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Fermin Muguruza
FM 99.00 Dub Manifest
Piranha (

cd cover In Spain, singing in the Basque language of Euskera alone is a political act, one which brings to mind the separatists who have been fighting for an independent state. But listening to the Basque singer-songwriter Fermin Muguruza and his bouncing beats, hung-over-sounding horns and silly sound samples, it is easy to think he's just another happy-go-lucky stoner.

But Muguruza is very political, even if the casual listener may not get the other half of his equation. The international version of this release translates his songs into Spanish, French and English, so listeners can read the lyrics like the giddy, anti-capitalistic "Big Beñat": "If modernization means being homogeneous, tattoo the bar code on my ass....the Earth is not a hole. Let's avoid the same old shit once and for all."

The Basque singer has a few things in common with the peripatetic Manu Chao besides a similarly reedy voice. Whether it's the reggae of "Itaka Berriro" or the ska of the title track, Muguruza tosses in bits of found sounds and sampled rhythms to put a few unexpected twists to the brisk rhythms. Both men also have a similar take on rallying listeners against the bland oppression of globalization. Instead of expressing themselves in punk-like fury, their very playfulness is an act of defiance against straightjacketing mass culture.

While Muguruza's lyrics are filled with references relevant to young Basque listeners, the music is a hybrid of international styles such as reggae, rap and even a bit of electronica. Strangely, only one song has a unique Basque sound -- the final tune, the drum-and-bassy "Irudikeriak" which uses the wooden percussion instrument called the txalaparta.

Like Manu Chao, Muguruza is serious about his silliness. The message is that these energizing moments of joy are necessary to undermine the forces of stifling oppression. - Marty Lipp

Listen to a short audio sample (courtesy of Piranha)

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