I mentioned Basque folk music in my last post. Always uniquely itself, this ‘stateless nation’ between N.E. Spain and South France has preserved and cherished its music through the years. For some time! – a 22,000 year old flute made from the bone of a bird has been discovered in Izturitz and elsewhere a trumpet dating from the Azilica period.
But not until 1870 when Chants Populaires was published, were the songs and music of the region made widely available. Folk music and the improvisations that are characteristic of the region, have became a possession of the people and a means of identifying and celebrating their language and their culture.
In the twentieth century a series of competitions began that continue to this day. There are colleges devoted to the preservation and development of national music. The annual competition has been revived in four districts of the southern Basque country, and whereas in the Franco years, song and dance were treasured secretly and became synonymous with resistance, now traditional music and musicians are in great demand.
The Basque choral tradition, one of the strongest in Europe, is immensely vigorous and makes a great contribution to the culture of the region. In the south a mystery play is produced in a different village every year, supported by typical music and dance. As many as 5,000 people crowd into the narrow valleys to watch and listen to these open-air performances.
I made a rather sour reference to pop music last time. One of the achievements of the Basque country is that some well known performers have brought together popular and traditional music, to the advantage of both and to the enjoyment of many.
…and next time we travel to the N.W., to Gallicia.