The incredible Basque-Argentinean folk Group, Baietz, releases its first CD fusing music and culture
The first album of the Group from Cordoba “Baietz” is the result of three years of work, experience, learning and growth. Since its inception the ensemble Baitz has not stopped working with the intention of assimilating and at the same time spreading Basque traditional music. This double objective has led its members to research the world of music as well as offer workships and concerts at many euskal etxeas. In the words of its members, “this work is the end of one musical cycle and the beginning of another.” Agustín Alonso, José Noé Fernández, Franco Seghesso, Fernando Zabalza and Gaspar Jaurena share with EuskalkKultura.com and the general public in the Diaspora details about its album and its activity.
Cordoba, Argentina. The music ensemble Baietz formed in December of 2008 and its members define it as a group of friends with common interests. With time they became a reference for Basque music in the Diaspora. With their first work now available, Agustín Alonso, José Noé Fernández, Franco Seghesso, Fernando Zabalza and Gaspar Jaurena now find themselves heading into new projects, among which is another album and a visit to Euskal Herria.
-How did the possibility of making an album arise?
The album Project came from the need to translate a selection of our work over the past three years. It took us a year to make and it was finances with the support of our friends and family, other proceeds came from the concerts that we gave at euskal etxeas and our personal savings. We wanted to record a high quality album recorded in Cordoba that reflects our vision of Basque traditional music from Argentina and thanks to all the help we were able to do it.
Because it is the end of one musical cycle and the beginning of another, it was the ideal moment for an album. It was important to us that there be a record of the way that we play, especially after the three years of work with Basque instruments, and especially because there is no other of its kind in Argentina and so that also made it necessary, especially since the Diaspora has been making music for some time.
-Who is the CD meant for? Who is your audience?
The album is geared to everyone who loves this music. For example, we’re surprised how children relate to these sounds. Basque melodies often have accompaniment that is familiar to the Latin-American ear, and also we have our own compositions, like in the case of the “Chacarera” called “Baietz!” with Basque instruments. Both musical cultures have a lot in common and we continue to see that every day. We also used images that are familiar to both cultures on the album graphics, like some historic photos of important people in the history of music in the Basque Diaspora, like Potxolo Loyola and Celestino Etxaniz, from Arrecifes.
-What difficulties did you have making the CD?
The biggest problem was financing its production, and it occurred to us that our family and friends should be part of it. We needed input from 100 people and in the end got it from 70. Luckily, this year we had a lot of performances and workshops and we used the money earned from those for the album. We will be eternally grateful to the Basque Argentinean Diaspora without which the album wouldn’t have been possible. Special thanks to the clubs in San Nicolás, Mendoza, Arrecifes, Laurak Bat in Buenos Aires, Villa María, Gral. Villegas, Villa Mercedes and Río Cuarto. To all, eskerrik asko!
-Album presentation. What songs appear on the album and how did you choose?
The album has some individual songs like “Oinez,” by Gaspar Jaurena and “Baietz!” a chacarera by Noé Fernández. There are two with couplets and bertsos in euskera by Noé Fernández and Asier Artola: “Gaucho Berriyaren Ajiak” is a traditional jota and porrusalda and “Nahaskeria” is a collective musical creation. There are arrangements of Basque melodies from different provinces included here like: “Txakolin,”, “Mahatsaren Orpotik,” “Zintarena,” “Iturengo Arotza,” “Goiko Mendian,” “Argizariak Zelütik,” “Erreguetan,” “Orzaiztarrak,” “Dringilindron,” “Mahai Gainekoa” and “Kattalin txiki-txiki,” some instrumental and others sung entirely in Basque.
The majority of these songs are part of the repertoire of more than 200 songs that we have been working on since 2009. We took a vote, and each one of us got to choose ten, and the ones that got the most votes won.
-There is also a huge variety of instruments on the CD…
Yes, we use a many Basque instruments but also we included other traditional instruments from other cultures. We built many of them except for the flutes with three holes (txistu, silbote and xirula) that we still don’t make. Those that we attribute to Gaspar Jaurena: alboka, arrabita, adarra, txalaparta, and many other percussion instruments like: kalaka, karraka, ttarrañuelak, kilikalaska, Arizkungo harpa, tobera, makilak, goilarak, kainaberak, eltzegorra and burrunak. Those attributed to Agustín Alonso: marimbula, afro-american instruments that are very important in our group; gaita gastoreña, from the family of Iberian albokas: and didgeridoos, traditionally of Australia. In addition to the mandolin, txilibito, maracas, zintzarriak, and other percussion instruments that make up our album. Some luthiers in Argentina have also made other Basque instruments like the ttunttun and the kirikoketa (Gonzalo Zavala) and tamboriles (Mario Paz). Other instruments like the guitar are also very important to the sound of the group, and for the Creole flavor that is also part of Baietz.
-How was the album received?
So far the album has received many great reviews and that makes us very proud. The best part is that adults, teenagers and kids listen to the album; everybody tells us something different and it is surprising to us that people are so hooked by some of the songs. The majority of our Argentinean audience doesn’t speak Basque and it is really pleasing to see how interested they are in the lyrics and the sound of the language. People, after realizing our commitment to the language, become very interested and that is a source of great pride for us, some even to the point that they want to begin learning euskera. Some of the most interesting and moving comments come from the Basque Country, which are very comforting to us, and give us the strength to keep working.
-Where has “Baietz” been presented so far?
We performed some of the songs of the album in Euskal Etxea of San Nicolas, before it was released, and we’ll probably do another one in Cordoba next year. We have been really busy this year on a tour of eight concerts, one for each province, including obviously the Diaspora that we will perform on December 21st. We are currently playing a new repertoire, alternating songs from the album.
-Where can you get the album? In Argentina? In The Basque Country? In the rest of the Diaspora?
We are selling the álbum at our concerts and also through some of our friends at the Basque clubs. We are trying to figure out a way to ensure that everyone who wants it can get it. We are also building a website, but we recommend contacting us through Facebook (Baietz Musika Taldea) or via email: firstname.lastname@example.org, and we’ll figure out how to get it to you.
-Taking stock and future plans?
It is really gratifying to hear those who have participated in our workshops speak with greater knowledge about traditional Basque music. To see the instruments and the way that they are played helps each with his/her research on traditional Basque music. Opening the road to traditional Basque instruments isn’t an easy task and we can’t teach them how to play with only one workshop, but it does given them some basic idea with which to begin.
It was a really enriching experience to go back to San Nicolas to see how enthusiastic the kids were to learn about some o the instruments and also how many more people attended our workshops. Excited by the commitment of all those who come to play Basque music, this reaffirmation of identity through art makes us double our efforts to teach.
Next year we will be in the Cordoba cycle “Euskal Soinuak Cordoban,” that will consist of 10 concerts, each one dedicated to an instrument. In addition we are preparing a project of teaching “erromeriak” where we will teach the public different Basque and Argentinean dances with a beautiful solidarity end. We will also begin pre-production of a new album, with a different approach than that of the first... and why not a trip to the Basque Country?