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Bertan 24


In Basque, a bertsolari is someone who composes and sings bertsos (improvised verses). "Bertsolarism" is a form of improvised oral expression, with long roots in Basque popular literature. The tradition, which can be traced back at least to the improvising lady verse composers of the fifteenth century, is currently going through a particularly creative stage and has now become a major spectacle attracting large numbers of followers.

Mendian gora haritza ahuntzak haitzean dabiltza itsasoaren arimak dakar ur gainean bitsa. Kantatu nahi dut bizitza usteltzen ez bazait hitza mundua dantzan jarriko nuke Jainkoa banintza.

379. These popular bertsos were written by Xabier Amuriza (1941, Zornotza), considered to be the great reviver of this art in the 1980s. A prolific writer and researcher, as well as being a poet and essayist, he has promoted and revolutionised the technique and teaching of today's bertsolaris. 380. Bertsolarism is an improvised oral challenge in which the bertsolaris enter into a dialogue and respond to one another. At the same time they must adhere to a given subject and to the metre of the verse. The bertso is divided into points, and each point, depending on the metrics, has a certain number of syllables. 381. Kepa Enbeita Urretxindorra, (Muxika, 1878-1942). Enbeita led the way for bertsolarism from the sidrerías or cider houses to the theatres before the war. 382. The championships were the driving force of the bertsolarism of the resistance years (1960-1979). Auspoa, the collection created by Antonio Zavala in 1964, contains the improvised bertsos from those finals. The collection, which was kept up for some time by the publisher Sendoa is now run by the Provincial Government of Gipuzkoa; it now comes to 300 volumes and is considered a treasure of oral literature. 383. 383. The bertsos, like the bertsolaris themselves, play a social function. They deal with all manner of themes, commenting on historical and current events, and express the concerns of all tiers of society: from the aeroplane to the mobile phone, the repression of the dictatorship and the prohibitions of the transition, to the campaign to stop racism; from sex to immigration. 384. Txirrita, Jose Manuel Lujanbio (Hernani, 1860-1936), was the paradigm of the classic bertsolarism that developed in the sidrerías at the end of the nineteenth century and beginning of the twentieth. 385. Iñaki Eizmendi, Basarri (Errezil, 1913) and Manuel Olaizola, Uztapide (Zestoa, 1909-1983) commonly teamed up in the competitions. Basarri and Uztapide, among others, ensured the continuance and development of bertsolarism in the post-war period, when in was practically the only activity in Basque to be tolerated by the Franco regime. 386. Fernando Aire Xalbador (Urepel, 1920-1976). Shepherd and bertsolari. Apart from his written bertsos, many of which have now been made into songs, he was an extraordinary improviser, with a rare poetic sensitivity. 387. The most commonly used rhythms are the zortziko nagusia, zortziko txikia, hamarreko nagusia and hamarreko txikia, each with its own metrics and melodies for addressing different themes. A "poto" is a fault consisting of repeating a word-rhyme. It is tolerated in the town-squares contests, but penalised in the championships. 388. Maialen Lujanbio, the 2009 champion. 389. At the end of the 1950s, Euskaltzaindia toured the Basque Country in search of bertsolaris and organised territorial competitions. The result was the Basque Championship organised by Euskaltzaindia in 1960. 390. Among the top bertsolaris, an educated and creative generation has now triumphed whose texts contain the best of the oral tradition with present-day literature, comics and cinema. The philologist and writer Andoni Egaña (Zarautz, 1961), four-times absolute champion (from 1993 to 2005), has spearheaded this new bertsolarism. 391. The formats of the challenges currently vary greatly: around a table, spectacle in a town square, festivals, championships and tributes. Some of the most notable of the new forms include theme sessions, combined sessions with musicians (bertso jazz) and even cabaret. 392. Pernando Amezketarra (Amezketa, 1764-1823) was a Gipuzkoan bertsolari, famous for his incisiveness and his wit. His stories form part of the popular Basque heritage and in 1981 they featured in a cartoon series directed by Juanba Berasategi. 393. The first bertsolari championship was organised in 1934 by Joxe Ariztimuño, Aitzol, with its own rules, jury and prizes. The championships helped move this art from the cider houses and turn it into a solemn occasion. The audiences also changed: its constant followers were now joined by the Basque intelligentsia. 394. The great boom in bertsolarism came at the end of the 1980s with a new generation of bertsolaris: Sebastian Lizaso, Jon Enbeita, Jon Sarasua, Jon Lopategi, Angel Mari Peñagarikano, Iñaki Murua and Andoni Egaña. This success was partly due to the launch of the television programme on bertsolarism, Hitzetik Hortzera (1988). By the 1993 finals, the bertsolaris had become well-known figures in Basque culture. 395. At the final of the 2009 championship, fifteen thousand spectators packed the Bilbao Exhibition Center to follow the action of the eight finalists, and applaud the triumph of Maialen Lujanbio (Hernani, 1976) the first woman ever to don the champion's beret. 396. Poster for a bertsolari championship in Getxo. 396. Poster for a bertsolari championship in Getxo. 397. Bertso eskolak, the schools of bertsolaris, played an important role in passing this literary form on to children and young people. There are currently around a hundred, scattered throughout the Basque Country. Amaia Iturrioz, Twenty-first Basque school bertsolari championships.
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