For more than three decades Ruper Ordorika has been one of the most important singers, songwriters and musicians on the Basque music scene. Since his debut album in 1980 his career has included numerous collaborations with writers and musicians and has spanned a variety of genres from traditional music to rock. On this latest album Azukre Koxkorrak (Sugar Cubes) he sings a collection of songs made well-known by other singers and bands from the Basque region of northern Spain.
Ordorika’s guitar and his strong, deep voice are joined by a small group of musicians playing guitar, violin, mandolin, bass and drums. The choice of songs includes compositions by popular bands such as Hertxainak, leading folk band Oskorri, iconic Basque musician Mikel Laboa, and singer and poet Xabiar Lete. Producer Anjel Valdes says: “When Ruper thought about this album, he wanted to compile some of the Basque songs and bands that have been very special to him. The album can be considered a tribute to the important bands and musicians in Basque history that he references.”
The album title is derived from a Basque expression: people or things close to one’s heart are said to become the sugar cubes of your heart and so these are songs with personal resonance for Ordorika. ‘Sarri, Sarri’, which provides one of the best moments on the album, is from the band Kortatu and it relates to Joseba Sarrionandia. He is one of the best writers and poets in the Basque language but was imprisoned in the 1980s for his connections with the Basque separatist group ETA. He subsequently staged a sensational escape from jail and fled to Cuba where he has lived in hiding ever since.
There are several rock songs on this album but it’s the more reflective pieces which sound the most vital and up to date. Best is when the musicians create a lovely warm sound somewhere between the two, as on ‘Garraztasuna’, ‘Izarren Hautsa’ and ‘Non Duzu Zauria?’ There are videos of two of the songs, ‘Sarri, Sarri’ and closing track ‘Gure Bazterrak’ (with music by Mikel Laboa), on Ordorika’s website. This is a very rewarding project as these songs come to life again in the hands of a master.
Azukre Koxkorrak is released by Elkar.