Following a night of bad craziness in El Valle de Baztan (See previous entry) I found myself on the road once again. This time we travelled from the north of Navarra were things are profoundly Basque to the town of Sartaguda in the south where the tradition of speaking Basque (Euskera) is not quite so well preserved. That’s not to say that folks here feel any less Basque. Neither do they harbour any sentiments of xenophobia towards their Spanish neighbours or itinerant Scotsmen who stumble into the fiesta.
On this occasion we were there to celebrate the anniversary of Ibaialde Ikastola. The local primary school where classes are given in Euskera. These schools are essential to the survival of Euskera. While Euskera, like any minority language, is under serious threat of extinction it has undoubtedy experienced an extraordinary revival in the last ten years. Certainly in Gasteiz we have gone from a situation in which it was seldom heard to a point where it can be heard on any street corner or bar.
The objective of the Fiesta in Sartaguda was to raise funds for the support of the Ikastola. I have been lucky in that I have travelled to many different countries but I have yet to find a place to equal Euskal Herria regarding popular initiatives. Here the parents association had organised una comida popular (a popular lunch) and sold 850 tickets for the event. With sales on the door the number of attendees climbed to around 1000.
To mark this event we were entertained to a session of Bertsolaritza performed by four legendary Bertrolaris; Andoni Egaña, Maialen Lujanbio, Aitsol Barandiaran and Aitor Sarriegi.
A Bertso is a form of spontaneous poetry. The Bertsolari works within certain confines. It could be that they have to work within a certain meter, with particular words, and or with each other. I don’t speak Basque although I’m working on it. I therefore don’t appreciate the nuance and humour that each performance expresses. Nevertheless, there is something magical and contagious about being in the presence of someone who is creating spontaneously. For a more in depth and highly emotive account of Bertsolaritza see this video
As the Betsolari faces his or her audience s/he is open to all possibilities within the confines of the rhyme s/he has been set, the words s/he has been given and what his or her partners in the piece are saying. Within those confines exists an infinity of possibilities. That is my interpretation of what Bertsolaritza is about. It’s as if they are saying, “may the conversation be lively and varied and all topics considered equally”. Those are good principles to guard in any society.