Archive for the ‘Basque Music’ category

Basque Night in Naha

May 25, 2018

Mikel Urdangarin’s concert on Wednesday (23rd) in Naha played to a full house at Sakurazaka Theatre and was the best so far of all his live shows in Okinawa as the first Basque Ryukyu Project nears its conclusion.

Last week’s successful Basque Night in Ginoza featured a live performance plus a talk on culture and identity with a backdrop of Basque-style food and wine. By contrast the Naha concert focused strongly on the songs and music with Mikel Urdangarin playing a solo set of his own compositions first accompanied by guitar.

He then handed over the stage to his guest Mutsumi Aragaki whose remarkable voice and sanshin blended in an experimental piece embracing loops and effects. She began her contribution by singing the words of thanks in both Basque and Uchinaguchi – “Eskerrik asko” and “Nifee debiru” – surely the first time the two languages have been fused in this way.

Mikel returned to combine with Mutsumi and with Makoto Miyata on percussion to form a trio for the final third of the concert. In this part things were taken up to an even higher level with some superb singing, playing and arrangements of Mikel’s original songs and some songs from the Ryukyu Islands.

The audience were clearly won over not just by Mikel Urdangarin’s heartfelt and passionate but controlled singing but crucially by his willingness to engage with Okinawan music, people and culture and to share his own thoughts, feelings and stories from the Basque Country. Not surprisingly he was called back for an encore which turned out to be his first ever live performance of the familiar Okinawan song ‘Tinsagu nu Hana’.

Mikel during rehearsal time before the concert

Mikel and Mutsumi after the concert

Before returning to the Spanish Basque Country next week Mikel Urdangarin will join the Ajiru Music Festival on Saturday (26th) at Futenma Shrine, Ginowan. The festival opens at 14:00 and Mikel is due to appear at 17:20. Among many other guests are Unaigumi (with three original members of Nenes), Miyako Island singer Hirara, Suming from Taiwan, and festival organisers Kachimba who will perform first as Kachimba4 and then with an expanded line-up as Kachimba Mundo.

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Basque Night in Ginoza

May 21, 2018

Mikel Urdangarin’s visit to Okinawa as part of the Basque Ryukyu Project continued last Saturday evening with a Basque Night at Ginoza Farm Lab, a newly opened cafe and live music venue. The event was sold out and was a great success with Mikel giving a concert after a half hour talk session on culture and identity together with Daniel Lopez.

The evening also included much food and drink with Basque-style pintxos and wine available. In the concert that followed the talk Mikel performed solo at first and was then joined by Mutsumi Aragaki (sanshin, vocals) and Makoto Miyata (percussion). The trio concluded a very enjoyable and enlightening evening with a performance of the Yaeyama song ‘Tsuki nu kaisha’ with a newly written verse in the Basque language.

Yesterday Mikel gave another live show at Coconut Moon in Onna where he was joined by Mutsumi Aragaki. This Wednesday (23rd) is the final Basque Night concert at Sakurazaka Theatre where Mikel Urdangarin will play solo and again as a trio with Aragaki and Miyata.

These photos from Saturday at Ginoza Farm Lab were taken by Garaman Hall photographer Yuta Nakama.

Basque Ryukyu Project in Okinawa (2)

May 12, 2018

There has been a change of venue for Mikel Urdangarin’s Basque Night in Ginoza on 19th May. It will now be held at the more spacious Ginoza Farm Lab which overlooks the Pacific Ocean and will start at the same time, 19:30. The concert is preceded by a Talk on culture and identity between Mikel Urdangarin and Okinawa-based filmmaker and photographer Daniel Lopez.

Film director Oier Aranzabal and his crew have returned to the Basque Country after spending a week shooting on the island. Oier has subsequently been interviewed on Basque television about the making of the film Margolaria (The Painter) which features Mikel Urdangarin and he talks about how the connection with Okinawa was made and about the history and culture of the Ryukyu Islands.

The interview is in the Basque language but includes footage from Okinawa in which Mikel rehearses with singer and sanshin player Mutsumi Aragaki. (See link below). Mutsumi will be Mikel’s guest at the Sakurazaka Theatre concert on the 23rd.

http://www.eitb.eus/eu/telebista/programak/ahoz-aho/bideoak/osoa/5581460/bideoa-oier-aranzabal-mikel-urdangarini-buruzko-margolaria-dokumentalaz/

Basque Ryukyu Project in Okinawa

May 6, 2018

Basque singer-songwriter Mikel Urdangarin has already been collaborating with musicians from Okinawa and immersing himself in the local culture since his arrival on the island at the end of April. He has also performed in public as a guest of Miyako Island singer Isamu Shimoji.

Mikel Urdangarin and Isamu Shimoji meet for the first time.

Mikel and Isamu playing together at Slow Jam, Naha.

After a week in Naha where he was followed by a film crew from the Basque Country who are making a documentary about him, he has joined us to stay at our home in the south where he has been rehearsing and collaborating with Mutsumi Aragaki and they will play together on the 23rd at Sakurazaka Theatre. From what I’ve already heard it will be a unique and very exciting meeting of Basque and Ryukyu musicians.

A rehearsal with Mutsumi Aragaki.

Mikel meets Lucy

He also met Lucy and will be a guest on her radio programme tomorrow at 11 a.m. on Ginowan City FM. In fact, it has become a very musical home over the past few days as we were also visited by Merry and David Ralston of Okinawa Americana who treated us to a house concert.

Mikel Urdangarin in Okinawa

April 6, 2018

The renowned Basque singer Mikel Urdangarin is coming to Okinawa at the end of April. He will perform solo concerts and spend over a month on the island immersing himself in the music and culture of Okinawa in the first meeting of its kind between musicians from Okinawa and the Spanish Basque Country.

Mikel Urdangarin has been an important singer and songwriter for more than 20 years and has released 14 albums. He sings in Euskara, the language of the Basques which is thought to be the oldest in Europe. His many projects have included collaborations with the musician Rafa Rueda and the novelist and poet Kirmen Uribe. His latest album Margolaria (The Painter) is also the title of a feature documentary film about his career that is currently in production.

In Okinawa, solo concerts have been announced at Garaman Hall Lobby, Ginoza on 19th May and at Sakurazaka Theatre Hall B, Naha on 23rd May and tickets are already on sale. He will also appear at Coconut Moon, Onna on 20th May and at the Ajiru Music Festival at Futenma Shrine on 26th May. Before these concerts he will be a guest on the Ginowan City FM radio show ‘Lucy のイチャリバAmigos!’ at 11 a.m. on 7th May.

Last September I met Mikel for the first time near his home in the Basque Country and the idea for this Basque-Ryukyu project began. Now that it’s becoming a reality I hope friends, musicians and anyone in Okinawa with an interest in music and different cultures will take the opportunity to attend one or more of his shows.

www.mikelurdangarin.eus

http://garaman.jp/sf/

http://sakura-zaka.com/event-info/12893

Anjel Valdes

January 16, 2018

Last September I spent a week in the Basque Country of Spain and while there interviewed record producer Anjel Valdes for an article published in the current edition of UK magazine fRoots. Anjel spoke about many things and this feature only scratches the surface of his philosophy on music and life and his important work at Elkar Records. It’s also Anjel’s idea that Basque and Okinawan musicians will soon be able to meet and there are now plans for a Basque Ryukyu project to bring them together.

Anjel Valdes

Elkar Records have grown a massive catalogue of Basque music. John Potter meets their founder.

I’m in a wood at the foot of a mountain in the Basque Country with Anjel Valdes and he is looking for mushrooms. It’s a passion of his to walk in the silence of this spectacular scenery in Gipuzkoa province and a bonus if he can collect some big mushrooms along the way.

But this isn’t why we’re here. Valdes has been producer and coordinator at Elkar Records for 30 years. He has chosen to talk to me about it all in one of his favourite locations in the south of Euskal Herria (or Basque Country) which straddles part of northern Spain and south-west France. Elkar (it means ‘together’) has long been promoting Basque music, language and culture, and the purple and yellow logo on their shops is familiar throughout the region.

Valdes explains: “Elkar Records was founded in 1972. We began with literature and books and then started working on music and traditional songs, all in the Basque language, first with singers from the northern part of the Basque Country. Elkar began in Bayonne but then came to the south at the beginning of the 80s.” Their recording studio is based in Donostia-San Sebastian.

“We have a very important catalogue of music that now has more than 1,300 releases. Songs express the culture of the people, their dreams, and in our case the most important compositions speak about freedom and love and territory. And so if you put all of our tracks and recordings one after the other you can tell a very good story of our culture and our development.”

My own first encounter with Basque music was through this very magazine in the late ‘90s through the phenomenon of triki-pop. Traditional trikitixa (accordeon) and panderoa (tambourine) music had been given a new lease of life by the addition of pop rhythm sections and young bands such as Maixa ta Ixiar and Alaitz eta Maider were quick to attract listeners, including me. My first long distance contact with Anjel Valdes was at that time and he has been sending me review copies of albums ever since. Although trikitixa is still a vital ingredient of much of the music there are many other popular styles and new singers and musicians appear all the time.

But let’s go back to the beginning. “We can find our roots in traditional instruments and singers and we must speak about Oskorri, a very important band that finally disbanded two years ago. They did their last concert in Bilbao and we released a special album with a DVD. Mikel Laboa is also an important singer in our catalogue as is Benito Lertxundi and some others who began their careers in the 1960s and ‘70s. The passing of time has given them authority. Benito Lertxundi is now 76 years old and he continues recording and giving concerts. After him comes Ruper Ordorika who was from a new generation closer to a pop and rock style. Ruper is a very good songwriter who writes lyrics in a special way that connects with people. His last three albums are remarkable and very important for me. Mikel Urdangarin is another very special singer from a younger generation.”

Valdes is a philosophical man who thinks deeply about the wider issues and implications of what he does. “The most important thing is always the artist and the song. All of us need to be consoled and music offers us one essential way. If you have made 1,300 productions you will find some albums among them that are very, very important. So my work is to listen to the artist and to coordinate the ideas with my team.”

“I’ve learned that it’s better to continue than to win. You can win once or twice in your life but if the moment arrives when you have to disappear it is very sad. So sales are never the most important thing. The continuation of our work regardless of sales is what is most vital. It’s not possible to work in this job if you don’t like the music. People need freedom and we need love and freedom and we need dreams and this is the essence of the songs, of the poetry. I think that we must believe that someday the world will be changed, like we thought in the ‘60s.”

The Basque language, known as Euskara, seems to be unrelated to any other language and is possibly the oldest in Europe. There are around one million who understand and speak it while 400,000 use it as their first language. With a language not even spoken by all Basques does this present an obstacle to wider recognition? “There is great music everywhere” says Valdes, “in Cuba, in Okinawa, in Africa and so on. We are just a small territory in Europe and we aren’t expecting to achieve a lot of worldwide attention. For now, it’s just important that we try first to spread these songs and music among the Basque people.”

“I want to say strongly that songs are the last guardians of the culture – and even if people don’t understand the language they will recognise the songs.”

www.elkarargitaletxea.eus

(fRoots Nos. 415/416, January/February 2018)

 

 

Soinu-Tresnak Euskal Herri Musikan 1985-2010

December 14, 2017

Soinu-Tresnak Euskal Herri Musikan 1985-2010 is a 70 page hardback book with CD and DVD insert on the musical instruments of the Basque Country. In the 1980s the musician and ethnomusicologist Juan Mari Beltran spent a year travelling and researching traditional musical instruments used by the Basque people and he compiled an hour long film of his findings with footage of many of the musicians who made and played these instruments. As a follow-up 25 years later he made another film containing his reflections and images related to the study. Both films are presented on the DVD.

This is a valuable and extraordinary musical adventure and in no way a stuffy academic exercise. As well as the trikitixa (accordion) and panderoa (tambourine) – still thriving in contemporary Basque music – there are rare recordings of much lesser known instruments such as the sunprinua (bark trumpet). There is also fascinating footage of the txalaparta and how it provided the “audible heartbeat of the cider-making process in the San Sebastian area”.

In addition to the instrument playing there is some arm-flinging Basque dancing not unlike Okinawan katcharsee that reminds us of the interconnectedness of culture and traditions worldwide. This new release is available for the first time with subtitles in English and several other languages while the book has rare photos and background details and information on all of the instruments.

www.elkarargitaletxea.eus