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04 - Gipuzkoako zortzikoak
Gipuzkoako makila txikiena / Uztai txikiena

(Zortzikos From Gipuzkoa) - 3´23
(Dance of the Little Staves /
Dance of the Little Hoops)

(Music: Traditional)
(Arranged and produced by Joxan Goikoetxea & Alan Griffin)

[Eng] [Eus] [Es] [Fr] [It] [Cat]

Recording engineer:
Joxan Goikoetxea
Recorded at Aztarna Studio (Hernani, Gipuzkoa) throughout 2017

Mixing and Digital Mastering:
Mikel F.Krutzaga – Musikart Studio (Amezketa - Gipuzkoa)

Alan Griffin: low whistle, whistle, G alboka
Joxan Goikoetxea: accordions, keyboards, percussion
Fiachra Mac Gabhann: mandolin
Juanjo Otxandorena : bouzouki
Peter Maund: târ, riqq
Juan Arriola: fiddle


The 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).

I 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 zortziko.

For example:

Azkue (1901) estimates that 95% of zortzikos ‘spring from the very fertile roots of vulgarity with the easy spontaneity of weeds’.

(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 stand.

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.




These 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.

The 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),
Belauntxingo (villancico),
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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I can’t vouch for what Alan says, though I had an idea it would be something like this.

And 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. Voilá!

As 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 down.

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 accented quaver.

Gora gipuzkoarrak!







































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