Tag: Culture (page 2 of 3)

2016 pastorala celebrates life of Jean Pitrau

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The annual pastorala, an epic play performed by a large number of amateurs all from the same locality and a unique cultural phenomenon particular to Zuberoa (or Xiberoa), took place last Sunday, July 24, in Atharratze-Sorholüze and will be repeated once more in the same location on August 7, with a third performance scheduled to take place in Otsagabia (Nafarroa) on August 15.

As noted, this year it is the turn of the people of Atharratze-Sorholüze to perform the pastorala, which celebrates the life of one of the town’s own charismatic historical figures: Jean Pitrau (1929-1975), who went by the nickname of “Erbin.” Pitrau was famed for defending farmers’ rights and the traditional way of life in rural communities. He was among the founders of the European rural labor movement.

The pastorala is a performance comprising the spoken word, song, and dance, which is made up of the rhythmic, almost hypnotic, repetition of ideas. It always celebrates a historical figure of some importance and invariably involves some element of tragedy. Every pastorala portrays a clear picture of good and evil, giving the performance its ancient epic quality. In many ways it is less about spectacle and more about community involvement, binding social ties, and reinforcing communal roots. This year’s pastorala was written by the renowned Basque musician and singer from Xiberoa, Pier Paul Berzaitz.

Check out this short film of the immediate build-up to Sunday’s performance by photographer Séverine Dabadie (and be sure to take a look at her YouTube site here for other great Basque-themed videos).

Follow the pastorala on facebook here. And a DVD of the event can be purchased here.

The wonderful Kanaldude, a local community TV station dedicated to representing the distinct culture and identity of inland Iparralde, has produced a series of reports focusing on the preparations for this year’s pastorala. These reports include interviews with the local people taking part, and show them in their everyday lives as well as rehearsing for the event. Check out these reports, from May 4, June 29, July 12, and July 20.

Errobiko Festibala: Where the global meets the local

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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.

Boise and Bilbao: Two Boomtowns

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A recent report by the Idaho Statesman looks at the links between two boomtowns, Boise and Bilbao. The visit of a Basque delegation, led by Basque President Iñigo Urkullu, to Idaho last year enhanced the historic connection between the two regions. There have been economic ties between the city of Boise and the Basque Country since the nineteenth century, when the burgeoning sheep industry in Idaho increased the need for talented sheepherders from the Basque Country. A century later, these connections were still evident through cultural events such as the Basque Soccer Friendly and Jaialdi in 2016, celebrating the Basque heritage and culture. These events only served to take the exisitng economic and cultural exchange to new heights.
Bilbao. Pasarela del Campo de Volant’n o Zubizuri y las torres P

This year, a business delegation from the Basque province of Bizkaia visited Boise to renew the economic and cultural partnership between Boise and Bilbao. According to Asier Alea Castaños, General Manager of Trade Promotion for the Bizkaian Government, at present over a million people reside in Greater Bilbao with a GDP per capita reaching 122 percent of the European Union (EU) average. Bizkaia’s economic competitive advantage is backed by higher education institutions that rank higher than the rest of Europe in terms of research and development. And this Bizkaian economic and technological edge, coupled with the existing links between the two cities, provides the Boise business community with huge opportunities.
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Boise has itself experienced technological booms in recent years with high-tech projects such as Trailgead poised to attract investment from the Basque Country. With a cost of doing business only one-third of that in California or Washington, Boise can be an attractive investment option for Basque investors.

Boise has extensive business clusters in software, environmental technology, advanced energy, hi-tech manufacturing, hardware assembly, national call centers, and agricultural technology. And Boise’s comprehensive business cluster complements that of some of the main industries in and around Bilbao such as the aeronautic, automotive, electronic, information technology, energy, and maritime sectors. It would appear, then, that there are multiple opportunities for new links to be developed between these two Basque boomtowns.

Read the full article here.

The Center has published several books on the Basque economy. For a general introduction, see Basque Economy from Industrialization to Globalization by Mikel Uranga, free to download here.

Tow other works address innovation policies in the Basque Country:

Implications of Current Research on Social Innovation in the Basque Country, edited by Ander Gurrutxaga Abad and Antonio Rivera, free to download here.

And Innovation: Economic, Social, and Cultural Aspects, edited by Mikel Gómez Uranga and Juan Carlos Miguel de Bustos, available free to download here.

For some general historical background on the particular tax and finance system that so defines the particularity of the Basque Country, see Basque Fiscal Systems: History, Current Status, and Future Perspectives, edited by Joseba Agirreazkuenaga and Eduardo Alonso Olea.

Another key feature of the Basque economy in recent years has been its urban transformation. This process is examined in Transforming Cities: Opportunities and Challenges of Urban Regeneration in the Basque Country, edited by Arantxa Rodríguez and Joseba Juaristi.

And for a wonderful monograph of one of the most controversial economic issues in the Basque Country today, namely the plans for a new high-speed rail network to create a single interconnected “Basque city,” check out Building the Basque City: The Political Economy of Nation-Building, by Nagore Calvo Mendizabal.

 

Hidden Mountains in Donostia, Basque Country

Gabriel Urza recently wrote an interesting travel piece for The Guardian on what for some may be a little-known part of Donostia-San Sebastián: the three hills surrounding the city.

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Mount Ulia in the foreground, with Urgull and Igeldo in the background. Photo by Etor – Entziklopedia Enblematikoa, courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

In many ways, Igeldo, Urgull, and Ulia serve as the frame for the dramatic setting of Donostia next to the bay of Biscay. Igeldo is the most accessible of the three. At the base of this westernmost peak one can find Eduardo Chillida’s famed “Wind Comb” sculpture and an old amusement park. Urgull, meanwhile, is located near the old part of the town and close to San Telmo Cathedral. This is the site of a huge statue of Jesus, looming over the old fishing boats in the harbor. Ulia, the eastern bookend to the city, is the smallest of the three mounts and the least ‘developed’. according to the article, some effort is required to find your way up there, from Gros Beach, but interesting sights certainly await the intrepid traveler. See the full article here.

 

 

May 22, 1920: Guridi’s opera Amaya performed for first time

On May 22, 1920, Basque composer Jesús Guridi‘s opera Amaya o los vascos en el siglo VIII (Amaya or the Basques in the eighth century) was performed for the first time at the Coliseo Alba opera house in Bilbao. The premiere starred Spanish soprano Ofelia Nieto in the title role, Polish soprano/mezzo-soprano Aga Lahowska, Basque tenor Isidoro Fagoaga, Italian bass-baritone Giulio Cirino, and Basque bass Gabriel Olaizola as well as the Bilbao Choral Society (conducted by Guridi himself), with music by the Barcelona Symphony Orchestra, conducted by Ricard Lamote de Grignon. It is an opera in three acts and an epilogue. The Spanish libretto was written by José María Arroita Jauregui, with a Basque version by Brother José de Arrúe.

The opera was based on a Romantic historical novel of the same title by Francisco Navarro Villoslada, originally published in journal installments from 1877 onward, which combined elements of Basque folklore, mythology, and historical fact. The setting is Navarre in the eight century and the plot surrounds a twofold power struggle: on the one hand that of Basque pagans and Christians, and, on the other, a more earthly conflict among Basques, Visigoths, and Muslims, in which the noblewoman Amaya, the descendant of the Basque ancestral patriarch Aitor, is the central character. She ultimately marries the Basque resistance leader García/Gartzea and together they establish the royal house of Navarre.

Listen here to Parts I, II, and III of the Epilogue (with score).  And see the famed Ezpatadantza or sword-dance, also part of the opera, in a 1992 performance here:

 

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Jesús Guridi in 1915. on the occasion of a performamce of his opera Mirentxu in Madrid. Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

Embracing a Wagnerian aesthetic and clearly rooted in Basque folklore, Guridi gave each character in the opera their own melody, rhythm, and instrumentation. Thought and structure coincide completely in the work, which proved a triumph for the composer from Araba, earning him a great reputation for his attention to dramatic composition.

His other Basque-themed works include Mirentxu (1910), El caserío (The farmstead, 1926), and Diez melodías vascas (Ten Basque melodies, 1940). Curiously, he was also the author of Homenaje a Walt Disney (Homage to Walt Disney, 1956). He died at the age of seventy-four in 1961.

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

Be sure to also take a look at the website of the marvelous Basque music archive, Eresbil, which features a comprehensive record of all kinds of Basque music, musicians, and composers, and at which  you can listen to original recordings, download scores, and so on.

 

 

Quick video guide and introduction to the Basque language taking internet by storm!

Check out the following video, from LangFocus, which offers a nice clear and concise introduction to the Basque language, and is generating a lot of online traffic, at least in our humble little world of Basque Studies!

Here at the Center we’ve published a number of books that will be of interest to anyone who wants to learn more about the various aspects of the Basque language (Euskara, Euskera, or Eskuara).

As its title suggests, Basque Sociolinguistics: Language, Society, and Culture by Estibaliz Amorrortu offers an introduction to the place of Euskara in contemporary Basque society. It discusses the history of Basque as well as current planning strategies to foment knowledge of the language. It also includes a brief introduction to its linguistic structure. The work is available free to download here.

The Challenge of a Bilingual Society in the Basque Country, meanwhile, edited by Pello Salaburu and Xabier Alberdi, is a multiple-authored work that includes among its many topics chapters on the legal implications of advocating a bilingual society, attempts to revive the language, and how Basque is viewed by both native and nonnative bilinguals.

In The Dialects of Basque, Koldo Zuazo takes on a fascinating journey into the history and current reality of Basque dialectal variation. This very informative and accessible study discusses not only the differences one might expect, but also connections running through the different dialects. The work is enhanced by numerous explanatory maps and figures.

As a complement to Zuazo’s study, Pello Salaburu’s Writing Words: The Unique Case of the Standardization of Basque charts in detail, from a first-hand perspective, the often dramatic story behind efforts to create a standard modern Basque; and the eventual success of implementing this new standard model in contemporary Basque society; all, somewhat remarkably, within the space of a generation.

In our Classic Series we also publish Koldo Mitxelena: Selected Writings of a Basque Scholar, compiled and introduced by Pello Salaburu. This is a comprehensive selection of articles by the premier Basque linguist discussing, among other things, the history of the language and the influence of contact with other tongues as well as the issue of standardization and the importance of dialects.

Why not check out the first ever work published in Basque? Bernard Etxepare’s Linguae Vasconum Primitiae (1545) includes a facsimile version of the original text, plus a bilingual Basque-English transcription of this classic and, despite its religious nature, often bawdy and funny poetic tome.

Finally, if you haven’t already got a copy, we would really encourage you to check out the practical and informative CBS-Morris English-Basque / Basque-English Dictionary. More than just a dictionary, this is a useful reference tool that includes an introduction to the Basque language, a concise grammar section (including a guide to pronunciation), and even a handy guide to writing letters in Basque (and English if you prefer). Now where else would you be able to find out that “lickety-split” is ziztu batean in Basque!?

 

EMUSIK, the European Music School Festival, comes to Donostia

EMUSIK, the European Music School Festival came to Donostia and surrounding towns this past May 4-7. The festival, involving 8,500 pupils of music schools from all over Europe and 120 concerts, was part of the ongoing series of events associated with Donostia’s position as European Capital of Culture 2016.

The city was transformed for a few days into a lively hubbub of sound and color from all corners of Europe.

 

May 6, 1924: Cultural icon Nestor Basterretxea born

One of the towering figures–both literally and figuratively–of the Basque cultural world, Nestor Basterretxea, was born in Bermeo, Bizkaia, on May 6, 1924. Although renowned for his work in sculpture, alongside the two Basque giants of the art form, Jorge Oteiza (1908-2003) and Eduardo Chillida (1924-2002), Basterretxea distinguished himself in the Basque cultural arena for his wide and varied work in a number of different fields from painting and design to film making, as well as carving out a major commercial name for himself as an entrepreneur, and with his death at age 90 in 2014 he left a major legacy for Basque culture as a whole.

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Nestor Basterretxea at work. Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

Although born in Bermeo, he was forced to flee the Basque Country with his family during the Spanish Civil War. Finding refuge initially in France, the outbreak of World War II once more forced the family to flee, this time to Argentina. As a young man in Argentina, alongside his studies in industrial design he also took an interest in painting and worked initially in the advertising industry, drawing up designs for publicity campaigns as well as exhibiting some of his own paintings as well.

In 1951 he married Basque-Argentinian Maria Isabel Irurzun, and the couple went to live initially in Madrid. He became involved in the European cultural avant-garde of the 1950s, a member of the Equipo 57 (Team 57) experimental painters’ group, and eventually settled in Gipuzkoa in 1958. Thereafter, without giving up painting, he also began to study sculpture as he found in this a better means to express the concept of space.

In 1966, he was a founding member of the Gaur (Today) an avant-garde artistic group also including (among others) Oteiza, Chillida, Remigio Mendiburu (1931-1990), Jose Antonio Sistiaga (b. 1932), and Jose Luis Zumeta (b. 1939), which in its short but highly productive existence became a leading force for cultural change in the Basque Country, challenging entrenched ideas about art and aesthetics.

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Poster for the film Ama Lur (1968).

At the same time, Basterretxea was also taking an interest in film as another significant means of artistic expression. Together with filmmaker Fernando Larruquert (b. 1934) he made the documentaries Operación H (Operation H, 1963), Pelotari (1964), and Alquézar (1965). The two of them also later made their key work: Ama Lur (Mother Earth, 1968); a documentary film intended to celebrate the strength and resilience of Basque culture that faced multiple hurdles in overcoming the predominant censorship of the time in Franco’s dictatorship in Spain; and, incredibly, the first feature length film production produced and shot in the Basque Country since the Spanish Civil War.

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The iconic “Gurpilla” (Wheel) chair designed by Basterretxea in the 1960s.

Besides this artistic work in the fields of painting, sculpture, and film making, somewhat remarkably Basterretxea also found the time to create a business empire, designing tables, offices, chairs, couches, lamps, chimneys, bar furniture, and even a chess set for his company BIOK. He had actually been designing furniture since the late 1950s, first for the H Muebles company owned by a great Basque patron of the arts, Juan Huarte. Seeing a gap in the market for contemporary designed and Basque-made furniture, Basterretxea later set up BIOK and its showcase store Espiral with a group of investors, introducing, for example, the bestselling “Gurpilla” chair, based on a curved wooden design, in the mid-1960s.

Thereafter, he returned once more to strictly artistic pursuits, presenting arguably his most famous work, the Serie Cosmogonica Vasca (Basque Cosmogonic Series) in 1973. This was made up of 19 works, made in wood, showcasing Basque Mythology and included individual pieces like the goddess-like figure of Mari and Akelarre (Witches’ Coven). This collection is today housed in the Bilbao Fine arts Museum.

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Olatua (The Wave) in the port of Bermeo, Bizkaia. Photo by Telle. Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

After a brief spell as an art adviser to the newly implemented Basque government in the early 1980s, he continued to produce emblematic sculptures throughout that decade and into the 1990s and 2000s: these included the Bakearen Usoa (Dove of Peace) in Donostia; Solitude, the National Monument to the Basque Sheepherder in Reno; the monument to the Basque saint, Francis Xavier,  in Tokyo;  Goldea (The Plow) in Tolosa, Gipuzkoa; and the monument to the memory of the Basque sailors who died in the Battle of Matxitxako (near his home town of Bermeo) against Franco’s forces in March 1937.

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Monument to the fallen Basque sailors at the Battle of Matxitxako. Photo by Telle. Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

He won numerous prizes and awards throughout his long life and will be remembered fondly here at UNR, where his Orreaga held pride of place in the old Getchell Library before being rehoused in the new Mathewson-IGT Knowledge Center, as reported in an earlier post here.

Basterretxea’s work is discussed in both Basque Culture: Anthropological Perspectives by William Douglass and Joseba Zulaika (available free to download here) and Beyond Guernica and the Guggenheim: Art and Politics from a Comparative Perspective, edited by Zoe Bray. Be sure to check out, too, a couple of other publications by the Etxepare Basque Institute that talk about the influence of Basterretxea in different fields: Architecture and Design by Peio Aguirre (free to download here) and Basque Cinema by Joxean Fernández (available free to download here).

 

 

 

Center featured in KNPB’s Arteffects

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The National Monument to the Basque Sheepherder, Rancho San Rafael, Reno, NV.

Episode 113 of KNPB‘s show Arteffects, which aired on April 29, included a feature on Basque art with the Center’s own Joseba Zulaika speaking about Basque immigration, Nestor Basterretxea’s Monument to the Basque Sheepherder in Reno’s San Rafael Park and Orreaga in the UNR library (be sure to check out the blog tomorrow, Friday, May 6, for a feature on Basterretxea), the history and development of the CBS as well as the arborglyphs or tree carvings made by Basque sheepherders and the importance of art in the Basque Country in general as a key part of its cultural legacy. The show also featured Kelly Reis, Executive Director of the Sparks Museum & Cultural Center, discussing the temporary exhibit titled “Hidden in Plain Sight: The Basques,” covered in an earlier post.

Check out the show (with the report on Basque art at approx. 19m 30s) here.

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Basque tree carvings.

If you’re interested in Basque art, check out Beyond Guernica and the Guggenheim: Art and Politics from a Comparative Perspective, edited by Zoe Bray.

See also Speaking Through the Aspens:  Basque Tree Carvings in California and Nevada, by Joxe Mallea-Olaetxe. And check out Joxe’s site dedicated to this fascinating piece of Basque-American social and cultural history here.

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