Alan Lomax: The Spanish Recordings, Basque Country - Navarre
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Various artists
Alan Lomax: The Spanish Recordings, Basque Country - Navarre
Rounder (www.rounder.com)

cd cover The Kingdom of Navarre (Navarra in Spanish or Nafarroa in Basque) was an independent and primarily Basque speaking nation throughout the Middle Ages (800-1500 approx.) and comprised at times much of what is today claimed as the Basque homeland in Northern Spain and Southern France.

The modern province of Navarre, considered to be the "motherland" of the Basques, was left out of the Basque Autonomous Region after the conversion of Spain to democracy. To say the least, this is a contentious issue. Today northern Navarre is staunchly Basque while southern Navarre is strongly Spanish.

When Alan Lomax journeyed through Spain in 1952 he visited Navarre and made recorded songs in both Basque and Spanish. The Basque-language recordings were made in the northern valleys with the Spanish-language work done mostly in Pamplona, the capital.

The material on this CD is priceless and irreplaceable, even while predictably uneven in quality: it reflects the daily lives and preoccupations of a traditional farming people.

The opening selection is a suite of dances (instrumental) played with dultzainas and a drum, which includes the cadena, jota, waltz, fandango, corrida, and boleras.

The Pamplona (Iruna) recordings include several exceptional jotas by Miguel Angel Leoz, 16 years old at the time, on voice and guitar. These include "Para ser un Buen Navarro," and "Dicen que me ha de Matar."

Recordings in Euskera (Basque) were done in Uitzi (Larraun Valley), in Arizkun, Elizondo and Erratzu, (Baztan Valley), in Lasaka (Bidasoa) and in Otasgi-Ochagavia (Salazar Valley); thus they reach right across the breadth of northern Navarre. These include both unaccompanied vocal tracks (group and solo) and instrumentals. The instruments include txistularis (txistu and drum). And of course, there is the irrintzina, a wild yodel-screech-cry specific to and beloved by the Basques.

The package is extremely well done by Rounder. Accompanying notes by Juan Mari Beltran are thorough and informative. All lyrics are provided not only in Basque but also translated into English, with a short note in Spanish as well. - David Cox

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