Basque Music Helps Basque-American Adapt in Euskal Herria


Mikaela Goicoechea

A teacher at Maizpide immersion school plays the accordion for students.

Mikaela Goicoechea, Writer

“Norbaitek ezagutzen du abesti hau?” (“Does anyone know this song?”), my teacher asks every so often. Each time the question is asked, all eyes turn towards me. After three-and-a-half months of studying Euskara (the Basque language) at the Maizpide immersion school in Lazkao, Gipuzkoa with nearly all the same classmates, everyone knows how much I enjoy Basque music and how many Basque songs, artists, and facts I know.

At first, it was a shock to everyone that I, the lone American in the school, knew more Basque songs and music artists than classmates who have spent their whole lives living in or near the Basque Country. But now they expect it, and because of that, I have even lovingly been given the ezizena, or nickname, “Mikapedia.”

READ MORE from Mikaela:
Becoming an Euskaldun Berri
Why Euskararen Eguna (the day of the Basque language) is so Important

It’s probably no surprise that Basque music is a huge part of my life, seeing as how I hold the Music Programs Director position for the North American Basque Organizations (NABO). For as long as I can remember, I have been exposed to Basque music. Growing up in Rock Springs, Wyoming, I have fond memories of my Aita’s Basque CDs playing throughout the house or in the car on road trips as my family sang along. Basque music and melodies were a constant, especially as my Aita practiced and performed his bertsos as one of the few bertsolaris residing in the United States. In addition, I learned quite a few Basque songs at NABO’s Udaleku Basque Summer Camp when I was younger. Despite not coming from a large Basque-American community with a lot of opportunities to learn dances, games, or other expressions of Basque culture, I quickly discovered that singing along to a song was always available to me and put me in my comfort zone.

I knew that Basque music made me feel more at home within the Basque-American community, but before moving to Euskal Herria (the Basque Country), I had no idea how often that would ring true as I adjusted to living here. “It’s not Basque until someone sings,” is a motto of mine that has yet to be proven wrong.

It’s not Basque until someone sings.

Basque woman in front of mountains
Mikaela Goicoechea

Even at sporting events, it’s not uncommon for the crowd to break into a chorus of songs like “Ixil Ixilik Dago” while players are on the court. (You can hear proof of this in the YouTube footage of this Jan. 15 pelota game – singing starts around 1:12). Almost everywhere you go, from bars to stores, from home radios to speakers at large events, you will hear music, and more often than not in Euskal Herria, it is Basque music. While having folk songs in my repertoire is always useful for those spontaneous bursts into song, I’m also very grateful for knowing a lot of contemporary Basque songs and artists.


Xalbadorren Heriotzen

Maite Zaitut

Andre Maddalen

Lau Teilatu

Moving abroad is not for the faint of heart, no matter how long you’ve dreamt of it. There are still moments where I still feel like a bit of an outsider looking in, but as soon as I hear a song that I know, which thankfully, in my case, is quite often, the nerves slip away and I’m able to fully participate in the moment and enjoy it just as much as (or sometimes more than) the locals. So, with all of my biases about the importance of music in cultural settings aside, I encourage you to take some time today to listen to some great old and new Basque music, because you may just find an outlet for expressing and learning about the Basque culture that will always be available to you in the Basque Diaspora and Euskal Herria.

Some Links to Additional Resources:
NABO’s Spotify Profile
Boiseko Taupada’s Spotify Profile (a Boise-based Basque radio show)
NABO’s Foku Musikala Page
EITB’s Online Radio Streaming (For music, I specifically recommend these programs: Gaztea, EITB Musika, and EITB Euskal Kantak.)