Recorded at Aztarna Studio (Hernani, Gipuzkoa) throughout 2017
and Digital Mastering:
Mikel F.Krutzaga – Musikart Studio (Amezketa - Gipuzkoa)
low whistle, whistle, G alboka
Joxan Goikoetxea: accordions,
Fiachra Mac Gabhann: mandolin
Otxandorena : bouzouki
Peter Maund: târ,
Juan Arriola: fiddle
zortziko measure, in 5/8, usually with dotted
quavers as the second and fourth pulse of the bar, is very common for
dancing and singing in the provinces of Biscay and Gipuzkoa and is taken
to be characteristically Basque. It may even be endemic. The present
tunes are very popular in their native Gipuzkoa.
We'd wanted to do a set of these zortzikos for many years and
here they are at last. Some non-Basque musicians find the zortziko
a tricky little devil, till they get used to its spasmodic jerkiness.
And there are three gringos on this track (and three Basques).
hope I'm familiar with the zortziko's tricks after 32 years
here. As for the others, Peter dealt with it by giving up counting the
time and playing it as he felt it. But I forgot to ask Fiachra if it
gave him trouble.
Joxan says these dances fill his heart with Basque pride, and rightly
so. Like most Basques, for him the heavily accented zortziko
is a hallmark of his identity, like long noses and pointed chins and
berets and betting and singing in choirs and mountaineering and blurting
out the truth at inconvenient moments. So it pains me to draw attention
to a fact that most Basques are unaware of: nearly all the eminent Basque
musicologists of the twentieth century were implacable enemies of the
Azkue (1901) estimates that 95% of zortzikos
‘spring from the very fertile roots of vulgarity with the easy
spontaneity of weeds’.
Donostia (1916) quotes with approval Pérez Galdós'
description of the zortziko as 'rubbish from the salon’.
Nikolas Ormaetxea ‘Orixe’ (1920) believes
the zortziko is a recent introduction, a difficult and irregular
measure which clashes with the native rhythm of Basque. He also cites
Gorosabel’s comment that the 5/8 time-signature
of the zortziko is hard to mark properly, especially for musicians
who are not Basque. Aha!
Madina (1943) states that only the unaccented zortzikos
‘appear to have been aged to the point of sweetness’.
Fagoaga (1949) refers to a quote by Rodney Gallop about
the measure with ‘the execrable accented semiquaver’.
Riezu (1973) decries 'the annoying repetitious accentuation
of the pseudo- Basque zortzikos’.
But ultimately, none of this matters. Joxan's heart is full of Basque
pride because the zortziko, weed or not, is still in breezy health all
over its heartland of Biscay and Gipuzkoa and is integral to the Basque
musical tradition, whatever the experts say.
Another thing: the musicologist Gascue (1913), who
believed that the 5/8 time signature of the zortziko was a
deformation of 6/8, eccentrically claimed that the change came about
because bandmasters unconsciously shortened the second half of the 6/8
bar on the upstroke of the baton, which he ascribed to the fatigue occasioned
by the force of gravity. The great Azkue (1918) pungently
retorted by wondering whether, since 6/8 melodies are found everywhere
and 5/8's are not, orchestral conductors in other countries countered
gravitational drag by prudent gymnastic exercises before taking the
Added to all this I have to say that as I listened to Peter playing
these dances in the studio, I could have sworn he was beating the riqq
in 4/4 time, even if it doesn't sound like it on the finished track.
And I could go on, but I've bored you enough.
dances, together with the Sword-Dance,
are thought to be the oldest extant in Gipuzkoa
and are linked to a number of celebrations and festivities.
To be precise, the two zortzikos on this track
belong to a dance-cycle called the Brokel-Dantza,
or Shield-Dance, which is performed in sequence
by nine or thirteen dancers.
Two rows are formed, each headed by a
captain or director. Some of the dances are
performed with empty hands and some with various implements which are
beaten against each other.
The captain carries a baton denoting his authority.
Brokel-Dantza comprises the following dances:
Agurra (salute or bow),
Makila txikiena (dance of the small staves),
Brokel makilarena (dance of shields and large staves),
Makila handiena (dance of the large staves),
Uztai txikiena (dance of the small hoops),
Uztai handiena (dance of the large hoops),
Zinta dantza (ribbon-dance).
The costumes are the same as for the Sword-Dance.
Makila txikiena or Dance of
the Little Staves
This belongs to the class of dances with implements.
In general, they all share a similar structure,
an individual performance by the captain,
a zortziko danced by the entire group
and the clashing of the implements together.
The captain holds a baton and the dancers
carry small or large staves or shields made
of wood or tin. As they dance, they clash
their implements and move into new positions,
before returning to their original places
at the end of the dance.
Uztai txikiena or Dance of
the Little Hoops
These are also performed with implements
and are very similar in structure to the dances above.
The captain performs a solo dance,
which is followed by a zortziko by the group.
The dance ends with the dantzaris clashing
their implements together
in choreographed figures.
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can’t vouch for what Alan says, though I had an idea it would
be something like this.
to tell the truth I do take great pleasure in playing zortzikos
and I even get a tingling feeling (it seems I must have confessed it
sometime) that isn’t far from what people call pride.
We recorded these two zortzikos for Lau anaiak (2004), but they didn’t
make the final tracklist and so we agreed to try them again in the future.
a well-known soccer trainer once said, the first time we were 'like
headless chickens scampering around the field'. Of course, what happened
was that I found myself in a studio with four fine musicians, but...
they were all foreigners (Peter Maund – California, Zohar Fresco
– Israel, and Fiachra Mac Gabhann and Alan from Ireland). And?
We couldn’t make it to a climax. A clash of accents, accentuations
and polyrhythms, and an excess of speed all combined to bring the track
This time, though the we had nearly the same posse of foreigners (including
a piper), I was also backed up by two strapping Basques in Juan Arriola
and Juanjo Otxandorena, which let me sail the ship home at a reasonable
rate of knots.
And if all this weren’t enough, the gringos saw me recording the
sound effects on the track with wooden sticks and hoops, which completely
put them off and confused them further about how to attack the blessed