various artists,
Basque Planet
(Wagram, 2004)

"O brothers and sisters. What are we fighting for? Stop the war. Peace love and unity. Bakea maitasuna eta batasuna."

-Txalaparta Steppers Dub (Basque Dub foundation)

What would a Basque Planet sound like? Fermin Muguruza, founder and vocalist of the groups Kortatu and Negu Gorriak, and a cult presence in the Basque Country, thinks he knows.

On this CD, he has hand-picked a selection of 19 tracks including rock, rap, hip-hop, reggae, dub, ska, electronica, and various other contemporary styles, all by Basque recording artists.

There's a huge difference between the world of contemporary music we might associate with Spain, and the alternative selection we hear on Basque Planet.

Muguruza himself is a huge fan of Jamaican music, so the selection reflects that, but he is also influenced by British rock as well. So, on this CD, you have groups like Selektah Kolektiboa playing "UPN West Side" as a trilingual hip-hop complaint about the (anti-Basque) ruling political party of Navarre. As well, rockers such as Navarrese group Berri Txarrak, one of the best rock groups on this, or any planet, are featured. "Biziraun" might not be their best track, but fits the CD well.

Ondarroa-based ska group Sagarroi, a personal favorite, is there with an energetic "Nahi Dudan Guztia," as is another ska band, Skalariak, with "Sarrera IV." On Txalaparta Steppers Dub, we hear the Basque percussion instrument txalaparta, but in an electronic setting, with a tune by Oskorri plunked out on the keyboard, and the above quote, oft-repeated. On BXT's "Communication Dub" we hear the words "Basque electronic diaspora," along with a Mikel Laboa song, one of the few he recorded in Spanish.

The often hard-edged CD finishes up with a folky piece (accordion and tambourine) by the well-known duo Tapia eta Leturia.

Overall, I like some tracks, am not fussy about others. There's not much in the way of notes, just the basic song information and a short article in French and Basque by Muguruza; the songs speak for themselves.

This collection is just a small sampling of the many artists from Euskal Herria -- the Basque Country. It's not even necessarily the best work of all artists included, but it does give some idea what a Basque Planet might sound like.

review by
David Cox

20 October 2007

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