Published Date: 23 January 2011
By JAN FAIRLEY
KEPA Junkera is a great ambassador for the Basque country, and his concerts rarely disappoint. His trikitixa music, played on a variety of diatonic accordions, is accompanied by his inspiring band which includes the attractive sound of the txalaparta, a wooden xylophone-like instrument struck by a duo armed with rounded sticks.
Junkera often has a surprise up his sleeve and this time it was Leioa Kantika Korala, 15 young women led by Basilio Astulez. Their vocal harmonies were enhanced by choreographed moves whose sensual fluidity, visually enhanced by the sway of their multicoloured silken harem pants, added a captivating visual dimension.
However, having transformed the music of Basque mountain shepherds into something alluringly feel-good, Junkera makes no attempt to tell us what we're listening to. It was a tad frustrating to have a sequence of a dozen songs sung in Europe's most esoteric language with no explanation from the stage as to their subject and no good old-fashioned programme to inform us.
These imaginative settings of ancient ballads of the Bay of Biscay, collected by improvising bertsolari poet Xabier Amuriza, use beautiful melodies and in novel style several involve recorded fragments of Mongolian throat-singing. While the meaning remains a mystery, the overall effect was joyfully bucolic, as the women's clear, light voices wove glittering tapestries of sound. Crowned by Junkera's rapid-fire playing and his band's witty use of stamping tubes and an electrified cow's horn, this was a uplifting night defined by intriguing innovation.