Oskorri - Desertore
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Elkarlanean (www.elkarlanean.com)

cd cover Sdrawkcab. It all starts backwards and maybe in a world gone topsy-turvy, that's the way to do it, especially for a band like Oskorri who after 30 years are not in the business of playing it safe anymore. The booklet is out of a CD case that is blank on the front and supposedly this works on a symbolic level in order to bring attention to the themes of the record, the dignity of the uprooted and the beauty of the simple - be it people or things.

Simple, embarrassing people populate these songs like Maurizia, the "guardian of ancestral customs, tambourine player from heaven." The simple person who suggests listening to stories and songs of the folks who are dismissed by those who only want "...a decent job, in some administration, of course, for the person who plays instead of working, does nothing but fool around and put on weight." The person who getting rejection after rejection finally marries second best, only to receive a blast from the past from his former object of desire, to whom it now answers: "I'm not your puppet any more." "War Dance for Peace," "Pillow for a Deserter" and "New Moon" seem to me like parables for those troubled times, post-9.11 and pre-3.11. "Your Bewitching Look" never shares with us how the narrator managed this difficult task, "at the beginning it was difficult to steal a caress from you, but the next thousand were easier." "A Girl's Hand" is an enumeration song (of the kind Oskorri like) and the lyrics are all about giraffes and bowler hats and silly friends and hugs and catapults and five billion lemon yogurts. "I was born crying," they say, "I want to die singing. (...) The least ashamed someone is, the more ashamed will be the one who feels ashamed." And they close the record with a song about the Basque language, Euskara.

The seven of them use ocarinas, kalimba, guitars, mandolin, bouzouki, alboka, flute, xirula, flageolets, bagpipes, violins, nickel harp, derbuka, bendir, tar, udu, hang, shaker, djembe, castanets, trikitxa and bass and dun-duns, tap-taps, ttun-ttuns to soundtrack those stories in their usual way, although there is a discernible evolution in their sound to be noticed by long-standing friends. I won't pretend I know all of those instruments, but they do sound fabulous. Still, their music is not about being in the vanguard, but about using simple means to deliver simple (but oh, so pointed!) stories, something that Oskorri have learned to do well in thirty years.

Oskorri have always been one of the easiest ways into the Basque musical tradition as they deliver songs that are upbeat, pop, funny and yet steeped in tradition and this record is no different, whether delivering tales of strife or simplicity. - Nondas Kitsos

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