Basque Festival: Basque music and Bertso saioa

The event will begin with brief Basque dances by the Zazpiak Bat Reno Basque club group of dancers. Four “dantzariak” will participate and offer a series of dances with different rhythms and melodies throughout the evening.

The dancers will be accompanied by two Basque musicians, Mikel Petrirena and Maddi Agirre. They will play the “txistu,” probably the oldest musical instrument in the Basque Country and one of the oldest instruments in Europe, since it can be dated back to prehistory. They will also play the “silbote,” a variant of the txistu, and the “alboka,” a medieval instrument with a sound similar to the pipe. They will accompany these instruments with the “danboril” (Basque drum) and the “ttun-ttun,” a very special type of percussion instrument typical of the Pyrenees. Most probably, this is the first time we will listen to the alboka and the ttun-ttun on campus.

The musical performance will also have the participation of five “bertsolaris” or improvisational poets. We will have among us three Basque-American bertsolaris, Martin Goikoetxea from Rock Springs, Jon Kurutxet from San Francisco, and Todor Azurza from Boise. They will be accompanied by Xabier and Aner Euzkitze, who are coming from the Basque Country for this event.

A “bertso” is an improvised Basque song in verse, as opposed to an “olerki,” which is a written poem. The bertsoak are composed on the spot. The poet is often given the theme, the rhythm, or the meter or all of it together by the moderator, and then the poet must start singing according to what she or he has been requested to do. Sometimes the poet is given words that have to rhyme (e.g., song, gong, ping-pong, and King Kong), and he or she must work with them. There are often contests between two or three (or many more) “bertsolariak” or singing poets, so they have to defend an idea. Bertsoak are often humorous. However, there are also sad, satirical, political, and deeply philosophical as well. There are city, regional, and national bertso contests. The first bertsoak to be published in Basque appeared in 1545, and some of the melodies can date back half a millennium. The latest national bertsolaritza contest brought together more than thirteen thousand people in Iruñea-Pamplona in December 2022.

In addition to this event on March 10, the Jon Bilbao Basque Library and Center for Basque Studies are hosting, "A Basque American Literary Pioneer: Robert Laxalt" on March 9. 

Friday, March 10, 2023 at 5:00 pm to 6:30 pm

Mathewson-IGT Knowledge Center, Wells Fargo Auditorium, First Floor
39.5433916198639, -119.815739840269