Oreka TX
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Oreka TX
Nömadak TX (CD)
Nömadak TX (A film directed by Raul de la Fuente - DVD)
Both titles from Txalapart Music (www.txalapart.com)
(Note: a single CD edition of this project was released in 2009 by World Village Records)

The percussion sounds like charging horses hoofs; the voice comes from deep, deep inside the Mongolian man's throat. This is the sound of Nömadak TX.

The Basque txalaparta is a kind of xylophone, an instrument that has origins in the countryside surrounding Donostia, San Sebastian, and associated with the cider houses of that area. It almost disappeared. In the 1960s few played it openly. The Zuaznabar brothers of Lasarte, then known as the last txalaparta players, had to keep their instrument hidden away for fear of arrest by the Spanish Civil Guard; it was considered an overt sign of Basque identity, forbidden during the dictatorship.

The txalaparta has a sound that is instantly recognizable. Because each player has two percussion sticks, the four coordinated beats sound like horse hoofbeats on a plain, evoking motion itself. The instrument has undergone a renaissance, in part through the efforts of Oreka TX, a txalaparta duo from the region. Harkaitz Martinez de San Vicente and Igor Otxoa are the main players, and Nömadak TX is their second CD and their first film, an 88-minute documentary.

To retrace a bit, Harkaitz and Igor began their txalaparta duo in the late 1990s, and rose to some prominence with the popularity of their collaborations with Kepa Junkera, the diatonic accordion whiz from Bilbao. Oreka TX's first CD, Quercus Endorphina, had a wide mix of participants, and featured the instrument in a variety of musical settings. But it frequently was bogged down in a mushy musical middle.

This disc, however, is a brilliant project - more the spiritual and musical heir of Junkera's 2002 masterpiece of world music, Maren. This record featured Oreka TX, and also Angel Unzu, who produced the songs on Nömadak TX.

On Nömadak TX, the duo visit with nomad musicians in a variety of countries ­ Mongolia, India, Morocco, a Western Saharan refugee camp in Algeria, and Scandinavia and the result is an unforgettable visual and musical experience, somewhere between Baraka, Latcho Drom, and Buena Vista Social Club.

In their travels, they create txalapartak (the plural form) out of ice, stone and wood, showing the many possibilities of their ancient instrument. In doing so, they form global links of friendship between small and marginalized peoples.

Oreka TX meet with and perform with a diverse array of musicians, many with traditions as old and unknowable as that of the txalaparta itself. Basque instruments such as the alboka mix with singers and musicians of many lands.

Nömadak TX is a double CD that never ceases to surprise. The first cut on the CD, "Lauhazka," is full of energy and the mingled sounds of three continents. Mikel Laboa's vocals mix with Mongolian throat singing, Sami vocals, Berber and other sounds.

We meet many new friends on this journey. Most are nomads; all are excellent musicians. We meet Janna and Anti Mikkel in Sami Land (Laponia); Ygor the throat singer in Mongolia; Josu, the travelling Basque; Bagu the storyteller; friends in a Tindouf refugee camp; and a variety of others in India.

All the personal interaction is what makes it worthwhile, including scenes of Sami herding reindeer; Mongolians roping wild horses; a homecoming in the Sahara; playing a txalaparta in the middle of a swamp in India. In one amusing scene, a group of Sami coming out of a church ignore completely the impromptu concert given by Igor and Harkaitz.

They all appear with accompaniment by noted Basque musicians including Igor and Harkaitz on txalaparta, with Angel Unzu, Ion Garmendia, Inigo Egia and Xabier Zeberio (the latter two are members of the group Oskorri).

On "Ice TX," recorded in an ice hotel in Jukkajarvi, Sweden, a txalaparta made of ice is the featured instrument. On "Bagu-Aahmedabad," we meet an Adivasi storyteller and impromptu versifier and his wife, who also contributes to the song. "Amazigh" is a sweet, swaying melody about the life of the Berbers, and "Saapmi" is a catchy tune from Europe's north, featuring Ion Garmendia from Basque country on alboka. In Tsaatan country, northern Mongolia, Igor and Harkaitz visit a nomadic group that consists of no more than 40 families, living in tents in the frozen forest. In the Sahara desert, children watch as they build a txalaparta of stone.

Mikel Laboa, a Basque legend recites, rather than sings, on his great anthem for stateless peoples, "Martxa Batek Lehen Notak," a song written many years ago but fitting perfectly the theme here.

And what is that theme? Nomads and other smallish, stateless peoples, should have a right to survive and even thrive in our present-day, globalized world. As Basques, Oreka TX understand and stand in solidarity with the Sami of Scandinavia, the Adivasi of India, the Altai Mongolians, the Saharoui refugees in Tindouf, and Morocco's Berber (Amazigh). All care passionately about the places they call home. As one Mongolian musician put it in the film. "Perhaps Mongolia will be the last nomad country. Or perhaps other countries will go back to being nomadic." - David Cox

Note: The CD and DVD are sold separately: the CD has explanatory notes in Basque, Spanish, French and English and lyrics translated into those languages. On the film, dialogue is in Basque, English, Spanish and other languages, with subtitles available in the above languages plus French. As a bonus, the film is also region free (plays on most DVD systems in North America, Europe and elsewhere.) The DVD also features a 'making of' segment.

Web sites:
www.nomadaktx.com
www.txalapart.com

(Note: a single CD edition of this project was released in 2009 by World Village Records)

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(Note: a single CD edition of this project was released in 2009 by World Village Records)

 

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