The Pub Ibiltaria 8
(Elkar, 2004)

This is a wonderful piece of folk artistry, but I just had a very hard time finding out what kind of language it was produced in. Because it was produced in Bilbao and the first map I Googled brought up Spain, I thought great, Spanish is easy. I can get a translation of these words in the liner notes. The entire booklet, all lyrics and notes, had no English translation, though it did have several others.

There were a few more clues, even though initially I thought this was a German or Bavarian recording. The pub Ibiltaria sounded close to Iberia, and "pub" and the songs sounded like a German beer fest, perhaps. Well, I couldn't find these in a German vocabulary: Iruneko, errefusatu, Xarmagarria, zira. Those are some of the words in the song titles.

If your geography gene is a little more developed than mine, you'll recognize these words as Basque. The Basque live in a region, or in some minds (especially their own) a country, tucked away in the Pyrenees on the southeast coast of the Bay of Biscay, squeezed between France and Spain.

The band, Oskorri, has produced 10 albums in The Pub Ibilitaria series. The one I'm reviewing today is No. 8. I can't explain the content of the songs, but the music is wonderful. The CD contains a lineup of folk songs to music that resonates well in any language. A European flavour is obvious, but there's also a tang from the Middle East in some pieces.

I enjoyed the music and regretted not understanding the stories that might be revealed in the songs, but it was a pleasant experience and I travelled several Basque sites looking for insight into this unique culture. The little I know about the country includes an economic development program they have to keep their little country developed and productive as they try to maintain a separateness from both Spain and France.

Two CDs filled with folk songs and instrumental accompaniment are likely a valuable part of the Basque heritage and a collection any traditionalist who explores the world of folk music would appreciate.

by Virginia MacIsaac
30 December 2006

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