Tag: Iparralde (page 1 of 6)

June 11, 1967: Xalbador jeered at national bertsolaritza championship in Donostia

On June 11, 1967, one of the most controversial incidents to ever take place in the history of berstolaritza–Basque oral improvised verse–occurred during the national championship in the main fronton or pelota court of Donostia-San Sebastián: on hearing that the bertsolari (improviser) Xalbador had been selected by the judges over a more popular opponent, Joxe Migel Iztueta aka Lazkao Txiki, to advance to the head-to-head final to compete against Uztapide, a section of the audience began to jeer. The reason for this? He was from Iparralde, the Northern Basque Country in France, and they did not understand his dialect of Basque so well.

Xalbador (1920-1976)

Born in 1920 in Urepele, Lower Navarre, Fernando Aire, aka Xalbador, was arguably the most renowned bertsolari in modern times from Iparralde. He began to perform in public after World War II, and by the 1960s was regarded, together with Manuel Olaizola, aka Uztapide, as one of the leading exponents of the art form. However, Xalbador stood out from most of his contemporaries for a number of reasons: first and foremost, he used his natal dialect of Basque from Lower Navarre; besides that, though, he also incorporated melodies that many people in Hegoalde (the Southern Basque Country) were unfamiliar with; and finally, he also stood apart from many of his rival bertsolaris for the sheer lyrical quality of his verses as well as his ability to draw profound reflections from seemingly inconsequential things. Indeed, his poetic sensibility was such that, following his death in 1976, the famous Basque singer-songwriter Xabier Lete dedicated a song to him, “Xalbadorren heriotzean” (On Xalbador’s death), which subsequently became one of the most famous and repeated Basque songs, still sung to this day. And the 1989 national champion bertsolari, Jon Lopategi, also dedicated his winning verse to Xalbador. That all said, he never won a major championship, finishing fourth in 1960, third in 1962 and 1965, and, ultimately, second in 1967.

In the infamous 1967 championship, as mentioned, some members of the audience jeered on hearing the judges’ decision to advance Xalbador to the final head-to-head contest against Uztapide (it should be noted that it remains unclear whether they were jeering the bertsolari or the judges, or both). As per the rules of the competition, Xalbador was obliged to step up to the microphone and compose a verse in response to the decision. As he began his strophe, he found it difficult to make his voice heard, but, gradually, the power and beauty of his words turned the audience around. He sung:

Anai-arrebok, ez, otoi, pentsa
neu’re gustora nagonik,
poz gehiago izango nuen
albotik beha egonik.

Brothers and sisters, do not think
that I am happy;
how much better would I feel
looking on from some corner.

Zuek ezpazerate kontentu
errua ez daukat ez nik…

If you are not happy
it is not my fault…

At this point, the jeers subsided and, incredibly, the audience began to cheer. Xalbador, in turn, his voice barely able to continue with emotion, repeated and concluded the verse:

Zuek ezpazerate kontentu
errua ez daukat ez nik,
txistuak jo dituzute bainan
maite zaituztet orainik.

If you are not happy
it is not my fault:
in spite of your whistles
I still love you.

By the end of the verse the audience had risen to its feet and was applauding the bertsolari from Urepele. The story remains one of the great moving moments in the history of berstolaritza and in Basque culture more generally. This moment was, remarkably, captured on film:

To learn more about bertsolaritza, check out Voicing the Moment: Improvised Oral Poetry and Basque Tradition, edited by Samuel G. Armistead and Joseba Zulaika, available free to download here.

Another great resource is Bertsolaritza, El bertsolarismo, Bertsolaritza by Joxerra Garzia, a publication of the Etxepare Basque Institute, free to download here.

On the rich Basque dialects, see The Dialects of Basque by Koldo Zuazo.

 

April 3, 1942: Birth of Basque language and culture activist Argitxu Noblia

Argitxu Noblia in 2010. Photo by Adrar, courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

On April 3, 1942, Claire “Argitxu” Noblia was born in Angelu, Lapurdi, at the height of the Nazi occupation of Iparralde or the Northern Basque Country in World War II.  She would go on to found the first ikastola or Basque-medium school in Iparralde in 1969 as well as being a prominent figure in the world of politics and Basque culture in the north.

After studying medicine in Bordeaux she returned to the Basque Country where she worked as an anesthetist in Baiona until retiring in 2002. Outside of work, however, she became active in Basque culture and politics. In 1969, at the head of a group of parents working on their own initiative and together with Libe Goñi, she established a proto-ikastola in her own home in Baiona–just prior to creating the first specific school premises in Arrangoitze–and served as the first director of Seaska, the organization overseeing ikastolas in the north, for six years. She was also part of a group of people that founded the Elkar publishing house in Baiona in 1971 and was involved in the association promoting the creation of the Basque-language radio station Gure Irratia in 1981.

She took an early interest in politics while still at university and stood as a candidate for one of the first Basque nationalist formations in Iparralde, Enbata, in the 1960s. She served on the Baiona city council between 1989 and 1995, and was then briefly head of the Iparralde section of the Basque Nationalist Party before later joining Eusko Alkartasuna.

If all that were not enough, she has also been an advocate of public health, peace, and women’s issues, serving in numerous associations to this end. In 1995 she received the Grand Prix Humanitaire from the French government and in 2009 the Femmes 3000 federation awarded her with a prize for her voluntary work.

One of the Center’s publications, The Transformation of National Identity in he Basque Country of France, 1789-2006 by Igor Ahedo Gurrutxaga, discusses the social, political, and cultural context in which Argitxu Noblia has been such an influential figure in Iparralde.

March 27, 1944: Bombing of Biarritz by US Air Force

At 2:30 in the afternoon on Monday, March 27, 1944, toward then end of World War II, the Basque towns of Biarritz and Angelu in Lapurdi was bombed by 44 Consolidated B-24 Liberators in the 458th and 466th Bomb Groups.  In eight minutes they dropped 44 tonnes of bombs on the Nazi-occupied town, resulting in 117 casualties and around 250 injuries.

The official aim of the mission that day–according to the archives–was to destroy the nearby Parma airfield and the Latécoère aircraft company factory, although it is also likely that it included the target of a German base there storing V-1 doodlebugs and V-2 rockets. Moreover, the Nazis had constructed a major command center in bunkers beneath Biarritz. The mission was part of the conclusion of a more general strategy to bomb occupied France on the part of the Allies between June 1940 and May 1945; and served as a prelude to the D-Day landings of June 1944 in Normandy. However, lacking the necessary precision technology, many devices went astray in the carpet bombing and hit the civilian population as well as the Nazi occupiers, with approximately one hundred German soldiers among the dead, and destroying 375 residential homes in the process too.

See “Les mystères du bombardement de Biarritz” in Sud-Ouest, March 26, 2013 (in French) and “70 urte, AEBko hegazkinek Biarritz eta Angelu bonbardatu zituztela” at EITB, March 27, 2014 (in Basque). Check out a video report on the bombing by ETB, the Basque public broadcaster, here (in Basque) and listen to a fascinating piece of oral history in this first-hand account by people who experienced the bombing (in Basque).

The Center’s own Sandra Ott has written extensively on the German occupation of the Basque Country during World War II. Check out her War, Judgment, And Memory In The Basque Borderlands, 1914-1945 and Living With the Enemy: German Occupation, Collaboration and Justice in the Western Pyrenees, 1940–1948as well as her edited work, War, Exile, Justice, and Everyday Life, 1936-1946.

Note (from Wikipedia): At the end of World War II in Europe, the U.S. Army’s Information and Educational Branch was ordered to establish an overseas university campus for demobilized American service men and women in Biarritz. Under General Samuel L. McCroskey, the hotels and casinos of Biarritz were converted into quarters, labs, and class spaces for U.S. service personnel. The University opened August 10, 1945 and about 10,000 students attended an eight-week term. This campus was set up to provide a transition between army life and subsequent attendance at a university in the US, so students attended for just one term. After three successful terms, the G.I. University closed in March 1946.

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.

Traditional Basque Sports Explained in Short Video

Herri kirolak–traditional sports–are one of the defining features of Basque culture. Many of these sports developed out of everyday chores like chopping wood or lifting heavy objects. Neighbors would then challenge each other to informal feats of strength and/or stamina and out of these challenges, the custom of betting on the outcome developed. Nowadays these challenges take place in organized settings, typically during local fiestas for example, and involve formal, regulated competitions.

Check out the following short video from Iparralde that explains in brief form a gathering of competitors in various Basque sports in the town of Donapaleu (Saint-Palais) in Lower Navarre.

The Center has published books on several aspects of sports in Basque culture. See, for example, Basque Pelota: A Ritual, an Aesthetic by Olatz González Abrisketa, and Playing Fields: Power, Practice, and Passion in Sport, edited by Mariann Vaczi.

Harpo Marx the Basque?

Too Many Kisses  is a 1925 movie directed by Paul Sloane and based on John Monk Saunders’s story, “A Maker of Gestures.” It is notable for being the earliest surviving film to feature Harpo Marx, but also for its setting: Iparralde or the Basque Country in France. The plot concerns a father who sends his Lothario son to Iparralde in the belief that he will not be able to leave a trail of broken hearts behind him there because Basques only marry among themselves (!) Harpo Marx plays a minor role as the Village Peter Pan. See a full description of the film, for a long time thought to have been lost, here.

As the above clip demonstrates, the movie makers were fairly liberal in their interpretation of Basque culture but it’s an interesting testament, nonetheless, to showing that the Basque Country was known in the US in the 1920s as somewhere singular and different. What do you think? Does Harpo make a convincing Basque?

June 26, 1921: Birth of choreographer and writer Filipe Oihanburu

On June 26, 1921 the influential choreographer and writer Filipe Oihanburu (also spelled Philippe Oyhamburu) was born in Argelèrs de Gasòst (Argelèrs de Gasòst in Occitan) in Béarn/Biarn.

At age 3 his family moved to Montevideo, Uruguay, and in 1930 relocated to Paris, but he always took an interest in his Basque family roots (his father was from Biarrritz, and while his mother was from Béarn, she also had Basque roots) and started learning Euskara, the Basque language, at an early age while vacationing on the coast of Lapurdi. He also took a growing interest in dance, and on moving to Biarritz, in 1944, he took over the direction of the Olaeta ballet company. In 1945 it changed its name to Oldarra and for much of the next decade offered a plethora of performances. In 1953 he founded the professional music and dance group Etorki, which eventually traveled the world promoting Basque music and dance.

He combined his work as a choreographer with writing books, mostly on Basque politics and culture. More recently, he wrote his memoirs about living in Nazi-occupied Paris during the 1940s.

Check out an interview (in Basque) with Oihanburu here.

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

 

Four takes on Basque identity from a food perspective

Check out a lovely article on Basque food and tradition in Iparralde or the Northern Basque Country from the gourmet food, wine, and travel magazine Saveur, in its continual quest to “savor a world of authentic cuisine.” Now we could get all highfalutin and scholarly about the nature of authenticity in culture as a whole, but seeing as though this is meant to be a fun blog and a downright celebration of all things Basque… we won’t! Yay!! In the article, author Jane Sigal visits a charcutier, a pepper grower, a baker, and a cheese maker in Iparralde to see how the food they make represents the place in which they live. In  a beautiful philosophical turn, cheese maker Raphaël Eliceche comments that, “My cheese is for sale … Not the Pays Basque.”

Check out the full article here.

*Image: Official seal of Bayonne Ham. Photo  by Émile Pujolle, courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

Thousands gather for Herri Urrats 2017

This past Sunday thousands of people gathered together in the sun to celebrate the annual Herri Urrats (A People’s Step) festival in the Senpere lake area in Lapurdi. This is a fundraising event for Basque-language education initiatives in the Northern Basque Country. And this year, specifically, all the money raised will go toward the expansion of the Bernat Etxepare Lizeoa (high school), in Baiona, to incorporate a vocational or trade school, thereby offering full technical and vocational training in Basque for the first time in Iparralde. That’s not all, though, as part of an ambitious wider plan, the new site will also incorporate a barnetegi (that is, boarding facilities for adult learners of Basque) and major new sports installations. Exciting times ahead for the Bernat Etxepare Lizeoa!

So that’s the serious side to all this, but Herri Urats is really a fun day out for all the family, a meeting place for old friends, and an opportunity to celebrate the Basque language. And when the sun shines, which is does occasionally, there are few better places to be! See some great pictures from the day here.

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