Ken Zazpi,
Gelditu Denbora
(Gor, 2005)

The Basque territory, stretching from Bilbao in Northern Spain to Bayonne in Southwest France, is the home of a number of strong folk and pop acts, and 2005 was another vintage year for music there. Folk legends such as Benito Lertxundi, Mikel Laboa and the younger Mikel Urdangarin all released important works.

But one of the best releases was by Ken Zazpi. The Gernika-based group (the band name translates as "Minus Seven") astonished a lot of people with this acoustic-electric CD, its third, Gelditu Denbora. This CD has broad appeal, but a high quality of musicianship and superb production values.

Clearly, Enaut Elorrieta can sing and the musicians in the band can play -- particularly impressive is Igor Artzanegi on bass. Yet this CD represented a step forward.

With the participation of veteran folk musicians -- including Oskorri members Inigo Egia and Xabier Zeberio, plus Arkaitz Miner from Tapia eta Leturia -- this CD took the popular band in new directions.

As an opener, "Zenbat Min (How Much Pain)" is poignant, concise and starts with a simple but memorable bit of acoustic guitar. "Gau Urdinak (Blue Nights)," the next track, lends part of its lyric to the title, "Gelditu Tembora (Stopping Time)."

Next, "Bidean (On Our Way)" is bright and carries a message of quiet strength: "Things have to change; We have to open our eyes." Fourth is "Zapalduen Olerkia (Poem for the Oppressed)," an ambitious song, a song of hope, and quite successful at that, expresssing hope for future generations.

It's difficult for any group to keep up this pace throughout 50 minutes, but they almost do. It helps that Miner, one of the best mandolin players in the Basque Country, comes in on strong tracks like "Iluntzean," and the Alos String Quartet provide texture on several tunes.

Ending the CD, "Talaieroaren Gogoetak," a Joseba Sarrionandia poem set to music by the group, is a short and sweet coda.

Recording engineer Haritz Harreguy creates a high quality, consistent sound for this impressive disc. Lyrics are provided in the original Basque language (Euskaraz), as is a translation into Catalan.

[ visit the artist's website ]

review by
David Cox

2 February 2008

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