Fermin Muguruza,
Brigadistak Sound System
(Esan Ozenki, 1999; Piranha, 2001)

Brigadistak Sound System was originally released in 1999 by Esan Ozenki records, after being recorded in the Basque Country. This international version has been remastered in Berlin, adding yet more connections for this intercultural musical cry for international solidarity by the renowned Basque singer-songwriter Fermin Muguruza. "Brigadistak" is Basque for "International Brigade Solidarity Volunteers."

The dominant sound on the CD is ska reggae, which admittedly goes well with the lyrics, but some prospective sympathisers may be turned away by the style of music before even hearing the words. The lyrics are printed in Basque, Castilian Spanish, French and English; and there are additional lyrics written in the contributing artists' native tongues, so those who do not have a grasp of those idioms miss out on the fuller picture. Maybe they weren't translated because of space -- it is a fairly hefty booklet as it is, including a two-page footnote outlining the inception of Muguruza's collaborations with various bands and explaining the phenomenal worldwide appeal of his artistic style.

Muguruza sings in Basque (euskara), one of the oldest European tongues and one still actively spoken today. He sings songs of solidarity among peoples of different lands, of freedom from tyranny and oppression, of linguistic and cultural independence, of hardship and toil and trouble. He sings about life today. Unfortunately, to many folk, the word "Basque" has been too often heard in the same context as ETA, synonymous with acts of terrorism and the taking of innocent human life. Fermin Muguruza, while cheering those who fight for solidarity and the preservation of their historical heritage, broadly condemns suffering: "Don't forget anything / Don't forget anyone / We will denounce the suffering of anybody." This is a positive and literally upbeat side of the Basque independence movement.

Brigadistak Sound System is, however, not to my personal taste; I found the incessant ska beat rather wearing, and although I followed the lyrics on the CD sleeve booklet, I was more moved by the words than the whole composition. As poetry for this era, covering subjects such as people at the mercy of hurricanes and at the mercy of dictatorship; people in poverty and people in fear; political mouthpieces and the indomnitability of the human spirit, it is compelling stuff. The lyrics of Fermin bear several readings, some analogies are not as blatant as the beat of the music. Although at first one would imagine his fierce pride and support for Basque recognition to be at odds with the interconnection of the many nations represented in his songs and by the singers and musicians on the CD, one soon realises the intelligence of recognising that other groups have the same right to a voice. It would seem that the lyrics encompass a variety of causes, countries and ethnic groups -- to be insular and only concentrate on one's own cause is a small step in the dark compared to this loud, bright shout for the rights of many to live in dignity and their own idea of reedom.

The many references to other cultures and inequities, lands and tragedies are of interest from the standpoint of the anthropologist, the historian and the freedom-fighter. They should be pertinent to the concerned citizen in any country, on any street or landscape. Learn about Guernica, Newroz, the Mapuche: listen to the man who is "a wandering nation," Fermin Muguruza.

[ by Jenny Ivor ]
Rambles: 24 August 2002

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