Maixa ta Ixiar: Uhinez uhin

The fourth in an occasional series revisiting classic albums and old favourites.

Uhinez uhin was the first music I listened to from Euskal Herria – the Basque Country. It managed to captivate me in much the same way that Okinawa and its music had a few years earlier. The album was the second recording by Maixa Lizarribar and Ixiar Oreja, two young women from the Gipuzkoa region of the Spanish Basque Country. They had begun as a trikitixa duo playing the traditional energetic melodeon/accordion and tambourine music of the area. Then in 1988 they got together with Garbine Sagastibeltza (bass) and Marie Helene (drums) to form the band which appears here playing music described variously as ‘roots-pop’, ‘ethno-punk’, and ‘triki-pop’.

Uhinez uhin was made in 1995. Its first track is the glorious dance song ‘Espartzinarena’. On this and the rest of the album Maixa plays accordion and Ixiar plays tambourine with both women sharing vocals. The 14 tracks adhere loosely to the sound of trikitixa-led melodies played in a rock style: all with distinctive singing characterised by frequent whoops and yells – and, of course, sung in the Euskera language of the Basques. There are also hints of other musical elements such as reggae and funk which they were to develop on subsequent albums.

Their next album Mantalgorri was released in 1997 and it opens with the excellent ‘Bexamela ta pastela’ – a playful love song written by Ixiar Oreja seemingly in praise of béchamel sauce and cake, while their next album Solasin, released the following year, contained the hit song ‘Mikele’. By that time the band’s line-up had changed and there were now five members including two men.

After eleven years and more than a thousand live shows at concerts and festivals Maixa ta Ixiar called it a day at the very end of the last century, giving their final performance on 30th December 1999. Since then Maixa has made a solo album Sentitzen naiz with a small band of jazz musicians. Meanwhile Ixiar has been involved in work as a children’s television presenter. Other duos and bands such as Alaitz eta Maider and Imuntzo eta Beloki successfully popularised the lively triki-pop style too but it was Uhinez uhin which first led me to the music and it still sounds pretty good today.

All Maixa ta Ixiar albums are released on the Elkar label:

http://www.elkarargitaletxea.com/musika/

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