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NIAMH NI CHARRA, IBON KOTERON & GAVIN RALSTON Ó Euskadi Go hÉirinn – The Basque Irish Connection

NIAMH NI CHARRA, IBON KOTERON & GAVIN RALSTON Ó Euskadi Go hÉirinn – The Basque Irish Connection
Imeartas Records IMCD003

Although a primary function of Arts Councils is to promote their own cultures, it is always encouraging to see that some can appreciate what is happening elsewhere.  The Arts Council of Ireland funded Music Network, who have worked with Bizkaiko Foru Aldundia and Leonen Orroak to produce this truly outstanding example of how musicians can explore similarities and differences between their cultures.

The principal performers are Ibon Koteron, albokas, gaita, txistus, vocals; Niamh Ni Charra, concertina, fiddle, vocals; and Gavin Ralston, guitars; with a number of guests, from both backgrounds. The songs and tunes are a mixture of traditional and original compositions, and show that there are universal themes which cut across all nationalities, such as love, hope, concern and drinking, yet there are innumerable ways in which to express these.

The instrumentation provides some of the most obvious differences, and here we get an opportunity to hear the txistu, a three-hole whistle of great antiquity; the alboka, a pipe made of horn with a double clarinet reed, also of great age; and the gaita, another pipe, but with an oboe reed.  There is also a chance to contrast and compare the tempos and time signatures in what is a fascinating and highly entertaining album, with the playing and singing of the highest standards throughout.

The accompanying notes are an excellent source of information, in Euskal, Irish and English, which give equal weight to explanations of the music and histories of both the cultures.  Let’s have more co-operations like this!

Gordon Potter

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This album was reviewed in Issue 91 of The Living Tradition magazine.