Juan Mari Beltran / Arditurri
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Juan Mari Beltran

Elkar (www.elkarlanean.com)

cd cover Like a hip-hop alchemist, Juan Mari Beltran works with various Basque instruments, old melodies and dances, and borrowed poems and lyrics to create something that, although being based in the past, is still potently contemporary. Like a traditional vernacular musician, he has an encyclopedic knowledge of the heritage and has apprenticed with the old masters, which allows him to mix and match and create sounds that are both modern and perpetual.

Helped by a number of accomplished musicians, he proceeds to create neo-traditional pieces that nevertheless ooze "Basqueness." It is in the way that a txalaparta opens the record, in the way in which he explores the alboka's polyphonic abilities. It is also in the way he bases his melodies on works from the previous masters, borrowing a melody from here and a lyric from there to create something that although sounding new, is nevertheless traditional, and most important, exhilarating, festive and vivid!

Almost every known Basque instrument makes an appearance in this record: the alboka (a sort of horn), the txalaparta (the traditional wooden instrument of the Basque Country, played by two people but here, in one occasion, by three), the txistu-ttunttuna (a flute), the trikitixa, the panderoa, the tamboril (a drum). Better known instruments are also featured, like fiddle, accordion and dulzaina. The subject of the songs evolves around paeans to the region where the album was recorded (Arditurri), the perplexity of family bonds and also more traditional subject matters such as thrashing songs and other lyrics related to the agricultural lifestyle and relationships of young people.

It is in praise of Beltran that the record, although related to ethnomusicological concerns, never fails to pay attention to the second part of that word, the music, while offering ample details about the traditional music of the region. The multitude of rhythms used, from marches to txalaparta solos, also manages to offer a varied and never tiresome feel to the record.

Although this one is more of a record for the person who is already aware of the peculiarities of the Basque music, it can also act as an introduction to anyone who is interested in the musical traditions of this beguiling region. - Nondas Kitsos

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