New Basque albums from Elkar

A batch of releases by Basque musicians arrived recently from the Donostia-San Sebastian record company Elkar. Two of the new albums feature variations on the familiar trikitixa music – the lively accordion and tambourine style familiar throughout the Basque Country. A third album is the debut from a young rock band with roots in Basque music.

The duo Imuntzo eta Beloki are well-established and their release Gezurra ez da egia (Lies are not truth) contains a mixture of the more traditional pieces alongside tracks closer to the triki-pop style where accordion and tambourine combines with a rhythm section of guitar, bass and drums.  It’s a varied album with songs written by Imuntzo and Biloki as well as other writers, and there are also a couple of instrumentals among the 15 tracks. The pair’s own composition ‘Jakes’ begins with a hint of The Pogues, while the song ‘Joan Etorrian’ wanders into reggae. Outstanding is ‘Marinelaren Zain’ with guest vocalist Maider Ansa singing the traditional Scottish song ‘Willy of Winsbury’ in Euskara (the Basque language). An English language version of the same song appeared recently on Andy Irvine’s Abocurragh album reviewed on this blog.

These are hard times and it’s sad that some of the exciting triki bands of the not so distant past such as Maixa ta Ixiar and Alaitz eta Maider are no longer together, but Imuntzo eta Beloki are carrying on the torch to great effect.

Kupela is another band with a good new release of their own in a style deeply rooted in a combination of trikitixa and the verse singing tradition. Their album Pagotxa (Luck) also has 13 songs and two instrumentals. It sticks more closely to the standard trikitixa style but also includes a final ‘Kupela (Barrel Remix)’ on which everything is let loose.

Of the younger bands, Lain are fronted by two women, Kristina Aranzabe (vocals) and Leire Berasaluze (vocals and acoustic guitar), plus electric guitar, bass and drums. Their self-titled debut album is full of energy and has a heavy rock sound on many of the tracks. All but two of the songs were written by the band but they also pay their respects to the older traditions with a version of Mikel Laboa’s ‘Haika mutil’. (Mikel Laboa is an iconic songwriter and enormously influential figure in Basque music who died in 2008 – more of him in a future post). Lain’s final track ‘Zure doinua’ (Your tune) is the other cover and is a lovely acoustic outing. The video of Kristina and Leire singing it on YouTube has already been accessed more than 375,000 times. According to their press release, this makes it the Basque song that has been transmitted most widely over the Internet.

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