peak of his powers in his native village, at the age of forty-two.

Follow Basque competitors in Rio via BAT BasqueTeam Foundation

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BAT BasqueTeam is a foundation created to sponsor Basque athletes competing in a variety of sports. With the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro now underway, you can follow the fortunes of Basque competitors there via BasqueTeam on  Facebook and Twitter.

Reno Basque Festival This Weekend

 

The Zazpiak Bat Reno Basque Club will be hzazpiak bat logoosting its 49th–yes 49th!–Basque Festival this weekend.

The festival kicks off on Friday evening, July 15, at 7pm at Louis’ Basque Corner, with the main events taking place on Saturday, July 16 at Wingfield Park in downtown Reno from 10am-10pm. There will be Basque dancing by the local Zazpiak Bat dancers as well as the Irrintzi Dancers from Winnemucca, NV, a bota contest for the kids, rural sports exhibitions, and a txinga (weight carrying) contest that is open to the public. Live music will be provided by Mercedes Mendive, from Elko, NV, at the public dance from 6-9pm.

Food and drink will be available for purchase all day, along with items from various vendors. Everyone is welcomed to join in the fun. For more information check out Zazpiak Bat at Facebook.

 

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