(Triki-Elkarlanean, 1998)

"In this blessed house, there are a thousand stories." - Gozategi

The Basque trio Gozategi's first, eponymous disc was their best. That's my opinion, whether it's widely shared or not I am not sure. Looking back after 20 years and just a handful of albums from this legendary folk-pop trio, this disc stands out as the freshest and most original.

Gozategi -- consisting of Asier Gozategi on trikia (accordion) and vocals, Inigo Goikoetxea on bass, charango and vocals and Ainhoa Gozategi on tambourine and vocals -- inhabited a politicized neighbourhood at a difficult time, but did so with a light touch that was their own. Lyrics aside, though, this disc is one of the happiest, keep-your-feet-moving, folk-pop blends ever.

I'm not sure what kind of music Gozategi set out to make but this disc is simply too catchy to be confined to the folk category. Yet, anyone conversant with Basque musical traditions would recognize these songs as coming from within the tradition, whether a lovely waltz like "Denborak" (Times) or a foot-tapper like "Auskalo" (Who Knows) or "Kaixo Lagun" (Hello Friend). The 15 tracks, including two instrumentals, are masterfully mixed and move seamlessly from one to the next.

Perhaps the best known track, "Nor-Nori-Nork" (Who-Whom-Who) is a play on some of the quirks of Basque grammar, kind of a language lesson set to music, with some political jabs thrown in -- written by actual Basque language students. Another fun song is the opener, "Kulebrin Kulebron" (Big Snake, Little Snake) with its wry lyrics by Asier. And of my favourites, a brilliant 3 1/2-minute instrumental, "Norki" also stands out.

On this disc, the band does most of the writing, with Asier Gozategi supplying the lyrics on most songs, and showing a deft touch. While playful at times, he gets straight to the point on such tracks as "Gezurra Nagusi" (Big Lie) and is even more direct on "Gazte Nora Hoa" (Where are you Going, Young Man?), a song against military conscription.

Regardless of and beyond the minefield of politics, this is simply a great diatonic accordion album -- lively and with enough hooks to be popular, with some great vocal harmonies, but obviously well schooled in the long, important Basque traditions.

As a band, Gozategi could do it all. But this kind of innovative record, full of heart and energy, couldn't be repeated even by them. They produced a lot of good songs over the past 20 years, but nothing with the sustained excellence of this disc.

music review by
David Cox

17 August 2013

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