Oskorri: Vizcayatik Bizkaiara
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Vizcayatik ... Bizkaiara
Elkarlanean (www.elkarlanean.com)

cd cover They are one of the oldest bands in the Basque Country. They love their country and everybody else loves them, and that's why people like Kepa Junkera and Michel Bordeleau (from Quebec's La Bottine Souriente) guest on the record. The country is still at war, with a strong secessionist movement that has been conducting a campaign for the last 25 years or so. Everybody tries to pretend it doesn't exist, but everybody knows it does.

So in its sheer MOR pop spirit, abundant optimism and wide smile, Oskorri's music is almost revolutionary, especially to those of us who approach each record from the Basque Country as a potential dark political statement. Oskorri negate all that in the first few bars.

In the choice of the songs, however, this is no anodyne experiment in sweeping all the problems under the carpet. All the lyrics (in Spanish, French and English, as well as Basque) cover topics ranging from poking fun at those who were trying to speak Spanish or stories from the various wars that have rocked the Iberian peninsula in the last 100 years or so (from the Cuban-American War to the Spanish Civil War) down to stories about the village's pauper or lazybones. Religious verses in praise of local patron saints, local craftsmen, autobiographical stories of humans and dogs, a procession of an airplane and other folk tales complete the story.

It is this desire to enlighten us on all sides of the Basque psyche, riding an irresistibly happy rhythm section, that proves to be the biggest achievement of Oskorri. Okarina, guitars, bass, flute, mandolin and bouzouki, uilean pipes, gaita, violin and trumpet are some of the musical instruments that create this rich sonic texture. Most of the songs don't last more than two and a half minutes, adding to a fast-moving, festive sound.

There are parallels to be found to both Kepa Junkera's and La Bottine Souriente's sound, as well as the more mainstream of Irish bands or Beausoleil. This is music that presents itself as a bit irreverent and not taking itself too seriously, while being of the utmost musicianship nevertheless and posing questions that someone else might have shied away from. Britney Spears, this isn't.

As a sweet summer record that can just play in the background or offer insights into the Basque psyche, it's simply irresistible. - Nondas Kitsos

Audio samples and CD available from cdRoots

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