Tuesday, 26 July 2016

Mikel Laboa: elegance and fragility

A few months ago I wrote a post about a Basque songwriter called Ruper Ordorika and one of his songs, Martin Larralde. This time I’ll write about Mikel Laboa, another Basque songriter who was, I believe, a big inspiration for Ruper Ordorika and definitely one of the biggest Basque singer-songwriters of all time.

Mikel Laboa was born in San Sebastián and lived between 1934 and 2008. He was actually a doctor and worked as such for about twenty years. Meanwhile, he was one of the founders of the cultural group Ez Dok Amairu (There Is No 13) with the goal of revitalizing Basque culture, which was having a tough time under the Franco dictatorship.

I am ashamed to say I only know one of his CDs, Sei (Six), which has mesmerized me in the last few months and which is obviously the one I will talk about.

The first thing that stroke me when I listened to it for the first time is his voice. Sei was released when he was 51 years old and yet Laboa’s voice gives me the impression of belonging to a teenager, as if it wasn’t fully developed. Don’t get me wrong, it’s not a bad thing but rather an interesting combination of fragility and elegance. The fragility reaches its peak in the song Sorterriko Koblak. I don’t know what it says because I barely know a few words in Basque, but in my mind I imagine it as the desperate cry of an introvert teenager for whom music is the only way to properly express his emotions. Yes, I’m sober, thank you very much.

Melancholy is the general mood of the album, which has the piano as the main instrument, always accompanied by Laboa’s guitar and sometimes by an accordion, violin, txalaparta (a sort of huge wooden xylophone for two people) and/or synthethizers, which give this generally traditional sounding album a more experimental sound. There is also one song, Lizardi, which, although not from my favourites, is very interestingly tango-like (or something like that).

Here are a few of my favourite songs from Sei, which I strongly recommend you to listen. As always, here is the facebook page for the blog, in case you are interested.

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