Oreka TX,
Quercus Endorphina
(Elkar, 2001)

Quercus Endorphina, ably produced by the Basque accordionist Kepa Junkera, is probably the first recording to feature the Basque percussion instrument known as the txalaparta.

A txalaparta is traditionally made of wood, but metal and stone txalapartak are also used on this CD. The instrument is played by two people, one who sets the backing rhythm and another who improvises.

In 1960, the instrument, so emblematic of the Basque sound, was almost extinct. Two pairs of txalapartris, the Goicoetxea brothers and the Zuaznabar brothers in the vicinity of Donostia, San Sebastian, were the last to practice the instrument.

Since then the txalaparta has undergone a renaissance.

Oreka TX is Igor Otxoa and Harkaitz Martinez, frequent collaborators on albums by Junkera and other important Basque artists.

Also featured on this CD are the alboka player Ibon Koteron, the Malagasy valiha player Justin Vali, percussionist Glen Velez, keyboardist Phil Cunningham, and Junkera. There are notable contributions also by La Bottine Souriante percussionist Michel Bordeleau and veteran Basque singer Mikel Laboa.

Cunningham's contributions soften the sound, occasionally moving it into new age territory. But for the most part, this is simply an exploration of the rhythmic potential of the txalaparta. Although most of the pieces are instrumental and percussion focused, Justin Vali sings in his Madagascar tongue on "Aone!" On the finale, "Saustetik Erbetegira," Laboa's voice hauntingly blends with field recordings of the last original txalapartaris.

While it is interesting to hear this instrument up front in the mix, in all its glory, Oreka TX makes more impact as part of a larger ensemble -- I much prefer their work on such recordings as Kepa Junkera's recent live CD K.

The package is bright and colourful, with photos, and includes explanatory notes in four languages including English.

- Rambles
written by David Cox
published 28 May 2005