Tag Archives: Basque music

Artist Profiles: Kepa Junkera

Kepa Junkera

Kepa Junkera was born in Bilbao (located in the Basque region of Spain) in 1965. His first musical dream was realized when the band Oskorri became interested in a boy who played the trikitixa (Basque diatonic accordion) with such extraordinary skill. From 1983 onward they have shared an uninterrupted musical friendship and Junkera has played on most Oskorri albums as well as been a guest performer on several of their tours and concerts.

A composer as well as a performer, Junkera’s first original pieces were recorded in 1988 on the album Kepa, Zabaleta eta Mutriku. His two subsequent albums, 1990’s Triki Up and 1991’s Triki Zoom, are outstanding examples of a blend between jazz and trikitixa dance music.

In 1992 Junkera’s European experiences were reflected in Trans-Europe Diatonic, a special diatonic accordion trio project with John Kirkpatrick and Riccardo Tesi. The album, recorded in Belgium and followed by a long European tour, was the genesis of many international friendships Junkera has continued to nurture.

After releasing Kalegira Al-Buk, an album with an international folk rock sound, and Lau Eskuetara (recorded with Julio Pereira), Junkera joined forces with Ibon Koteron, a master of the alboka, a unique Basque wind instrument made out of two ram’s horns. Their album, Leonen Orroak (1996), explored the folk music of Junkera’s Basque homeland.

Junkera has performed on the road and in the studio with many important international folk musicians such as Béla Fleck, Carlos Núñez, Paddy Moloney and Phil Cunningham. Bilbao 00:00h, an album of unusual scope and vision, is one of these collaborations.

Kepa Junkera suffered a stroke while on tour in Belgium on December 5, 2018 and was recovering in a hospital.


Triki Up (Elkarlanean, 1990)
Trikitixa Zoom ‎(Nuba Records, 1991)
Trans-Europe Diatonique ‎(Silex, 1993)
Kalejira Al-Buk ‎(Elkarlanean, 1994)
Lau Eskutara (Elkar , 1995)
Leonen Orroak (Elkar, 1996)
Bilbao 00:00h (Resistencia, 1998)
Maren ‎(EMI, 2001)
K ‎(EMI, 2003)
Athletic Bihotzez ‎(Fundación Athletic Club, 2004)
Hiri (Elkar, 2006)
Etxea ‎(Warner Music Spain, 2008)
Fandango: Provença Sessions ‎(Hiri Records, 2009)
Kalea ‎(Warner Music Spain, 2009)
Fandango: Habana Sessions ‎(Hiri Records, 2010)
Beti Bizi (2010)
Herria (2010)
Ultramarinos & Coloniales ‎(Warner Music Spain, 2011)
Galiza ‎(Fol, 2013)
Trikitixaren historia txiki bat – Una pequeña historia de la trikitixa, with Sorginak (2014)
Maletak ‎(Altafonte, 2016)


Artist Profiles: Alboka

Alboka circa 2001 with Marta Sebestyén

The year 1994 saw the founding of the group Alboka by three well-known Spanish Basque musicians and one Irishman. Aside from their personal musical projects, these four different personalities, Txomin Artola (guitar), Josean Martin Zarko (mandolin, bouzouki), Joxan Goikoetxea (accordion, synths) and Alan Griffin (alboka, bagpipes, flute), decided to set up a group that would compile and perform acoustic instrumental traditional music.

The combination of guitars, mandolins, bouzoukis, ttunttun, accordion, alboka, bagpipes, flutes and crumhorns, and a carefully chosen selection of dances and airs taken from the living tradition and from the great Basque music collectors gave rise to a first disc that was something new in a Basque folk music scene, more accustomed to vocal recordings.

As a result of having gained recognition abroad, Alboka played at many important international folk festivals including Dranouter (Belgium), Folkest (Italy), Euromusica (Hungary), Forde (Norway), Panceltic Music Festival (Italy), Folk Segovia (Spain), Músicas Vivas (Spain), Torrelavega Folk Festival (Spain), etc.

In 1997 they were joined by fiddler Juan Arriola. The group began to include in their repertoire both vocal material and newly composed tunes in the traditional style.

These developments are reflected in their second CD, “Bi Beso Lur”, which also includes important guest musicians and confirms their distinct acoustic style in the treatment of instrumental Basque music.

On Lorius, Alboka featured one of the top folk music singers from Hungary, Marta Sebestyén.


Alboka (1994)
Bi Beso Lur (Aztarna , 1998
Lorius (Resistencia, 2001)
Lau Anaiak (Elkar, 2004)


Artist Profiles: Kalakan

Kalakan – Photo by Bernard

Kalakan is a band from the northern Basque country (France) featuring Thierry Biscary, Jamixel Bereau and Xan Errotabehere. Its style consists of minimalist arrangements (vocals, percussion) of Basque traditional songs. After touring Europe with pianists Katia and Marielle Labèque, the trio became known to a larger audience when they collaborated with Madonna during The MDNA Tour.

Kalakan was formed in 2009 by Paxkal Indo and Thierry Biscary, a chalaparta duo. They invited percussionist Frédéric Chambon to join them to form a trio. Before initiating their first artist in residence program to prepare their first album, Chambon was replaced by vocalist and percussionist Jamixel Bereau.

The Kalakan album was recorded at Laguna Records in Biarritz and mixed in Paris in 2010.

Paxkal Indo was later replaced by vocalist and percussionist Xan Errotabehere. Kalakan won the song contest 2011 at the Transhumances musicales festival in Laàs.

During the summer of 2011, Kalakan were introduced to Madonna by Katia and Marielle Labèque during her vacation at their house on the coast of the northern Basque country. On Madonna’s 53rd birthday, August 16, 2011, Kalakan performed their version of Ravel’s Bolero and some of their songs. Madonna liked Kalakan and asked the trio to accompany her on tour in 2012. After a workshop in New York City in February 2012, participation of Kalakan in The MDNA Tour was confirmed.

In Basque, Kalakan means “chatting”. The band members arrange Basque traditional songs to give them a contemporary sound, incorporating pop and rock structures. The percussion techniques used by the trio are inspired by world music bands as Dakha Brakha (Ukraine), Barbatuques (Brazil) and Berrogüetto (Spain).

Kalakan plays percussion instruments (pandereta, chalaparta, tobera, ttun-ttun, atabal), body percussion and handcrafted large drums.


Kalakan (2010)
Elementuak (2015)


Artist Profiles: Bidaia

Bidaia in 2015 at EXIB in Bilbao – Photo by Angel Romero


A musical duo for more than 5 years, Caroline Phillips and Mixel Ducau formed the group Bidaia with Ritxi Salaberria and Jabi Area. Together, these four musicians create music rooted in Basque traditional dance melodies and rhythms as well as international folk music.

The traditional Basque instruments, the alboka (a small hornpipe – played with circular breathing), ttun-ttun (stringed-percussive inst.) and chirula (3-holed flute) are combined with acoustic guitar and piano as well as with other musical traditions: hurdy-gurdy, Moroccan darbuka and Peruvian cajón.

Bidaia members:

Mixel Ducau: Alboka, acoustic guitar, flutes, ttun-ttun, foot tambourine, lead vocals. Mixel is a  native of the Basque Country (France) and founder of the very successful Basque contemporary rock group Errobi in 1975. A multi-talented instrumentalist, Mixel is an accomplished saxophonist and a composer and arranger for many groups throughout southern Europe.

Caroline Phillips: lead vocals, hurdy-gurdy and piano. Born in Northern California’s Bay Area, she studied classical voice in Paris and regularly performed in jazz clubs and private parties for the ex-patriot American community. She began composing in 1988 and moved to the French Basque Country in 1992.

Ritxi Salaberria: upright bass. Born in Hondarribia (Fuenterrabía) in Spain’s Basque Country, Ritxi studied classical flute in Pamplona and bass in London. A studio musician, Ritxi has worked with Spanish pop and rock artists Diego Vasallo (Duncan Dhu), Cesar Cuenca (Celtas Cortos), Julia Leon and French musician Pascal Gaigne, and is a founding member of several popular groups.

Jabi Area percussion. Born in San Sebastian (Basque Country, Spain), Jabi studied classical percussion at the conservatory while playing rock and Basque folk music. He has played with a large number of Spanish and Basque artists including: Cesar Cuenca (Celtas Cortos), Iñaki Salvador and Mikel Laboa.


Oihan (Resistencia, 2003)
Duo (2007)
Agur Shiva (2011)
Hitza (2016)


Basque Trad Meets Hurdy Gurdy

Bidaia – Agur Shiva (Bidaia, 2011)

Bidaia is a duo that plays contemporary Basque folk music mixed with global sounds. What stands out is the combination of traditional Basque instruments like the alboka (a small hornpipe played with circular breathing) with the hurdy gurdy.

On the album Agur Shiva we find Basque musician Mixel Ducau and American hurdy gurdy player Caroline Phillips. The duo sings in Basque and is joined by various guests who bring in a wide-range of instruments and musical influences.

Throughout the album you’ll listen to traditional Basque music influences from the Basque provinces in France and Spain, Medieval sounds, North African and Indian percussion, Middle Eastern ud, Cajun, Indian mantras, and some jazz-style improvisation.

Mixel Ducau is a multi-instrumentalist, composer, vocalist and songwriter who played in legendary Basque-rooted progressive rock group Errobi. Caroline Phillips is a hurdy gurdy virtuoso and singer-songwriter from California, of Greek and Persian origin. She appeared on a TED Talk when she presented Hurdy-gurdy for beginners at TED Global in 2010.

The line-up on Agur Shiva includes Mixel Ducau on vocals, guitar, alboka and bamboo clarinet; Caroline Phillips on vocals and hurdy gurdy. Guests featured: Iñigo Egia on percussion; Amaiur Cajaraville on bass; Aziz Fayet on ud and darbuka; Elixabet Dufour on pandero (frame drum) and chirula (three-holed flute), Claude Cellan on washboard; Christophe “Kiki” Grasciel on harmonica; Harkaitz Martinez de San Vicente and Mikel Ugarte on stone chalaparta; Niko Etxart, Petti and Alaia Phillips Ducau on vocals; and Boris Witbois provides the om mantra chant.

Buy Agur Shiva


Suitcases Express Iberian Music Tales

Kepa Junkera & Sorginak – Maletak (Fol, 2016)

Accordion player Kepa Junkera and his regular companions Sorginak have released one of Kepa’s finest albums in years. Although Kepa Junkera is still known as a virtuoso’s accordionist, he’s also taken an interest in percussion and plays a wide range of percussion instruments. He’s joined by the all-female ensemble Sorginak, who sing and play frame drums.

Maletak (suitcase) makes reference to the old accordion cases Kepa kept in a loft that reminded him of his numerous travels. On this occasion, Kepa and his colleagues explore the folk music and rhythms of the various regions of Spain.

The regions covered include the Basque Country, Castile and Leon, Catalonia, Aragon, Cantabria, Galicia, Castile La Mancha, Asturias and Extremadura. Even though Kepa has composed all the music, he adds more authenticity to the project by bringing in an impressive list of guest musicians representing various folk music traditions.

Kepa follows the lead of Spanish folk music innovator Eliseo Parra, who appears as guest on the album. Parra has been exploring the folk music of the Iberian Peninsula and has reintroduced dozens of traditional musical instruments and rhythms.

As indicated earlier, the album features extensive use of percussion, especially frame drums along with the accordion, Spanish guitars, zanfona (hurdy gurdy), gaita (bagpipe), horns along with many guest vocalists and vocal ensembles.

The guest vocalists include Sorginak, Ion Elustondo, Beloki, Imanol Urkizu, Xabi Solano, Eliseo Parra, Gritsanda, Amadeu Rosell, Guillem Ballaz, Beatriz Bernard, Rocio Sapiña, Lourdes Escusol, Xabier Diaz, Adufeiras de Salitre, La Ronda de Motilleja, Hermanos Cubero, Pandereteras de Fitoria, Acetre, Amigos de Extremadura, and Olga y los Ministriles.

The extraordinary ensemble of musicians includes Kepa Junkera on accordions and percussion; Sorginak on percussion; Daniel Do Pando on trompa; Ibon Koteron on alboka; Oreka TX on chalaparta; Jose Luis Montón on guitar; Josete Ordoñez on guitar; Antonio Serrano on harmonica; Diego Galaz on fiddle and mandolin; Germán Diaz on zanfona (hurdy gurdy) and Pedro Lamas on saxophone and bagpipe.

Kepa Junkera’s album design always attracts attention. The beautifully packaged CD contains a large horizontal 24-page booklet with lyrics, photographs by Igotz Ziarreta and Santi Yaniz, and a set of 10 cards that are pieces of a jigsaw puzzle developed by Rober Garay and Alberto Palomera.

Maletak is a beautifully-crafted music project by a talented and diverse group of musicians that illustrates the rich diversity of Spanish folk music. Highly recommended.

Buy Maletak in the Americas

Buy Maletak in Europe


Accordionist Kepa Junkera Announces New Album, Maletak

Kepa Junkera and Sorginak
Kepa Junkera and Sorginak

Diatonic accordion virtuoso and composer Kepa Junkera has announced the release of his new album titled Maletak. The album will be available June 3rd.

Kepa explains his concept as follows: “I’m so glad I kept the Triki suitcases!. I had stored them in the attic but they have acquired a special meaning for this project. They inspire me and tell me stories that they only know. The suitcases are the first to travel, they store the excitement generated right before you open them and discover what they contain, the essence of my days, the sonic reason for my travels, the worn nomad instrument waiting impatiently for its best moment.

I wanted to unite luggage and animals in impossible scenery that resonates deeply with my soul. We are in an ancestral landscape that feels close and ours. The Flysch reminds me of the folds of the triki and the ocean moves and roars just like the bellows that breathes in the air and marks the rhythm. Nature, animals, luggage, Sorginak … A journey after all, full of melodies and poetry. Enjoy this mixture and feel the power of nature, the arcane and the unusual.”

The Spanish regions of Galicia, Aragon, Catalonia, the Basque Country, Castilla y Leon are stages of this musical journey. Kepa is joined once more by the all-female ensemble Sorginak.

The guest vocalists include: Sorginak, Ion Elustondo, Beloki, Imanol Urkizu and Xabi Solano from the Basque Country. Eliseo Parra and Gritsanda from Castilla and Leon. Amadeu Guillem Rosell and Ballaz from Catalonia. Beatriz Bernard, Rocio Sapiña and Lourdes Escusol from Aragon. Xabier Diaz and Adufeiras de Salitre from Galicia.

Also featured is an impressive cast of musicians: Daniel Do Pando, Ibon Koteron, Oreka TX, Jose Luis Monton, Josete Ordoñez, Antonio Serrano, Diego Galaz, Germán Diaz and Pedro Lamas.

The CD will be released in a 24-page booklet with photographs by Igotz Ziarreta and Santi Yaniz and 10 cards which are pieces of a jigsaw puzzle created by Rober Garay and Alberto Palomera.


Three Continents Represented at EXIB 2016 Day 1 Showcases

The threat of rain forced organizers to move the EXIB 2016 showcase stage from the Roman Temple of Évora (Templo de Diana) to Praça do Giraldo in downtown Evora. The first artist to appear on stage was Chilean singer-songwriter Nano Stern. Armed with just a guitar and his vocals, he put on a lively show. Nano is deeply influenced by the Nueva Canción Chilena, especially artists like Victor Jara and Inti Illimani.

As I am gradually able to create powerful vibrations, other people can feel the effect that this has; if it is intense, then everything vibrates around it,” says Nano about his work. His discography includes Live in Concert; Las Torres de Sal; Los Espejos; Nano Stern; Mil 500 Vueltas; and Voy y Vuelvo.

Nano’s lyrics are charged with political and anti-establishment messages. Unlike other singer-songwriters in the past, he strums and plays some solos on his acoustic guitar wildly, looking more like a rocker than a folk singer. His one-man show was highly entertaining.


Mariola Membrives at EXIB 2016 - Photo by Angel Romero
Mariola Membrives at EXIB 2016 – Photo by Angel Romero


The next artist scheduled to perform was Ecuadorian singer Mariela Condo. Unfortunately, she wasn’t able to make it due to the devastating earthquake in Ecuador. Mariela was replaced by Spanish vocalist, dancer and educator Mariola Membrives.


 Mariola Membrives and Masa Kamaguchi at EXIB 2016 - Photo by Angel Romero

Mariola Membrives and Masa Kamaguchi at EXIB 2016 – Photo by Angel Romero


Membrives performed part of her “La Llorona” show. It’s a mix of flamenco, Latin American influences and jazz. She appeared before the live audience accompanied by bassist Masa Kamaguchi. While Membrives sang with a mixture of flamenco and jazz vocal techniques, Masa Kamaguchi performed serpentine jazz bass lines. It was an unexpected mix that felt like two simultaneous performances on stage, but it worked.


Duarte at EXIB 2016 - Photo by Angel Romero
Duarte at EXIB 2016 – Photo by Angel Romero


The third act, Duarte, brought the passion and charisma of fado to downtown Evora. Duarte started the show saying “Welcome to my square, welcome to our square. It’s good to be back home after so many travels.” Duarte is a native of Evora and has a fado and pop and rock background. He researched traditional Fado lyrics and music and has composed his own songs that form part of his repertoire. In 2006 the Amalia Rodrigues Foundation awarded him the Emerging Male Fado Singer prize.

The audience loved Duarte’s captivating performance. He was accompanied by two outstanding instrumentalists, Pedro Amendoeira on guitarra portuguesa (Portuguese guitar) and Rogério Ferreira on viola de fado (fado guitar).


Pedro Amendoeira at EXIB 2016 - Photo by Angel Romero
Pedro Amendoeira at EXIB 2016 – Photo by Angel Romero


 Rogério Ferreira at EXIB 2016 - Photo by Angel Romero

Rogério Ferreira at EXIB 2016 – Photo by Angel Romero


Duarte has released three albums “Fados Meus” (2004), “Aquelas Coisas da Gente” (2009) and “Sem dor nem piedade” (2015).


Karyna Gomes with Ivan Gomes - Photo by Angel Romero
Karyna Gomes with Ivan Gomes – Photo by Angel Romero


Vocalist and percussionist Karyna Gomes brought the sounds of Guinea Bissau to EXIB 2016. Karyna grew up in Guinea Bissau and was a member of the iconic Super Mama Djombo. She currently lives in Portugal.

During her show, Karyna introduced the gourd water drum played only by women and despite having a drummer, Karyna delivered a set of laid back songs.


gourd water drum - Photo by Angel Romero
gourd water drum – Photo by Angel Romero


Karyna Gomes recently recorded her first solo album, titled “Mindjer“, produced by Paulo Borges. “Mindjer” is a tribute to the strength, determination and courage of the women of Guinea Bissau.

Karyna Gomes’ band included Jose Afonso on keyboards; Hugo Aly on bass; Nir Paris on drums; Ivan Gomes on guitar; and Ibrahima Galissa on kora.


Kalakan at EXIB 2016 - Photo courtesy of EXIB Música
Kalakan at EXIB 2016 – Photo courtesy of EXIB Música


Northern Basque band Kalakan put on a popular show, using drums, the alboka animal horn (hornpipe), the chalaparta percussion instrument and Basque traditional vocals. The trio sings in Basque and their dynamic show was well-liked by the audience.

Kalakan has a new album titled Elementuak that features instrumental and a cappella pieces, combining traditional sounds with newly composed material.

Band members include Thierry Biscary on vocals and percussion; Jamixel Bereau on vocals and percussion; and Xan Errotabehere on vocals, alboka, flute and percussion.

related articles:

The Passionate Music of Alentejo, the Focus of EXIB 2016 Opening Concert

related links:

Nano Stern
Mariola Membrives

Headline photo: Nano Stern at EXIB 2016 – Photo by Angel Romero