miércoles, 24 de noviembre de 2010

I seek to open the Basque songs to the World

Published in DEIA by Andrés Portero

Kepa Junkera presented yesterday Herria, a record that concludes the trilogy of euskaldun music recorded next to musicians of other countries that started with Etxea and followed by Kalea, so that it can be internationally known the songs of the Basques, mainly in the Diaspora.

Bilbao. The Basque musician puts an end to the trilogy after collaborating with 130 artists of more than thirty different countries, from Estrella Morente to Teresa Salgueiro, Juanes, Aute, Calamaro, Lila Downs or Leo Gieco. In Herria he is in the company of musicians like Glen Vélez, Eleftheria Arvanitaki, Justin Vali or Dave Douglas, distinguished musicians that he adds Boise's choruses, of gospel or of the American Indians, to sing and play to songs as Boga boga, Hator hator, Egun da Santi Mamiña, Ene izar maitea, Eperrak or Agur Xiberua. "When it’s upon creating I am ambitious" Kepa Junkera explains to us in this interview. "I wanted to share our inheritance with the most possible people, to open it to the world," he adds on.

Satisfied or exhausted?

I am calm. I remember when I designed the project in a notebook and the energy that I had then. Now it´s no longer the same, obvious.

Now would you think in getting yourself in this intensive project?

I don't know. Definitely I have asked myself, where did I get myself into. Over all because I had the sensation that the project was unembraceable, that there were many things left behind. The fact is that I know a lot of musicians and, besides, a lot of doors have been opened unto me. Regardless of everything, I look at the result and I feel satisfied. I’m sure that I would do it again.

The numbers overwhelm.

Yes. In Herria 130 artists of 28 different countries have participated. The total of the three records have been; 155 singers, 128 musicians, 17 producers, 53 technicians, 38 recording studios, I have visited 49 countries, worked with 15 photographers and 3 cameramen... At the end, I have recorded 74 songs. I am very happy because eclectic people have collaborated, more or less known.

The most sluggish work would be closing the agenda of so many musicians and the country.

Right, the most tiresome is always the work of coordination and infrastructure. It is sending an e-mail to the people, the translated song, to close hotels and the days of the recording studios to record in other countries ... That, that is not a part of the creative process, takes a lot of energy away but at the same time your so happy seeing how the people have responded to your email.

For Herria you have visited New York, Casablanca, Athens, Boise, Paris, Los Angeles, San Antonio and Istanbul...

In the American part, Istanbul and Athens I had more time then when I’m going to perform. We were allowed more time, recording during the week and making the calendar the way we like it, placing the pieces of the puzzle.

The record and the whole trilogy project surpass ambition.

I am an ambitious musician when it is a matter of creating. I have never been afraid of the projects, yes in respect to share them. However, it was a help for me to be surrounded by a good team that has always backed me up. I have felt strong. Also it is true that there are several types of ambition. In the beginning, for example, there is like a need, a desire of learning and feeling. After that you think about creating, to go further on than just to be a musician, of the composition and the interpretation, and to be producer, to dream up new stadiums and to construct them. That is a privilege.

Do you feel yourself more than a trikitilari?

I like it when they call me "trikitilari" (trikitilari is a basque word meaning the person who plays the diatonic accordion) it means that at last they have admitted me in the club of the trikis. (laughing)

It was hard work, wasn’t it?

I am so proud to have known that traditional world and being part of them. The only thing I can do is to thankful to all of them because I still admire Fasio, Laja, Sakabi, Tapia ... Then I felt the need to do different things ,now knowing another musical dimension. There are people that relate me with the folk music, others with my most global projects ... I have the sensation of not being able to show all that I am that always something stays behind.

You’re talking about learning, right?

Yes, and always in a humble and curiosity way. We have to have our eyes wide open because there is very creative and talented persons out there that frightens you when you meet. These projects have made me have a much more positive vision of the people and to canalize my energy in a creative way.

What role does Herria in the trilogy have?

It is the last leg, the one that closes this project. I like very much the three titles: Etxea, Kalea and Herria. House, street, town ... We decided these titles, the designers that I work in Madrid and me from the sketches that I presented them. I like to take part inside the world of design and the album’s esthetics and in the videos. I’m always trying to contribute because they do know more, but you have a complementary vision that just might work.

In "Etxea" you talked about an invitation to our house- metaphor of the Basque Country, of your song book and culture - to other people.

Definitely, but the idea is simpler than all of that. It was recording euskaldunes songs that I like and sharing them with musicians that I admire from other countries and places. Mainly, what I look for is the people of the Basque Diaspora who listen to those songs that they learned in there time interpreted by people of their country of adoption. Next you can add literature to them, as Saramago wrote before and now, in Herria, Bernardo Atxaga.

In this last record arises a tremendous curiosity, like the participation of the American Indians.

Yes, they belong to several tribes: Cherokees, Navahos and Cheyenne’s. I have made them sing side by side with the descendants of the Basque shepherds, people of California, Nevada and Idaho.

How did you choose between so many collaborators and so many cities?

I decided on the people that I admire, well known as Glen Vélez, greek Eleftheria Arvanitaki, Justin Vali, Dave Douglas ... and other unknown. And I took notice of the cities that I could see as open doors, for example, Casablanca toward Africa or Istanbul toward Orient. Also I chose Paris and New York, where you can find every type of musicians, of Hawaii, of Philippines, of Pakistan, of Armenia, Iran...

Once you told me that you were scared of collaborating with singers when being yourself an instrumental musician.

At the beginning it was a respectable and ignorance issue. I am the producer, back to back with other musicians, and I am with them when they sing. At the end, I decide and the voice gives me so much respect. They all have helped me so much and have given everything, without divisions. The voice is an incredible instrument.

Speaking about the sound, Herria is the most exotic album out of three, right?

Yes, it has many curious things. We have blues, jazz, gospel, folk of different latitudes ... With the Indians I chose the option of leaving it very tribal. With Douglas I chose the improvisation, in order to
give freedom to the musicians. I look for what they could contribute with their vision to my previous ideas. I have heard these songs before recording them.

The final result come closer to the one you have listened to in your imagination?

In some cases it has surprised me. Like Hator hator that is recorded with a Louisiana's gospel choir. It’s difficult to talk about the songs, you have to hear them. What's curious about the project is that I can feel that there is a main strong thread between the three albums in spite of being so different the participating interpreters.

Has the trilogy been better accepted outside than in the Basque Country?

I don't know! I am used to people that has always encouraged me and others that has criticized me. I listen to the whole world, but I follow my road trying to be humble and tolerant. I try to understand the criticism, it is not right to think that what one has in mind is correct.

I can imagine that the dispute with the subvention worth millions that you received from Basque Government is the worst moment of this project.

It’s a part of it. At the end, you hold on to the good things although definitely it was a difficult circumstance. And I assume it. I do not know if they are going to be able to understand the project now that it has been concluded. There will be people that will not listen to it, but I am optimistic. The bad moments are also a part of one.

And they inure.

Absolutely. I have never had it easy. I am self-educated and I got involved in a world, the one of the triki, in which I did not give out the stereotype, from being of city, giving me a lot of detractors. And with this project the same thing. I seek to make a contribution and to share this legacy of our inheritance with all the people possible. I wanted to open it with the world. And I have felt myself with a lot of strength, what I have demonstrated to myself is that I come from Rekalde. It is a pride to be from a neighborhood, inures in the challenges.

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