Joseba Tapia,
Agur Intxorta Maite
(Basque Songs from
the Spanish Civil War)

(Gaztelupeko Hotsak, 2001)

Remember the war against Franco ... he may have won all the battles, but we had all the good songs.
- Tom Lehrer

Joseba Tapia is a multi-talented and prolific Basque artist. Not only is he a brilliant self-taught accordion player but he can sing a bit, too. But what I like best about Tapia, who turns up so often in the music of the Basque country, is his ability to take a great project idea and put it to music.

On this very special and evocative recording, Tapia goes back to 1936-37, when the fledgling Basque Republic was crushed by the combined forces of Hitler's air force (the infamous Condor Legion) and Mussolini's army, backing up the rebel Spanish armies of Franco and Mola. The model Basque liberal democracy was soon crushed by the Axis powers. There was no democracy, autonomy or lingustic freedom for the Basques until Franco's death, 40 years later.

Many non-Spaniards, including Canadians, Americans, Scots, Welsh and others, also fought for the Spanish Republic in the Civil War (1936-39) and many songs were written (see Tom Lehrer's humorous quote, above). The Spanish Civil War has if anything taken on a greater importance in world history over the years.

The Basques, too, contributed their share of songs, including "Eusko Gudariak Gara (We are Basque Soldiers)" sung in both Spanish and Basque for many years, long after the dictator was in his grave. That song also contributes a line as the title to this recording "Goodbye dear mountain of Intxorta."

Arrangements are not complex on this CD. Tapia sings all but two of the songs and plays accordion. He is joined by Arkaitz Miner on mandolin, Simone Lambergts on violin and Jexux Mari Garmendia on the atabala (a Basque drum). Mertxe Oliden on "Len amar Lagun Ginan Etxean" has a voice that sounds directly transported out of the 1930s, as does Sebastian Lizaso, who provides lead vocals on "Gernika."

Songs are by Civil War-era bards (bertsolaris) such as Basarri, Salbatore Mitxelena, Utarre, Atarrene, Juan Ezenarro and Gora-beti, many known by their bardic names alone.

This is a landmark recording and one of certain historical interest. Pictures and headlines from the Basque front are provided. There is an incredible, chilling photo that appears to be of German bombs falling on Gernika, taken from the cockpit of a Heinkel.

It is a powerful collection of songs, and it is worth remembering that the inspiration of music helps a people work together to survive brutal wars and dictatorships.

- Rambles
written by David Cox
published 9 April 2005