Shooting from the Lip: Bertsolariak Ipar Amerikan
Improvised Basque-Verse Singing

Compiled, edited and translated by Joxe Mallea Olaetxea


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Product Details:

ISBN: 0-615-12403-8
Format: Hardcover, 437 pages
Publication Date
: 2003
North American Basque Organizations

This book is a compilation of the bertsoak (improvised Basque verses) of North American Bertsolariak (improvisers) including Johnny Kurutxet, Jesus Arriada, Jesus Goñi, and Martin Goikoetxea, who In 2003 were the recipients of a National Heritage Fellowship from the National Endowment for the Arts.  This is the country’s highest honor in the folk and traditional arts.  

The introduction  includes an explanation of the art of the bertsolari (improviser) and some verses of Fernando ” Xalbador” Aire, a renowned bertsolari from Urepele in the Basque Country about his visit to North America. 
Each verse appears in the original Euskara and also in English translation.   
Below is a sample from page 124 and the video from the actual event - Kantari Eguna 1990.  It is an excerpt from Small Talk Over Coffee.  Here Kurutxet and Arriada perform Punttuka - Arriada is the wife and Kurutxet is the husband - a classic improvisation topic. Click on the photo to start the video.
Arriada and Kurutxet - Click to play video
From the back cover:

Basque people and bertsoak (improvised verse-singing) go hand-in-hand, and wherever the Basques emigrated they took along all the elements of the tradition: the bard and his audience, improvised and written poetry, and even the tunes learned in their hometowns.  The bertso  plant has stayed small and scrawny in some American places because of the climate or the lack of soil.  However, at other times it grew and gave wonderful fruit.

Until now in the Americas, Argentina has been the champion of bertso singing.  Let us mention just one name, Pedro Mari Otaño, who verse-singing enthusiasts still remember.  The art is more recent in the U.S., but right now it is the strongest and most promising.  While those in Argentina invited only one bertsolari (improvising singer), Pello Errota, U.S. Basques have played hosts to Xalbador, Mattin, Azpillaga, Lopategi, Euzkitze, Peñagarikano, Egaña, and others.

We, Basques have been rather negligent concerning our own culture, and we thus began late collecting bertsoak. That happened in the Basque Country and abroad even more so.  But with this superb compilation, it appears that things are turning around.  A poet once said that as you travel you build the road, and author Joxe Mallea-Olaetxe intends to carry on with the project he started.  May he nurture the bertso tree of the United States so that it may turn into reality what Iparragirre said about the Oak Tree of Gernika: “Give forth and spread your fruit in the world.”

Antonio Zavala
Publisher and Editor, Auspoa Bertso Poetry Books

Xabier, Nafarroa, October 14, 2002

Orders of Shooting from the Lip handled by:

Zenbat Gara E.D.T. homepage