The txalaparta, the sound of the Basque Country
Music has a privileged place in Basque culture, which has developed its own musical instruments. Traditionally used in rural areas, at festivals, concerts and dances, they are nowadays integrated into symphony orchestras as well as modern music.
One of the best-known traditional instruments of Basque culture is undoubtedly the txalaparta. This percussion instrument consists of several boards placed on supports (formerly baskets on the remains of corn stalks) that are struck rhythmically with two ash tree sticks, generally by two people (txalapartaris). While one performs the basic rhythm, the other does the counter-rhythms, achieving an astonishing degree of coordination and understanding.
This symbol of Basque music has been known since the 15th century, when it was played, above all, at night during agricultural work, apple picking, weddings and festivals. It is said that the sound of the small sticks beating on the wooden planks can be heard within a radius of 5 km.
The survival of the txalaparta is assured, as in recent years it has been able to adapt to all kinds of musical styles. In fact, the fact that Madonna, after hearing it for the first time at a birthday party in the French Basque Country, incorporated it into her world tour has given it enormous media coverage.
The song Open your heart, interspersed with the Basque choruses of the song Sagarra jo is an example of how the txalaparta can be fused with other instruments and styles.
Today, there are numerous schools, among them those of Hernani, Uharte and Txamako. The collective of txalapartaris has managed to make the instrument evolve from the rural to the urban sphere, and it is not only a solo instrument but also forms part of other groups, creating new melodies and rhythms.
Madonna, after hearing the
txalaparta for the first time
at a birthday party
in the French Basque Country,
incorporated it into her tour
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