Category: Folk music (page 1 of 2)

Usopop Festibala 2017 this weekend

This weekend people lucky enough to find themselves in the Basque lands will have the opportunity, should they wish, to dance gently away to the sweet sounds of the Usopop Festival, a wonderfully quirky mix of roots, folk, rock, and pop music in the beautiful setting of Sara (Lapurdi) and the Lizarrieta Pass between Lapurdi and Nafarroa. Check out the teaser here.

 
 https://www.kanaldude.tv/Teaser-Usopop-2017_v4947.htmlhttps://www.kanaldude.tv/Teaser-Usopop-2017_v4947.htmlhttps://www.kanaldude.tv/Teaser-Usopop-2017_v4947.html

 

Txakoli & Music: CBS friend offers innovative masterclass in Basque cultural symbols

This past Saturday, April 15, as part of the 2017 Basque Fest celebrations held to introduce Basque culture to Easter vacation visitors to Bilbao, CBS friend Sabin Bikandi of the Aiko group, together with Alvaro García and Amaiur Cajaraville, offered up a lively, informal, and instructive talk and performance at the Basque Museum in Bilbao around the theme of txistu (flute) music and txakolina, the emblematic Basque wine, sponsored by the Bizkaiko Txakolina designation of origin.

Ever the consummate showman, Sabin explained several features of Basque culture with his usual good humor and panache, from the txistu itself–the Basque three-holed pipe or flute–to txakolina of course, a generous glass of which was served to audience members, but also how to wear a txapela or Basque beret, and what music means to him; in short, that music and dance are one and the same organic whole, and that music, dance, and txakolina were all important elements of the erromeriak or public outdoor dances that were traditionally held in the Basque Country.

Check out Alejandro Aldekoa: Master of Pipe and Tabor Dance Music in the Basque Country, Sabin’s wonderfully evocative portrait of a master txistularia or txistu player, Alejandro Aldekoa; a work that also addresses broader issues of Basque music and dance.

And if you do like Basque music and dance be sure to check out the book/CD/DVD Urraska: A New Interpretation of the Basque Jauziak Dances as Interpreted by Sagasta, an all encompassing exploration of these representative Basque dances.

 

 

March 27, 1937: Singer Lourdes Iriondo born

Lourdes Iriondo (1937-2005).

Lourdes Iriondo Mujika was born in Donostia on March 27, 1937. She rose to prominence in the 1960s as part of the New Basque Folk movement and was widely considered the principal female voice of Basque popular music in the 1960s and 1970s.

The second of eleven sisters and brothers, at age seven she moved with her family from Donostia to nearby Urnieta, Gipuzkoa. She went to Catholic school, first in Urnieta and later in Donostia, where she was taught by French nuns and schooled in French. From an early age she had a calling to help the poor and consequently enrolled in a secular missionary school in Vitoria-Gasteiz. She could not complete her studies, however, because barely a year later she was diagnosed with a heart defect that would require her to be especially vigilant about her health. She was ordered to undertale a lengthy period of rest at home, and she made the most of this time by studying another of her passions: music.

She had grown up in a family environment in which music played an important role, with family gatherings invariably involving singing traditional Basque songs. She was a member of the Urnieta txistulari (Basque pipe and tabor player) group and had studied singing and opera at a Donostia music school. In 1964 she took up the guitar, by which time she had already started to compose songs, many of them infused with religious themes. That same year, 1964, she performed for the first time in public in a fundraising concert for the ikastola or Basque-language school of nearby Andoain. Her performance was a hit with the audience and she was invited to perform again at several concerts through 1964 and 1965. Word spread of her talent and an important local radio station, Herri Irratia, recorded her performing and began broadcasting the recordings. She was a new voice in many ways, not just because she was a woman but because she sang in Basque with the single accompaniment of a classical guitar. This was completely unheard of in the Basque Country at the time and people responded enthusiastically.

It was in 1965, too, that the artistic collective Ez Dok Amairu was established. This was intended as an all-embracing group of artists in different fields, with a special emphasis on music. It was a vanguard collective that sought to reinvigorate the Basque language and culture particularly through the medium of song, and followed in many ways the folk revival in the United States and elsewhere linked to themes of protest at the state of society at the time (in the Basque context, this obviously meant protest, where possible, against the Franco dictatorship). Iriondo was one of the founding members of Ez Dok Amairu yet unlike most of the others–which included Mikel Laboa, Benito Lertxundi, and her future husband Xabier Lete–she was already widely known in the Basque cultural world at that time. Within this context, during the late 1960s and early 1970s, her songwriting became more overtly political in nature with titles like   “Askatasuna zertarako” (Why freedom?), “Nire erria” (My homeland), and, most popular of all, “Ez gaude konforme” (We don’t agree).

Basque musicians in the show “Zazpiribai” (1972). Standing (L to R): Iñaki Urtizberea , Xabier Lete, Patxika Erramuzpe, Peio Ospital, Pantxoa Carrere, and Manex Pagola. Seated (L to R): Ugutz Robles-Aranguiz, Lourdes Iriondo, and Benito Lertxundi. Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

She married Xabier Lete in 1968 and the couple released several mini LPs together in the 1960s and 1970s. Meanwhile, Iriondo took up writing children’s literature, publishing several Basque-language books for children through the 1970s and early 1980s.  She also recorded traditional Basque songs and children’s songs but performed for the last time in 1978. She was physically and mentally exhausted by the demands of performing live, with her health suffering, and increasingly preoccupied by politically charged internal divisions within the Basque cultural world.  Thereafter, she dedicated herself to working for the ikastola movement and parish duties in Urnieta, including organizing children’s theater groups.

She died, aged 68, in December 2005. There is a park and a sculpture in her honor in her home town of Urnieta.

 

Baiona renames street in honor of Estitxu Robles-Aranguiz

Estitxu Robles-Aranguiz in 1970. Picture courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

In conjunction with International Women’s Day, the City of Baiona yesterday unveiled a plaque commemorating the life and work of singer Estitxu Robles-Aranguiz Bernaola, known simply as Estitxu or “Beskoitzeko urretxindorra” (the nightingale of Beskoitze), and in doing so named a street in her honor in the city.

She was born in Beskoitze (Briscous), Lapurdi, in 1944 to a family of political refugees from Bizkaia fleeing the Franco dictatorship. Her father, Manu Robles-Aranguiz, was one of the founders of the Basque nationalist labor union ELA, and had himself already been forced into exile during the previous Spanish dictatorship of Miguel Primo de Rivera in the 1920s. Born into a naturally musical family made up of ten siblings, she studied classical guitar and at an early age Estitxu formed the Ainarak (The Swallows) group together with her sisters Edurne, Garbiñe, Gizane, and Maitane; while four of their brothers–Alatz, Irkus, Ugutz, and Iker–created the Soroak quartet. In 1967, at the age of twenty-three she began appearing solo in festivals, performing for the first time in public in Bilbao. A year later she released her first single, and this in turn led to more public performances in Bizkaia, Gipuzkoa, and Iparralde, with her rendering of American spiritual, gospel, country, and folk-inspired music in Basque. This early success as a pioneer of the New Basque Folk movement even led to an overseas tour in 1969 when, at the invitation of exiled Basque communities in Latin America, she performed in Mexico and Venezuela. Indeed, her first album was produced in Caracas, and went by the title Una voz increíble (Promus, 1970).

All of this coincided with the waning years of the Franco regime, and her performances in Basque were on more than one occasion subject to strict censorship controls. Still, in the 1970s her recording career really took off as she released a number of singles, albums, and children’s music collections. In the late 1970s and early 1980s she moved away from Basque reworkings of American Folk music toward more traditional Basque music, performing in the United States in 1983. After recording the album Zortzikoak (Xoxoa, 1986), however, she fell ill and was unable to perform for several years. She reappeared in public in 1993, performing a concert in Irun, Gipuzkoa, and signing off by saying “Laster artio, Euskal Herria!” (See you soon, Basque Country!), but three weeks later she was taken ill with cancer once more an died in a Bilbao hospital. A tribute album titled simply Estitxu (Agorila, 1994) was subsequently released in her memory.

What’s in a song? Izarren hautsa

Xabier Lete performing in 1971. Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

“Izarren hautsa” (Stardust) first appeared as track 6 on singer-songwriter Xabier Lete’s 1976 LP Kantatzera noazu (I’m coming to sing for you) but most Basque people will (still hopefully) be familiar with this song today, which counts among the canonical works in the Basque songbook.  Lete (1944-2010) is widely regarded as more than just a singer-songwriter and remains among the most important of modern Basque poets, with a clearly poetic sensibility that few other Basque songwriters have managed to achieve. Indeed, he published poetry throughout his life and his final book of poems, Egunsentiaren esku izotzak (Frozen hands of the dawn, 2008) won the Basque Literature Award in 2009.

“One day stardust became life.” Image by Jean-Lucien Guillaume, courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

In “Izarren hautsa” Lete reflects on the meaning of life from the starting point that, in the final analysis, we are all just stardust.

Here’s the first and last couple of verses from this Basque starman’s epic “Izarren hautsa”:

Izarren hautsa egun batean bilakatu zen bizigai,

hauts hartatikan uste gabean noizpait ginaden gu ernai.

Eta horrela bizitzen gera sortuz ta sortuz gure aukera

atsedenik hartu gabe: lana eginaz goaz aurrera

kate horretan denok batera gogorki loturik gaude.

One day stardust became life,

from that dust, suddenly, at some point, we awoke.

And that’s how we carry on, relentlessly creating our own fate,

without rest: we keep on through work,

all firmly bound together in that chain.

Gu sortu ginen enbor beretik sortuko dira besteak,

burruka hortan iraungo duten zuhaitz-ardaska gazteak.

Beren aukeren jabe eraikiz ta erortzean berriro jaikiz

ibiltzen joanen direnak: gertakizunen indar ta argiz

gure ametsa arrazoi garbiz egiztatuko dutenak.

From the same trunk we were born, others will emerge,

young branches that will carry on in that struggle.

Becoming masters of their own fate and, having fallen, rising again,

those that will walk: through the power and brilliance of actions,

those that will transform our dreams through pure reason.

Eta ametsa bilakaturik egiaren antziduri

herri zahar batek bide berritik ekingo dio urduri;

guztian lana guztien esku jasoko dute sendo ta prestu,

beren bizitzen edargai; diru zakarrak bihotzik eztu,

lotuko dute gogor ta hestu haz ez dadin gizonen gain.

And transforming dreams into the form of truth,

an old people will, through new ways, face up to its doubts;

through everyone’s toil and support, they will receive, firm and upright,

the water of life; dirty money afflicts the heart,

they will control it, firmly and tightly, so it never overpowers them.

Lyrically, “Izarren hautsa” is an epic song, a tale of human life from its very beginnings to the creation of society, and Lete is profoundly concerned with the kind of society we as humans seek to create. He may, indeed, be interested in underscoring the flimsiness of civilization itself, recalling the warning in Shelley’s famous sonnet “Ozymandias” (1818) to anyone with pretensions to greatness, believing the myth that human power is timeless (And on the pedestal these words appear / ‘My name is Ozymandias, king of kings / Look on my works, ye Mighty, and despair!’ Nothing beside remains. Round the decay / Of that colossal wreck, boundless and bare / The lone and level sands stretch far away). Lete also composed the music for the song although he enlisted the help of fellow musician and singer Antton Valverde to improve his original composition.

Lete sometimes found that his songs enjoyed more success when sung by others, in particular through the distinctive voice of fellow Basque folk icon Mikel Laboa (1934-2008).  Check out Laboa’s rearranged version of the song here:

Check out a faithful interpretation of Laboa’s version by singer-songwriter Anari (with great audience participation) here:

For a contemporary reworking of Laboa’s version check out the version below by the group Ken Zazpi:

Finally, check out a different reinterpretation of the song by the great Ruper Ordorika that relies more on the original Lete version for its inspiration:

Your call. Which version do you prefer?

If you’re interested in contemporary Basque music, be sure to check out Jon Eskisabel Urtuzaga’s Basque Songwriting: Pop, Rock, Folk, published by the Etxepare Basque Institute and available free to download here.

 

Errobiko Festibala: Where the global meets the local

Errobiko Festibala image_large

Today, July 21, sees the kick-off of Errobiko Festibala, another great festival of sound and spectacle running through July 24 that, shame on us, we failed to include in our previous post on music festivals this summer in the Basque Country.  So by way of an apology let’s celebrate this great gathering, whose slogan “Izan, Erran, Sortu” (Be, Say, Create) we wholeheartedly endorse!

The festival is held in Itsasu, Lapurdi, and this year’s event includes the specially commissioned performance “Antigone Argia” (The Antigone Light), a blend, of music, dance, and rhythm based on Henry Bauchau’s novel Oedipus on the Road.

On the music side, there will be the Greek-inspired folk of Anatoli, formed by Angélique Ionatos and Katerina Fotinaki, some Basque blues and melodic rock courtesy of Joseba Irazoki and Beñat Achiary, the jazz sounds of two trios, one formed by Andy Emler, Claude Tchamitchian, and Eric Echampard, and the other by Sylvain Darrifourcq, Manuel Hermia, and Valentin Ceccaldi, and the headliner of this year’s festival, the singer-songwriter and poet Danyel Waro, from the Indian Ocean island of Réunion. 

The festival closes on Sunday with the singular opportunity to take part in a poetic hike to nearby Mount Mondarrain, a multi-sensory experience that will include improvised music along the way on the part of the artists taking part in the festival.

 

 


 

Basque Country chills and boogies to the sounds of jazz, blues, and folk this summer

In an earlier post we mentioned how rock, pop, and techno festivals are a big part of the Basque summer music scene. And this week sees the start of the jazz, blues, and folk festival season. Here’s a roundup of some of the main events taking place this summer.

Just a quick note, though, in case you are visiting the Basque Country and can’t make it to one of the events mentioned below: Many other smaller towns organize their own eclectic festivals, incorporating all kinds of music, dance, and street theater. These are usually free to the general public, such as, to cite one example, the wonderful Musikaire festival in Elorrio, Bizkaia.

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Tolosandblues is a great start to the season, taking place June 30-July 3 in Tolosa, Gipuzkoa, with a high-energy line-up including Canadian blues and jazz vocalist Shakura S’Aida as well as the Basque Country’s very own Elkano Browning Cream.

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The first of the major jazz encounters, meanwhile, is the fortieth edition of the Getxo Jazz festival in Getxo, Bizkaia, from July 1-5, with headlining acts including Hermeto Pascoal, the Dee Dee Bridgewater Quintet, and Esperanza Spalding’s latest project, Emily’s D+Evolution.

The Vitoria-Gasteiz Jazz Festival, held in the capital of Araba, takes place July 12-16, and has been described by The Guardian newspaper as among the ten best jazz festivals in Europe. This year’s artists include the Taj Mahal Trio,  Pat Metheney and Ron Carter, Jamie Cullum, and the Joshua Redman Quartet.

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From July 14-17, Hondarribia in Gipuzkoa will host the Hondarribia Blues Festival, featuring (among many others) Junior Watson, Henry Gray, and the Etta James Experience.

Closing up the main jazz festivals is Jazzaldia, in Donostia-San Senbastián, from July 20-25. This year’s line-up includes Diana Krall, Gloria Gaynor, and Ellis Marsalis Jr. as well as his son Branford Marsalis, who will feature alongside special guest Kurt Elling.

The last of the major festivals takes place once more in Getxo, with a celebration of folk traditions from both the Basque Country and beyond. The Getxo International Folk Festival will be held September 1-4, with this year’s final line-up still to be announced.

BANDtzaldia… a new initiative from Aiko

Many of you will have read several posts we’ve done in the past about Aiko Taldea, a groundbreaking ensemble in the Basque Country that in recent years has come to redefine traditional music and dance by emphasizing, among other things, less spectacle and more participation. A key part of Aiko’s philosophy is that music and dance–and the two should really be considered one and the same–should be experienced first-hand, with people joining in rather than just watching.

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This coming Friday, June 24, Aiko will embark on yet another groundbreaking initiative: BANDtzaldia, a collaboration between Aiko and municipal bands in the Basque Country to offer open-air performances at which people are encouraged to get up an dance; yet another attempt by Aiko to revive the traditional spirit of the erromeria or open-air public dance that was once so typical throughout the Basque Country.  The first of these dances will take in one of Bilbao’s emblematic central squares, the Plaza Barria, and will feature a collaboration with the Bilbao Municipal Band. The music for the event has been composed by Sabin Bikandi and arranged by the composer Joserra Gutiérrez.

Check out a trailer for the show here, in which we see rehearsals taking place for Friday’s event:

To really appreciate what Aiko are all about, and what popular participation really means, check out the following video shot in the “seven streets” or Old Quarter of Bilbao, one hour of pure unrestrained joy!

We at the Center are honored to have collaborated ourselves on a couple of occasions with Aiko.

See in particular Sabin Bikandi’s  Alejandro Aldekoa: Master of Pipe and Tabor in the Basque Country, a wonderfully in formative work that besides recounting the life of one of the great Basque musicians, also functions as a general introduction to Basque music and dance. The work includes music scores and an accompanying DVD explaining various Basque instruments and dances.

Check out too Urraska: A New Interpretation of the Basque Jauziak as Interpreted by Sagaseta. This is a complete guide to the one of the most representative of all Basque dances, the jauziak, collective circular dances that involve short hops and jumps. It includes a book in Euskara and English, 2 CDs, a DVD of dance performances, a guide to the dance steps for performing the dances, and PDF copies of the text in Spanish and French.

March 7, 1875: Composer Maurice Ravel born

On March 7, 1875, renowned Basque composer Maurive Ravel was born in Ziburu, Lapurdi. Regarded by many at the height of his fame, in the 1920s and 1930s, as the greatest living composer in France, he died in 1937.

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Maurice Ravel in 1925. Photo in the Bibliothèque national de France, courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

Ravel is discussed in Cameron Watson’s Modern Basque History: Eighteenth Century to the Present (pp. 250-51), available free to download here:

      Maurice Ravel Delouart was born in Ziburu (Ciboure), Lapurdi, to a Swiss father and Basque mother (“Delouart” is the Gallicized version of the Basque “Eluarte” or “Deluarte”), and went on to become one of the twentieth century’s most famous composers and the clearest exponent of Impressionist music. Classically trained in Paris, he blended classical forms with both Basque and Spanish folk elements–the Basque zortziko rhythm, in particular–to produce some of his most memorable work. (Perhaps the most recognizable of his compositions, by the end of the twentieth century, was Bolero.) He was not a folklorist in the proper sense, however.

While Ravel unquestionably represents modern French culture, he never forgot his Basque identity. This was increasingly the case after the death of his mother in 1917. H. H. Stuckenschmidt observes: “of the two heritages given to Maurice Ravel, the Swiss-Savoyard of his father, the Basque of his mother, the latter prevailed throughout his life. … Ravel was a Basque in all that directly affected his work and his person. He consciously cultivated his Basque reactions.”

Interestingly, as the Wikipedia entry notes here, Ravel declined not only the prestigious Légion d’honneur but all state honors from France, refusing to let his name go forward for election to the Institu de France. He did, however, accept foreign awards.

See a performance of Ravel’s Bolero here. The opening movement of Ravel’s Piano Trio is, as he noted himself, “Basque in coloring.” Listen to the trio here.

If you’re interested in Basque connections to classical music, check out Basque Classical Music by Karlos Sánchez Ekiza, free to download here, courtesy of the Etxepare Basque Institute.

 

Basque music and dance to feature at University of the Basque Country

Aikofirmaconvenio

Sabin Bikandi of Aiko Taldea and Javier Garaizar, the deputy to the vice-chancellor of the University of the Basque Country’s Araba campus, sign the agreement

Congratulations are due to our good friends at Aiko Taldea, which has just signed a cooperation agreement with the Araba campus of the University of the Basque Country (UPV-EHU) to teach a traditional music and dance workshop as part of the university’s EHUskARABAnda initiative that seeks to encourage Basque-language related activities on the campus.

Aiko will teach the first workshop on December 15, and this will be followed by similar workshops every Thursday in Vitoria-Gasteiz as part of the groups’s touring class schedule through the Spring.

Aiko is fast becoming a key cultural point of reference in the Basque Country with its emphasis on fun and popular participation in traditional Basque music and dance. And we at the Center are proud to have worked with the group. Check out some Aiko videos here.

Check out Sabin Bikandi’s wonderfully evocative Alejandro Aldekoa: Master of Pipe and Tabor Dance Music in the Basque Country, a book is far more than just a biography of this important figure in the world of traditional Basque music; in effect, this is a complete and thorough introduction to both Basque music and dance in general that includes (among many other things) descriptions of instruments used, dance steps, musical scores for the most popular tunes used to accompany dances, and an accompanying DVD with examples of the dances discussed and clips of different Basque instruments, as well as images of different settings for bertsolaritza performances (all with English subtitles).

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See, too, Aiko’s  Urraska: a New Interpretation of the Basque Jauziak Dances as Interpreted by Sagaseta.  This is a complete guide to the famous jauziak dances–in many ways, the quintessential Basque dances–that includes a book in Euskara and English, 2 CDs, a DVD of dance performances, a guide to the dance steps for performing the jauziak dances, and PDF copies of the text in Spanish and French.

 

 

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