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Oreka TX
Quercus Endorphina
Elkarlanean (

cd cover The Basque people are the older inhabitants of Europe and the only substantial population that is not Indo-European in the Continent. This recording is about the txalaparta (zaldi-parta, horse-walking sound), a percussive musical instrument unique to the Basque Country. The instrument is simple a number of planks lying upon two upturned baskets (with maize leaves in between) played with the use of four batons used by two performers working in tandem. It's not surprising that it used to be played by brothers you need very good coordination to achieve the necessary results. In the old times it used to be played only after the setting of the sun and in particular for feasts, but nowadays it is used more often as a national symbol.

"Txalaparta Dantza"
By the 1960s the instrument was in decline; there were only a few teams still actively playing, including the Zuaznabar and the Goikoetxea brothers. The members of Oreka TX are their musical heirs, the next generation.

Quercus Endorphina was produced and most tracks written by Kepa Junkera. This accounts for the many famous guests from all over the world Phil Cunningham, Justin Vali, Michel Bordeleau, Glen Velez, Mikel Laboa and Ibon Koteron and, of course, Kepa Junkera. The subjects of the songs cover the beauty of nature and the animal kingdom (in particular horses), the wide-open spaces awaiting beyond the sea, ecological destruction and cultural awareness.

The sound of the txalaparta brings to mind a number of different sounds that all share ancient roots. At times, the water drums of Pygmy music ("Keinuka Ilargiari" and "Aone!") come to mind; at others, the elaborate interwoven rhythmic intricacy of the gamelan.
In other pieces, I was reminded of the laterna, a Greek grind-organ ("Oreka"), or Tuvan and Buddhist monks harmonizing ("Ekhinahi"). Finally, the album reminded me of music produced by stone sculptures or (finally) the simple percussive sound of a very similar instrument, called the talanto, used to remind the monks in Mt. Athos of the hours of the day.

Although in many of the songs, a great effort is made to combine this instrument with others (guitars, accordion etc.) the results are not always satisfactory. There seems to be a very particular quality to the sound of the txalaparta that is very elaborate, within its given limitations, but not assertive enough when paired with instruments that have a very different musical rhythm. The most successful coupling is "Ortzimuga," with Phil Cunningham's keyboards and piano; it allows the txalaparta to retain its center-stage role. The couplings with other percussive instruments on tracks like "Adabegi" are also most satisfying. It is also interesting to listen to Oreka TX experimenting with different tunings or the use of other materials (such as stone) or different baton techniques other than the traditional vertical attack.

Particular notice should be made of the excellent presentation of this CD with its elaborate booklet (in Basque, Spanish, English and French) as well as the entrepreneurial spirit of the record company to release such an arresting and demanding recording.

If you are even remotely interested in Basque or primitive music, this is a must-buy record for you. If you are not, you can still give it a try and discover the music of a people who have been inhabiting the same land longer than most of us and who still retain the power to keep their history alive and update it for the 21st Century. - Nondas Kitsos

MP3 samples:
Txalaparta Dantza
Audio ©2001 Elkarlanean

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