Takolo, Pirritx eta Porrotx,
Poxpolin Marisorgin
(Matxinsalto, 2003)

This is the most recent release from the exuberant trio of Basque clowns or "pailazoak" known as Takolo, Pirritx & Porrotx. After more than a dozen CDs and roughly the same number of videos/DVDs over 17 plus years, this dancing, singing, storytelling trio is a major phenomenon in the Basque country.

Takolo, a slick singer with a pop-quality tenor warble, carries most lead vocals. Clowns Pirritx (female) and Porrotx (male) come in to lead on the occasional verse and provide vivid comic relief. Lots of very talented children (from the Basque towns of Lasarte-Oria and Zaldibia) provide backup vocals. Pirritx is also an expert at the Basque yodel known as the irrintzina, a wild birdcall with a maniacal laugh at the end.

Besides the music, there is short between-song dialogue in Basque that seems to form a storyline holding the 14 songs together. Group members Mertxe Rodriguez (as Poxpolin Marisorgin) and Alex Tetuan (as Nicasio Jauna) help with the narrative flow. Most of the clowns' CD and video products are themed (this one is centred on Basque witchcraft, thus the title that means, very approximately -- "darling little witch"); past themes included the farm, or the beach.

These much-loved children's performers, who sing and act exclusively in the ancient Basque language Euskera, don't lower the musical bar for the young folks at all. Their sound is a challenging blend of folk, rock and other elements that at times sounds like The Commitments on "Azkar Hanburgesa" or Offenbach (the blues-rockers, not the composer) on "Erratza" or, at other times, like serious Basque folk-revivalists.

Other styles of music are explored as well. "Yes Esatsen du" is straight ahead ska. "Sorgintxoa" on the other hand is a startling pop-rocker that constantly changes tempo with children coming in right on time and on key on backup, and combines the rippling Basque txalaparta and standard drum percussion.

On "Akelarrean" (guest musicians include renowned Basque trikitilari Joseba Tapia on accordion and Oreka TX on txalaparta) the group reaches new levels of musical experimentation on a very Basque theme with a lineup consisting of alboka, as well as the txalaparta and trikitixa. In more standard fare, vocalist Olatz Korta adds warmth on "Ongi Etorri."

It's a fun mix. My only criticism, a small one, is that while the music merits a wider audience, the artists haven't provided any translations or notes in any language other than Euskera. On the other hand, it's more incentive to learn another language. As a family, we find ourselves puzzling out the little dialogues through a mix of context, handy dictionaries and intuiting from the sound effects.

The music is high energy, upbeat and of exceptional quality. It all makes for a very entertaining look at Basque culture that appeals to any and all young children, including my own.

- Rambles
written by David Cox
published 27 November 2004

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