Basque Rural Sports “Herri Kirolak”

The Montaña Alavesa is a mountainous and sparsely populated region in the southern reaches of Alava.  It is home to a couple of thousand people scattered around the numerous little villages.  These villages have changed little in the last few hundred years and you might think that not much happens in these parts.  But where there’s folk there’s an opportunity for a fiesta…

Kabredo can be found the edge of the Sierra De Cantabria just below Leon Dormido (935m).  Over the last three years we have been celebrating a day of Basque rural sports, Herri Kirolak or Highland Games.  Kabredo won last year and hosted this years event.

We anticipated around one hundred people for the popular lunch.  Quite a task but this is an event where everyone is expected to take part and many hands make light work

   

In no time at all the table was set and the festivities began

Basque food is second to none and today’s spread was no exception.  All food locally supplied and washed down with quantities of Rioja and Patxaran for good measure.

The mood was relaxed and lead to a long period of “sobre mesa” (The chat and banter that follows a good feed)  I began to wonder if we would be in any fit state to take part in the Herri Kirolak.

     

So with a belly full of food and a head full of Patxaran the competition began.

Basque sports are brutal and generally involve shifting heavy things from one place to another as fast as possible.

     

MORE PHOTOS HERE

Events such as these are priceless in any community.  There was an element of competition in the Herri Kirolak but to be honest I don’t even know who won.  This is about including everyone and cementing friendships.  It was also an opportunity for us to show our support for Txiki Antia who stands accused of having belonged to D3M  (Democracia 3 Millones). D3M was declared illegal on February 8, 2009, as the Spanish Supreme Court considered that it was linked with the separatist organisation ETA.  A more gentle giant than Txiki you are unlikely to find.

The Herri Kirolak Fiesta in Cabredo was organised with the intention of having a good time and promoting Euskera (Basque language) by Amezti Euskera Elkartea,  XVII Mendea Kultur Elkartea, Mendialdeko Mintzalagan Taldea and people of the various villages

The Alboka

In the small, sleepy, Alaves village of Otazu you can occasionally hear the curiously mournful sound of the Alboka.  The Alboka is a uniquely Basque instrument which sounds a little like a sharper version of the Scottish pipes.

In the shade of some chestnut trees you can find Osses’s Alboka workshop.  Osses has dedicated the last twenty years to researching and making Albokas.  He now gives classes and is without doubt responsible for the revival of interest in this instrument.

 

The Group “No Hay Prisa” (There’s no hurry) comprising Trikitixa (Squeeze box) Bodhran and five Albokaris

 

 

Osses’s work shop is immaculately tidy.  The home of a craftsman and artist.  He built it with the help of friends and neighbours.  It’s one of those places where the good vibes of many a jam session seem to have infused the very walls.

 

 

The name Alboka comes from Arabic “al-bûq” (البوق) meaning simply, the trumpet.  The instrument certainly dates from the twelfth century when the Iberian Peninsula was under Arab rule.  Today similar instruments can be found in Tulun in Turkey and Chivoni in South Georgia.

The Alboka comprises a cows horn connected to twin pipes made of “granedillo” or “cocbolo”  both extremely hard woods, harder even than ebony.
The handle is made of “yugo”
The twin pipes connect to the mouth piece which houses two aluminium tubes.  These tubes are fitted with reeds prepared from a standard Clarinet reed.

MORE PHOTOS HERE

If you like this kind of thing you won’t find better than Bidaia Duo and Ó Euskadi go hÉirinn” (The Basque Irish Connection)