An treasamh latha san Dùthaich nam Bascach...
On Sunday I went to a big festival called Herri Urrats which takes place every year in the North Basque Country. The festival takes place around Le Lac de Saint-Pee-sur Nivelle. There is a path which goes around the lake and along the way there are performances stages, food stalls and merchandise stands. Herri Urrats celebrates Basque culture and language and promotes ikastolak (Basque language schools).
For me this was my first introduction to Basque music and dance traditions in a live setting - and what a vibrant introduction! We set off on a coach early in the morning and when we arrived there were already lots of people gathered, musical groups playing traditional drums and pipes, and lots of kids running around with money collection boxes asking for donations in exchange for stickers. The funds collected provide financial support to the Basque schools across the three traditional provinces of Iparralde (French Basque Country): Lapurdi, Lower Navarre and Zuberoa. I got a badge which says “Euskaraz bizi nahi dut” meaning "I want to live in basque”.
There were a wide variety of performances on the different stages. The first stage we went to had people singing improvised oral poetry known as Bertsolaritza in Basque. Bertsolari competitions are very popular in the Basque Country. The participants are given the scenario and then they must compose words on the spot which fit a particular melody according to a certain metre and rhythm pattern. Although I didn’t understand the lyrics, I could appreciate the rhythm and metre and it was quite impressive to listen to as they improvised and the crowd responded with applause and cheers when they delivered a particularly clever, witty or humorous line.
Later on in the afternoon there were a couple of Basque hip-hop rappers on another stage, one whom I was told was also very skilled at Bertsolaritza. Although hip-hop might be more modern, there seems to be a strong link as both forms are spoken or chanted rhyming lyrics. This reminded of our very own Gaelic rapper Griogair Labhruidh who’s Ghetto Croft gig I went to last week in Scotland. Griogair is very passionate about the correlation between rap and the rhythm and metre in old Gaelic poetry (bàrdachd).
Other highlights of the festival were the incredible Oreka TX who are particularly well known for their use of the Txalaparta amongst other traditional Basque instruments (I’ll do a future post about them with another video). Also there was the group Esne Beltza which brought the trikitixa (a diatonic button accordion) into a new genre with reggae and hip-hop.
I thought I would keep this post dance related so here is snippet of a traditional Basque dance band which had a dance caller. Most of the dances were circle dances known as Mutxiokoak however there were also a few couples dances. At one point the caller announced that they were going to do a Scottischia which was basically a variation in the Highland Schottische to Basque music. Also for another dance the band played the melody of the Gaelic puirt-à-beul ‘Fear a bhios fada gun phòsadh ’ to which people danced in couples in a progressive dance which had similarities to the Boston Two Step - I must find the name that they call this dance! I was having a go at joining in a lot of the dances so didn’t get too much footage but here is a wee snippet of people dancing the Arin-Arin which comes after the Fandango. To my understanding there are certain step structures which people then improvise on top off. Also during the day there was a performance group who used Arin-Arin and Fandango steps as the basis of a more structured choreography - it was interesting to see how the dance could be adapted and adopted to both social and performance contexts.
#Tosta2016 #DSS2016 #BasqueDance
Gaelic Artist in Residence as part of the Tosta collaboration project between cultural agents in several minority language communities of Europe’s Atlantic coast. The project combines the promotion of artistic creation, the celebration of linguistic and cultural diversity and the balanced management of local languages in an international project.