Willis Drummond: Zugzwang

Zugzwang is the new release from Basque band Willis Drummond. It’s the sixth album from the trio who have been in Okinawa for live shows this past week including a date at the Sakurazaka Asylum 2020 festival in Naha.

Electric guitar-based rock has always had a big following in the Basque Country (it’s not all trikitixa and literary songwriters) and Willis Drummond are one of the leaders of this movement. Unlike many of the musicians who are from the Spanish side, the three members – Felix Buff, Jurgi Ekiza, and Xan Bidegain – are all French Basques based in Bayonne.

On this album they sing in the Basque language on a collection of ten original songs. Their speedy and melodic hard rock is showcased throughout, but they also find time and space to vary things with a bit of light and shade. The outstanding ‘Lehentasuna’ (The Priority) is a good introduction to what they do and, like most of their work, has a strong undercurrent of social and political comment.

Although the electric guitar, bass, and drums format is used relentlessly and will most of all satisfy fans of hard and heavy rock, there is also some acoustic guitar, and they are joined by lap steel guitar, trombone, and organ on ‘Bigarren aukera’ (Second Chance).

Willis Drummond on stage at Sakurazaka Asylum, Naha. (Photo: John Potter)

Fortunately, the lyrics of all these songs are translated into French, Spanish, and English in the CD booklet. The title track directly references Catalunya and France and contains the lines (in English translation):

“If we play, we lose. Even if we don’t play, we’re playing. Zugzwang. We are worn out. Forced into a bad move. And when change is offered…when change is initiated…you, authorities, disqualify us.” It goes on: “Real change is the kind that comes with unpredictable consequences. We don’t want to play your game no more.”

Willis Drummond’s set went down very well last Saturday at Sakurazaka Asylum. The band quickly showed an affinity with Okinawa with a message of support for the struggle against the Henoko base and mentioned their own fight for rights within Spain and France. Following their two dates in Okinawa they travel to Australia this week to play in Sydney (27th) and Adelaide (28th). Full details and more on their website below.

Zugzwang is released by Tabula Rasa Records and Like Literally.


Explore posts in the same categories: Basque Music

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: