Seven Basque witches, and the fire from Kepa Junkera

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Music is the heart of the fiestas. Music without tags. Music that can take us to any part of the world in just seconds. These days in Pamplona there is a cacophony of sounds and rhythms. Sanfermin is a dance that dances with you. Serene, elegant or drunk, the party-makers move up and down the streets, incessantly. Take a moment’s rest at any corner of the old quarter, in any narrow street whatsoever and you soon begin to notice the sound of beating drums, the lively tone of flaring flutes, the latest pop song, the ancestral sound of the wooden txalaparta, the piercing blare of the saxophone or a batukada… a lovely chaotic rhythm locked in anarchical harmony.

The city oozes music. Both the spontaneous and the well-rehearsed. A program of more than 450 concerts offers the party-seekers the possibility of sharing and enjoying for free the art that most quickly makes us feel as one, makes us realize the same at bottom, all part of the human race. Because, the singular essence of the Sanfermin spirit is that sense of brotherhood with those around us, who dresses more or less the same as you, who wishes to enjoy the party more or less the same as you and so, who brings out the best to share it with the rest. You take hold of the one next to you, although you don’t know him at all, you hold him by the shoulder, you do the same with your other arm out and you feel that connection, that link that becomes a chain that connects to everyone, and when you feel that, you let the music move you in unison with all the rest.

Someone who knows a lot about that musical affinity is Kepa Junkera, a musician from Bilbao and a musician from the entire world. He travels the globe with his trikitixa, a small traditional Basque accordion, – an instrument which, for more than a century now, has been creating happiness in the squares and streets of festive towns all over the place. Kepa and his accordion have been telling their tales in Tokyo, Istanbul, New York, Buenos Aires, París, Stockholm… and an endless list of other cities which have been captivated by this ‘aviva fueguitos’ instrument. With the same instrument he has bewitched musicians of all styles and roots: Luz Casal, Carmen París, Antonio Carmona, Aran Malikian, Dulce Pontes, Carlos Núñez, The Chieftains, to mention some of the best known.

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This year Kepa Junkera has come to Pamplona with a very special Project with which he aims to continue to express his passion for the trikitixa as he conceives that instrument. Singing, dancing and playing. All in one. Kepa Junkera himself explained it to us just a few hours before the concert: “this is how I conceive the trikitixa. That is how it was transmitted to me by those who came before. I am going to try to present something new”. He himself learned from those strolling musicians who went from town to town playing the trikitixa and cheering up the lives of their people in towns and villages.

Our grandparents are wont to relate how when they were young, in the towns, the highlight of the week was the Sunday afternoon dancing and singing in the square to the rhythm of the trikitixa and maybe drink a glass of wine (if they were lucky enough to have some money in their pockets) and try to get off with someone, which was never easy, even when you had set your eyes on that person. In those far-off days there was noWhatsapp, nor Spotify, nor Facebook… and the basic entertainment came from playing live music. That is why, he has now introduced a group of ‘sorginak’ (witches) all in their twenties, who sing and play the tambourines as they dance which turns the stage into a veritable oasis of happiness.

Seven Basque women and Kepa Junkera fanning the flames with his trikitixa. Amets Ormaetxea, Alaitz Escudero, Leire Etxezarreta, Irati Gutiérrez, Garazi Otaegui, María Lasa and Alaitz Aulestia: tambourine, voice, dance and percussions. They played as part of the Euskal Musika (Basque music) program in the Taconera Park. They emanated loads of joy and happiness. The large audience sang along with the old songs, from our parents and grandparents time and even further back.

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A quality show, packed out and which left the whole attendance dancing to their heart’s content.

At his Twitter, the musician himself summed it up like this : “Great scene yesterday, , eskerrik asko Iruña¡¡¡ Now to get ready for Lugo, Torralba de Calatrava and Zamora… Good days are coming!… each day it gets better sharing and playing my music with so many friends”. If you happen to be near one of the summer concerts in your city or on holidays, don’t miss it. The next one is the 17th of July, in the Museo Guggenheim in Bilbao, at the gala event for the 150th Red Cross Annivsary. That is followed by El Vendrell, San Joan de les Abadesses, Isaba, Alp. check out here to get some idea of how much those witches get around…

Photos: © Javier Martínez de la Puente