The Spanish Recordings, Basque Country - Biscay-Guipuzcoa
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The Spanish Recordings, Basque Country - Biscay-Guipuzcoa
Collected by Alan Lomax, annotated by Juan Mari Beltran
Rounder (

The act of making field recordings of folk music was politically and logistically challenging in the Spain of the Franco dictatorship doubly so in the Basque provinces of Bizkaia and Gipuzkoa which were singled out for special treatment by the francoists.

cd cover This is just one of many recordings made by Alan Lomax who journeyed through Spain in 1952. There is some remarkable material here, including albokaris (alboka, tambourine and voice), txistularis (flute and drum groups), bertsolaris (verse improvisation), and simple groups of women and men singing.

The recordings were made in Zeanuri, Ondarroa, Oiartzun, Zarautz, and Tolosa. The sound quality is amazing given the long journey this material has travelled. As in any field recording, there is the sound of coughing, and some songs simply trail off, others are missing the beginning. That said, the overall result is very impressive.

Arantza and Andoni Goikoetxea provide a dramatic opening with three koplas from the Arratia Valley featuring alboka and an almost primitive vocal from Arantza (pictured on the CD cover).

Several of the tunes from Ondarroa feature Simon Badiola performing the famous irrintzina, the distinct and exhilarating Basque yodel.

Other songs include improvisations by bertsos such as Basarri, who sings about the pleasures of the fishing town of Ondarroa "gardens and fields everywhere, woods and mountains,/from each place you can see the marvellous sea;" and the great Uztapide from Oiartzun, who sings "Ura eta Lurra" (Water and Earth): "The farmer's work/keeps the world going/ We're the ones who keep the world going/for us little is left / we give so much to others."

Classic Basque songs include "Boga Boga" sung by the men of Zarautz, and "Agur Jaunak" here played as an instrumental by the Zarautz Txistularis.

The package is extremely well done. Accompanying notes by Juan Mari Beltran are thorough and informative, with some historic photos of the musicians. All lyrics are provided in Basque and translated into English, with short notes in Spanish as well. - David Cox

Available from cdRoots

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