Erramun Martikorena,
Elorrietan Loreak
(Agorila, 2000)

Most of the Basque population lives in Spain, but southern France is also home to Basque music and culture. Outside the major urban areas near the Basque coast, the French Basque country, known locally as Iparralde, is home to some authentic Basque music.

Besides being a shepherd and cheesemaker, Erramun Martikorena, a smooth-voiced folk tenor from this region, is known for his unadorned interpretations of folk songs from the French-Basque provinces of Lapurdi (Labourd), Lower Navarre and Xiberoa (Soule).

On this disc, he records 12 standards of the repertoire of the region, with particular emphasis on bards of the mid-20th century. These include Etxahun-Iruri (Pierre Bordazarre) and Xalbador (Fernando Aire), as well as Mixel Labeguerie.

Martikorena is accompanied by guitarist Mario Gachis (also on bass, synth), Michel Claudio, mandolin, and Marie Meyzenc, flute.

The songs are a mix of topics, hymns to the beauty of nature, songs of loss, songs of hope. On "Nafarroari," Martikorena interprets Xalbador, who expresses his sadness at the division of his country between Spain and France. "Txiki Txikitik," a song about a young man who falls in love while on his way to study to be a monk, features harmonies by Angele Anorga and Inaki Maritxalar.

This is a nice introduction to some of the best folk songs of the French Basque region, presented by a fine singer. Lyrics are available in Basque (Euskara) only, with a brief explanation in Spanish and French.

by David Cox
10 March 2007