Improvised Poetry & Song in the Basque Country

IMPROVISED POETRY & SONG IN THE BASQUE COUNTRY

History and development

Competitions and championships
Masters of improvisation
Becoming a bertsulari
Basque Country Improvisation Championship 2009

Partners :

Aquitaine BNSA
EJGV

1. The choice of melody

Bertsularis always improvise on a known tune and create their work as they sing.

This tune must adapt to the subject given (sad, joyful tune, etc...). But must above all it must correspond to the structure imposed by the rhythm.

In our example, the rhythm imposed is “Zortziko handia”. This means that the verses, in all 4, must be composed of 18 syllables with two compulsory caesura after the fifth and tenth syllables.

Manex  gaztea lerden ederra  eskuan  mizpir  makila
John, a young slender and handsome man, with a medlar stick in his hand


Ma-nex  gaz-te-a  /  ler-den  e-de-rra  /  es-ku-an  miz-pir  ma-ki-la
 1     2     3   4  5 /   6    7    8  9  10 /    1  2    3    4    5    6  7   8        
  
But when bertsularis improvise they do not count the number of syllables: they know that the melody they have chosen will naturally lead the rhythm imposed. This is why it is essential to choose the right melody.

As a general rule, each note of the melody corresponds to one syllable. However, sometimes this rule is broken, either for musical reasons or because of the verse, or simply when necessary.

Each melody has its own function and melodies have developed over the ages and according to the functions of the verse. New melodies are regularly created.

In the end, words and music together nourish improvisation to produce a unique work, born spontaneously, and sometimes even a masterpiece

 

 

EUSKAL KULTUR ERAKUNDEA - INSTITUT CULTUREL BASQUE

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The guides

You will be accompanied throughout this site by improvisers. During your visit: click on their photos to discover what they have to say.