Contemporary Basque Music Review
Kepa Junkera : Bilbao 00:00hr
1998 Resistencia cat no. RESCD 065
Kepa Junkera plays the accordion, a Basque accordion no less. His music is used on the Basque National TV channel ETB1 and ETB2 as incidental music regularly. Not for no reason, as a listen to this mavelous album will reveal. Why do I deviate from the august contibutions on this node concerning Basque culture and language to encourage you to listen to a CD? Well you get a bit of both with this.
This album caputures a moment in recent Basque history when things looked very posative, and it projects all the good things about Europe’s oldest culturn e and language with out harping on about the on going troubles. However there is no doubt where Junkera sits, judging by his subtle red, white and green sleeve colour scheme amoungst many other things. What is projected is joy – and long may it continue.
This CD is a delight from one end to the other. The production of this CD would have you believe that that it is full of multi track, gating effects and the like. Nothing could be further from the truth.
To see Kepa Junkera, his fellow musicians and singers live is to understand, it's all real music that can be played and sung by real people as an ensemble. If he requires double accordions for example he will have a second player. His extraordinary command of his instrument, sincerely sounds impossible without the help of hi-tech gadgets, yet it’s all done with the instrument, no samplers, no noise gates. As if to stress this, the microphone on some tracks is so close to the sound source that you can hear the gasps of air as it is quickly sucked back inside for the next blast of tune. Incredible finger work, that EddieVan Halen would have trouble keeping up with!
His ensemble features performers from all aver the world; some of them singing in their local languages, though the dominant idiom is Euskera (Basque), as impenetrable as the African dialect featured on another track, but as beautiful to listen to as any aria.
Strangely although there are instruments and artists from around the world, the African sounding xylophone is in fact the behemoth “Txalabarta” instrument, used for communicating across the Basque mendiak (mountains). And the overall sound of the CD, (and Junkera’s music in general) is unmistakably Basque rather than simply “world” music, though the whole planet seems to be in there! Could it be described as folk ambient? Too much dance, as in Fandango not rave. However this CD sounds very well when chilling out on a Sunday after the hectic Saturday night before, eyes closed in the stereo position, it will take you away on a journey in the sure knowledge that there’s not one quantized midi riff, and that 53 performers are working up a sweat playing while you relax! The fact that this is a double CD is a bonus in these circumstances… as once you’ve tasted Kepa Junkera you’ll want a second helping.
There’s very little on the beat thumping rhythm, four to the floor style, which is very refreshing, the tempo rises and falls, a pretty song here and funky jazz folk latin fusion thang there (Zugarramurdi Dantza)., a reel after that, moments later a Fandango transported to an African village (Santimanineka Fandangoa & ioaeoe). The decidedly world music track (Justin Lagun) is a surprising break from the accordion, sending us to Madagascar and the Andes via Anboto.
All titles on the CD are poetically explained in Euskera, Castellano French and English. And the beautifully crafted packaging contains photography and script encapsulating many features of the Basque culture from which this masterpiece has sprung. Eskerrik asko Kepa, gehiago mezedez!
available from most good music outlets, though you'll probably have to place an order