Tag: tradition

February 7, 1842: A controversial marriage, or two

A pandero-jotzaile (tambourine player) and txistulariak (pipe players) lead a traditional Basque wedding procession. Marriage was a key social and economic event because it signified that those joined in union would become the etxekoandre and etxekojaun, the mistress and master of a baserri or farmstead; in sum, the sole proprietors of the central socioeconomic unit of Basque culture and life. Whoever was marrying into the property, man or woman, would bring with them certain possessions: material goods, animals, and even land. Hence the all important wedding procession, typically headed by an ox-drawn cart, which showed off these worldly goods.

On February 7, 1842 Jean Bonepelts married Marie Etxeberri, of the Behorlegi baserri (farmstead) in the Ondarrola district of Arnegi, Lower Navarre. Not untypically in such border areas of the Basque Country, although administratively Ondarrola was part of Arnegi (Arnéguy) and therefore subject to French civil law, in church matters it was part of the neighboring town of Luzaide (Valcarlos) in Navarre. However, the couple were married in the parish church of Arnegi by Father Jean Baptiste Errecart. Again not untypically, the couple were blood relations, on two levels, within the third and fourth degrees of consanguinity. Accordingly, they had been obliged to seek church permission prior to getting married, which they did from the Bishop of Baiona in Lapurdi. However, when word reached the curia (church council) in Pamplona-Iruñea, which as noted had religious jurisdiction over the district of Ondarrola, a formal complaint was lodged with the bishopric of Baiona and, receiving no response to its protest, it declared that, “the wrongly married couple should separate and make up for the error committed.”

That same year, on May 17, there was another marriage between two residents of Ondarrola, Jean Etxeberri and Catalina Caminondo, which also took place in the parish church of Arnegi. This time, the church authorities took stricter measures, with the Bishop of Pamplona-Iruñea excommunicating both couples and prohibiting entry into any church for their respective parents while “their children should remain in that state of concubinage.” In the end, both marriages had to be held again, this time in Luzaide and with the blessing of the Bishop of Pamplona-Iruñea. Etxeberri  and Caminondo went through the nuptial ceremony again in June 1843 while Bonepelts and Etxeberri did so once more much later, in April 1845. Only following these “second” marriages was the excommunication order withdrawn.

Information sourced from Iñaki Egaña, Mil noticias insólitas del país de los vascos (Tafalla: Txalaparta, 2001), p.185.

With respect to traditional Basque marriage customs, Philippe Veyrin’s wonderful The Basques of Lapurdi, Zuberoa, and Lower Navarre is worth quoting at some length (pp. 328-29):

Once the date of the wedding has been fixed (usually a Tuesday), everyone proceeds, a few days beforehand (generally two), to perform what is called hatüka. This is a matter of transporting to the house where the future couple will live the furniture and the trousseau brought by the newly arrived spouse, male or female. The father leads the first wagon harnessed with oxen in full livery: bells, thick fleeces to conceal the yoke, cloth mantles with wide blue or red stripes embroidered with giant initials. The artfully arranged trousseau is covered with a counterpane with a cushion on top. On a chair tied behind the wagon are placed clogs decorated with copper nails in the shape of an ace of hearts or of spades; there are also a broom, a pick-axe, and a rake. Previously, in the case of the bride, the distaff, the spindles, and the reels were prominently displayed, and these symbolic objects were often finely carved and decorated. On other wagons, more or less numerous depending on the wealth of the bridegroom, pride of place was given to the mattresses and the furnishings, all displayed to their greatest advantage. The seamstress and the joiner, the authors of all these treasures, formed part of the procession; it was they who, on arrival, arranged the bedroom of the newlyweds. Often in the same parade, but sometimes separately, the godfather led a magnificent plump sheep with ribbons and gilded horns to be eaten at the wedding feast—escorted by a whole crowd of ewes with tinkling bells, the tzintzarrada. Not long ago, the procession also included several girls carrying on their heads big baskets furnished with napkins and filled with chicken, loaves of bread, bottles of wine and liqueur, big “spit-baked cakes” decorated with flowers , and so on—all food provided by the guests themselves. A good meal is of course given to all these visitors, and it can be said that the wedding really begins on that day. Two days later, everyone gathers at the square once more: the best men will go to fetch the bride, who gives each of them a fine cambric handkerchief. And, to the sound of a merry zinkha or irrintzina, everyone jostles and bustles to the town hall, and then, with more ceremony, to the church.

A few superstitions, now vanished, used to be in evidence at the nuptial blessing. This was supposed to have the power to sanctify the clothes worn on that particular day; so the bride would apparently cover herself in several dresses, one on top of the other—later, these would be very useful for her, affording her long-term shelter from spells. On his side, if the bridegroom feared the evil spell known as esteka, “physical deficiency,” he had to keep a fold of his future wife’s dress on his knees during the mass.

In several villages, there is a touching custom: after the wedding mass, the newlyweds, slipping away for a few moments from their entourage, go alone to the cemetery and pray at the tomb of the house that they will perpetuate. Husband or wife—whichever of the couple was until then a stranger to the estate—is thus, so to speak, solemnly associated on that day with the cult of the dead of the new family.

 

Electronic Laboa

The group Delorean, from Zarautz (Gipuzkoa), recently reinterpreted the music of Mikel Laboa with an electronic touch at a one-off concert in Bilbao’s Arriaga Theater. Check out this teaser.

According to the band’s Facebook page, while this was just a one-off gig, it is considering doing a whole album covering Laboa songs at some time in the future.

If you’re interested in popular music, check out Jon Eskisabel Urtuzaga’s Basque Songwriting: Pop, Rock, Folk, available free to download here, courtesy of the Etxepare Basque Institute.

 

Naiara professor of Basque Language and Culture of the University of Navarre.

 

Naiara Ardanaz Iñarga, professor of Basque language and culture at the University of Navarre, visits CBS.

What brings you to the Center for Basque Studies Naiara?

The opportunity to use the such an interesting library. The Basque Library has many books related to anthropological and ethnographic topics.  Here I have an opportunity to check out French and Spanish publications about Basque topics.

Can you tell us what the goal of the project is?

I am researching religiosity around hermitages on the border between Navarre and Iparralde. I am going to start analyzing the Bortziri region.

Would you say that this research, is quite unique?

There are a striking number of hermitages in Navarre, yet research on these hermitages has been quite general, more related to their artistic aspects or ethnography. My research is focused on combining history, art, tradition, and the beliefs that existed around these sacred spaces, and also the importance of the border.

What have you accomplished since you arrived?

The research is in its initial stages. During these three months that I am going to spend at the CBS I want to finish the theoretical framework in order to start analyzing the materials about these topic (ethnographic inquiries) and my investigation of the ecclesiastical and civil archives of Navarre. I am sure that my research is going to expand during this time because it is very wide, it is very interesting, and it is not such a widely studied topic.

Are you enjoying the U.S.?

A lot. Everyday I am experiencing new and disconcerting situations. There are big cultural differences and I am finding the experience so enriching. On the other hand, being in Nevada is especially significant for me because there is a major Navarrese community in the area. I am experiencing the opportunity to stay with them and learn about their experience as sheepherders, here in Nevada.

It is never too late to travel to the melodies of the Basque Country. When the  lyrics of the Old Country invade your brain…just click on  “Area 33 1/3: Digitized Vinyl from the University of Nevada, Reno,” an eclectic selection of LP tracks converted for streaming from the Library website. In this collection there are sixteen digitized vinyl recordings by Basque groups:

– Euskal Herri Dantzak

-Daikiris

– Errobi. Gure lekukotasuna

– Elgarrekin

– Mai Larralde Etxemendi

– Badok hamahiru:13

-…

The physical albums, stored in the Mathewson-IGT Knowledge Center, were selected for digitization by the UNR Music Faculty. The albums represented in this collection were chosen for their uniqueness, availability, and diversity.

Entzun eta gozatu!

Photos courtesy of the Knowledge Center UNR.

 

“Bertshow,” the Gipuzkoan reconquest of the United States

Get prepared euskaldunak, for an eventful Summer 2015! Incredibly cool events are taking shape to save us from the summer heat. The Atlantic Ocean is going to become the bridge between the Basque Country and the United States. The Basque “exodus” is about to start… Are you ready?

“Bertshow,” the Gipuzkoan reconquest of the United States, consists of a nine-member delegation that will be performing in American Basque Centers during July and August.  This will be a very interesting transcultural experience based on the Basque oral tradition of Bertsos.

The main goal of this project is to bring Basque culture to the diaspora. The project consists of:  music, bertsolaritza, and Basque knowledge transmission. The group is going to speak about topics that should be of great interest to the Basque diaspora.

Bertshow will be a truly unique two-part performance aimed at building a cross-cultural bridge.  The first part will be a review of Basque music, the famous songs that are part of the Basque history, incorporating a performance made up of both singing and speech. The second part, meanwhile, will consist of the traditional bertso-saio musikatua (bertsos set to music) combined with familiar melodies to an American audience from songs such as “Let it Be,” “Blowing in the Wind,” and others in order to create a unique transcultural experience.

After its trip to the American Wild West, the group will compile their experiences in order to tour the Basque Country and share their new found perspective of the Basque diaspora.

They are going to be here, in Reno,  between the August 3 and 6.  

Basic concepts to understand the goals of this team.

1. Bertsoalaritza.

National sport of words.

2. Musika

Music is a universal language able to demolish the boundaries between cultures. A feature connected with Basque identity is knowledge of oral popular songs.  They want to get to know the Basque heritage in the United States. Combining Basque classical music with its newer counterparts.

  • Maite ditut maite (Mikel Laboa)
  • Eperra (Herrikoia -Zuberoa-)
  • Maiteak galde egin zautan (Imanol Larzabal)
  • Nire herriko neskatxa maite (Benito Lertxundi)
  • Martin larralde (Ruper Ordorika)
  • Lau teilatu (Itoiz)
  • Marinelaren zai (Sorotan Bele)
  • Mendigoxaliarena (Ken 7 –Lauaxeta-)
  • Betazalak erauztean (Katamalo)
  • Txoria txori (Mikel Laboa)
  • Xalbadorren heriotzean (Xabier Lete)
  • Izarren hautsa (Mikel Laboa)

3. Talks

The talks are going to be in Basque, with a simultaneous translation to English.  The talk is going to be divided into three topics: culture (what bertsolaritza is, the history of bertsolaritza from Profazadora’s until Maialen Lujanbio, and the tools needed  to create a bertso); the Basque language (The transmission of Basque and bertsolaritza in diglosic areas and the state of the Basque language over the course of the last two centuries); and finally music (the different melodies used in bertsos, a little history about Basque music).

The Bertsolaris:

Jon Martin

Inigo Mantzisidor ‘Mantxi’

Arkaitz Oiartzabal ‘Xamoa’

Jokin Labayen

Manex Mujika

Trasnlator:

Haritz Casabal

Musicians:

Ixak Arruti

Urtzi Olaziregi

Eneko Sierra

Functions:

Boise, Reno, San Francisco, Bakersfield, Las Vegas, San Diego, Los Angeles, New York, and Boston.

Anyone interested in bertsolaritza should check out Voicing the Moment: Improvised Oral Poetry and Basque Tradition, edited by Samuel G. Armistead and Joseba Zulaika. This is a collection of essays on both bertsolaritza and other oral traditions from all over the world. These articles include chapters on how bertsos are created, bertsolaris in the American West, and the musical foundations of bertsolaritza. The book is available free to download here.