Kepa Junkera: Trikitixaren historia Txiki bat
Kepa Junkera eta Sorginak
In the Basque Country, the trikitixa or diatonic accordion has dominated folk music over the past 150 or so years. The Basque trikitixa is traditionally played with a tambourine alongside, and perhaps, a vocal accompaniment.
The name synonymous with the trikitixa over the past 25 to 30 years is that of the Bilbao-based marvel, Kepa Junkera. Junkera burst onto the Basque local scene with his appearance at the national competitions in 1988 along with Joseba Tapia, another stalwart of the same generation. By the age of 30, Junkera was a legend in Basque music circles and was performing with his own trio, with Oskorri, with Italy's Riccardo Tesi, and others too various to name.
Junkera's international fame in World music circles rose in about 1999 with the release of a double CD, Bilbao 00:00 (Bilbao Zero Hour) with its international cast and wide range of styles. If this wasn't enough, he followed it up with 2002's classic, Maren, which fused Basque, Caribbean, Malagasy and other forms, in a musical tribute to the Urdaibai region of Bizkaia, Basque Country.
While Junkera is arguably the best-known world/roots performer from the Basque lands, he's been overshadowed at home in a culture oriented around more popular or youth-oriented forms such as rock and ska. In contrast he has branched out to an international audience by working with a variety of artists, particularly those within the Spanish-speaking orbit.
Last year's Galiza brought him closer to home and now with this book/CD collection, he returns precisely to his roots.
This is not just a CD with extensive liner notes but a hard-cover book by Josean Agirre, with a companion 17-track CD. The book tells the story – in Basque and Spanish (English translation is available on Junkera's web site) of the trikitixa's absorption into Basque culture, its troubles with the church and later, the Spanish state, and its emergence in the 1980s as a vibrant token of Basque nationality. Most of the famous figures – Elgeta, Maurizia Aldeiturriaga, Tapia eta Leturia, Imuntzo eta Beloki, Xabi Solano, and a host of others are included along with their stories.
Junkera himself was not at first accepted in the sometimes-insular world of trikitixa because his style of playing was developed in Bilbao, rather than in the Gipuzkoan valleys (Orio, Deba, Urola) where the competitions were held. Usually a Basque under their system is trained to be the best technically; Junkera's playing style while technically impeccable, is less retrained, more experimental. When Junkera and Tapia performed at the 1988 competitions, their skills were off the map, but purists weren't sure about Junkera. His style was a new invention and was incomprehensible to the judges.
The 1990s was a time of flourishing of the trikitixa, with not only Junkera but also Tapia eta Leturia, Imuntzo eta Beloki and others. It needs to be stated that a Basque trikitilari holds a place roughly analogous to that of an electric guitarist in the rock world, though the role of the music in the society is more analogous to that of old country music. Triki-pop was a phenomenon that developed in the 90s around groups like Gozategi and Alaitz eta Maider. Lately, the triki has been incorporated into rock and ska in groups such as Esne Beltza.
On this CD, his 23rd as solo or featured artist -- not including appearances with Oskorri and others -- Junkera's playing is complex, mature, and innovative, but he stands by the traditional tunes and texts. These are time-tested Basque songs featuring primarily Junkera on accordion, and featuring seven female singers called Sorginak, on many tracks. Junkera himself, and a host of others, provide a spectacular percussion section, with too many performers and instruments to name here. Notable also is the presence of the Basque world's most versatile composer and arranger, Xabier Zabala, for assistance with the arrangements.
Throughout, Junkera's trikitixa playing is colourful, innovative and textured. The percussive arrangements add punctuation and the vocals of Sorginak are without flourish or adornment, and sound as if out of another time, though modern. The recording shows off the potential of this instrument. On “Sorginak Infernuko Hauspotik Irtetzen” or “Primi, Romualda..” for instance, the vocal is virtually monophonic and the emotion is expressed not through the singers but through the trikitixa itself.
"Primi, Romualda, Andresa..."
Of the highlights: “Roman eta Kontxa Urraza Zollon” is a tribute to his mother and grandfather; it is Kepa Junkera at his best in a kind of fandango that shows how much can be accomplished with the accordion-tambourine (or other percussion) format.”Joakintxu eta Karakol” is a kind of stutter step march featuring Sorginak and Junkera in a kopla (song) about someone going off to Salamanca to study (likely to become a priest).
"Roman eta Kontxa Urraza Zollon"
Junkera's playing is instantly recognizable; whether he's playing a pretty waltz like “Larranaga Guerrini”, a fandango, or a pasadoble, or another standard format; he takes the music and bends it to his own will, making it complex and almost unrecognizable as to its original form. Sorginak brings it back to earth. The other element is the Basque yodel, the 'irrintzi' which animates a number of the tracks, including “Zazpiak Bat” which lends an element of timelessness.
"Zazpiak bat fandangoa"
This recording has neither the gentle elegance and versatility of Maren, not the exotic Celtic extravagance of Galiza. Nor does it verge on triki-pop, as 2005's CD Hiri did. It is something else entirely. The 17 tracks blend into a smooth and seamless whole, and Junkera's many talents reveal themselves with each listen. This is a worthy project with the book standing as a collector's item. - David Cox
Visit the artist at: www.kepajunkera.com
The set can be purchased online: www.zonadecompras.com
RootsWorld depends on your support.
Contribute in any amount
and get our weekly e-newsletter.