Ruper Ordorika: Lurrean etzanda
Ruper Ordorika has for many years been one of the most important singers and songwriters in the Basque Country. Despite his long and impressive list of credits this new album Lurrean etzanda (Lying on the Ground) may well prove to be his finest achievement. He seems to have reached a new peak in his late 50s.
Last year he released Azukre Koxkorrak a collection of songs made well-known by other Basque singers and bands which had inspired him over the years but now he comes up with a brand new collection of songs and all but one are Ordorika originals. The exception is a poem by Dionisio Canas which Ordorika himself has translated into the Basque language and set to music.
The recordings were made at Elkar studios in Donostia-San Sebastian and Ordorika’s vocals and guitar are accompanied by three musicians: Leo Abrahams (guitars), Simon Edwards (bass), and Kenny Wollesen (drums). The musicians are vital to the project and their experience obviously played a great part in the success of the album. The three have worked individually with artists as diverse as Brian Eno, Billy Bragg and Tom Waits.
Ordorika and his musicians were recorded playing together live in the studio over three days in September with Jamie Saft’s piano and Hammond organ added to three songs later in New York. The resulting album has a thrilling rich texture with clear, simple but subtle arrangements enabling Ordorika’s deep vocals to shine. Everything is sung in Euskara (Basque).
Ultimately, it’s the songs which lift this album way above the average. The melodies are always matched by lyrics which show wisdom and philosophical depth as Ordorika reflects on hope, memory, love, and the beauty of life. It’s hard to single out the best tracks as there isn’t really a weakness on the album but the opening trio of songs ‘Giltz-Gordea’ (The Secret Key), ‘Bizitza Eder Denean’ (Life is Beautiful), and ‘Atako Bandan’ plus the outstanding ‘Itzala’ (Shadow) are all immensely satisfying.
There are no English translations in the CD booklet but if your Basque is rusty there are helpful translations of all the songs in both French and Spanish. I haven’t listened to all of Ruper Ordorika’s recorded output, which began back in 1980, but it’s hard to imagine anything better than this. Before its release, Elkar’s Anjel Valdes told me it was the finest album of Ordorika’s career. I thought he was exaggerating but realise now that he may well be right. Ordorika has delivered a piece of work full of meaning which deserves to be acclaimed not only in his homeland but much further afield.
Lurrean etzanda is released by Elkar.