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Kepa Junkera
EMI Spain (

cd cover Maren, the new album by the master of the Basque trikitixa (diatonic accordeon), is almost exclusively dedicated to the sea and the important role it plays on the traditions of the Basque Country. Much of Junkera's inspiration for this project comes from the coastland areas of his homeland, particularly the Bay of Biscay and the Urdaibai reserve, which is plainly visible on the CD's design, and on the multimedia presentation that comes with it (which includes a very nice clip of the first theme of the album, "Bok Espok"). However, and in spite of being constantly interested in his country's traditions, Junkera returns to his intention of bringing together very distinctive cultures through music, by inviting some groups from eastern Europe such as Bulgarka Junior (from Bulgaria) and Tirana (from Albania).

The first tune serves as a perfect example of this. "Bok Espok" was composed with the collaboration of the Swedish folk band Hedningarna, and was first heard on his previous recording (Bilbao 00:00). In this record it appears again but with a somewhat commercial pop beat. It works this time mainly because of the Eastern European voices that are used to add depth to the tune. Some other good examples of the union of these two cultures, which are clearly among the best of the album, are "Busturiko Vikingoak," "Urdaibai" and "Oliene."

But Junkera's invited guests do not come only from afar. Once again the artist is strongly supported by his great band (Angel Unzu, Blas Fernandez, Harkaitz Martinez, Igor Otxoa and Venezuelean artist Julio Andrade), and he invites some other guests such as Hevia (with his electronic bagpipe), Gilles Chabenat (hurdy-gurdy player from France), Ibon Koteron (basque alboka player) and Maria del Mar Bonet, from Catalunia. And of course, we mustn't forget valiha master Justin Vali from Madagascar, who became a great friend of Junkera when they first played together some years ago.

Those that were already bewitched by Junkera's previous work would probably imagine that he would have a major problem when he embarked on a new musical adventure. All of Junkera's work maintains a very high standard, but his previous release, Bilbao 00:00, was considered a masterpiece by critics all over the world, not only because of the quality of the songs, but also because of the enviable group of musicians that Junkera brought together on that record. Once again Kepa Junkera rises to the occasion. - Joao Maia

CD available from cdRoots

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