Through time and the provinces
In each province, except Alava, each generation has known dozens of
poets, singers and improvisers.
It would be impossible to mention them all here. Many have disappeared in
time, witness to the fragile beauty of improvisation!
This section gives a brief historic description of the great generations
of bertsularis who have marked each province.
Click on the different provinces to discover them!
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You will be accompanied throughout this site by improvisers. During your
visit: click on their photos to discover what they have to say.
"I think that this tradition of improvisation in taverns was brought by a
shepherd from Zaldibi, in Gipuzkoa. His name was Joxe Tolosa. His wife was
also from Gipuzkoa.
They were Lorentzo’s parents, who I’ve already talked about.
Dear Joxe … When he began to get warmed up, as he said himself, he began
to improvise. And if, as I believe, he was the one who brought this
tradition here, it’s also thanks to him that I began.
So, although I don’t want to give them all the credit, people from
Gipuzkoa played a major role from the beginning in my becoming an
improviser. So I suppose they could say after that, no
"When I was a child, I didn’t have a model, except for my father. Later
on, at the age of 13 or 14, I began to realise that I had a preference for a
certain type of versification, and I began to know what direction I wanted
Since then, whenever I’m asked who’s my favourite improviser I answer:
Jose Agirre. My father felt very close to him, because they both came from
the same background. We, on the other hand, were born in towns and for us
Jose Agirre is the opposite of our own experience: he was brought up in a
farming environment, in the countryside, he began to work at a very early
He had other references, and you can see that in the way he improvises.
To my mind, he’s a model because his language was rich and full of
colourful expressions, and because he represents a world which is the
opposite of our own"
"Although the personalities, lifestyles and origins of improvisers are
very different, the fact you have to offer the audience good “entertainment”
brings you closer: When you go through a difficult moment with someone,
usually that makes the relationship stronger.
That’s what happened with us. For us it’s important to get on with the
others. We only compete against ourselves. Of course I want to win, but I
don’t want my adversary to lose. And championships, in particular
championship finals, are particular in that repsect, if we all do well,
you’re left with a good impression. No-one loses, even if you finish
The audience is more interested in what you do rather than in your
ranking. And that helps us a lot to excel and exclude any
"My father, and above all my grandfather, were very fond of
improvisation. When I was 9 or 10 I began to take improvisation classes,
which at that time were organised by Jexux Arzallus.
At the age of 12 Amets Arzallus and I went to classes in Oiartzun. But
after several years we stopped going there and the teacher from Oiartzun
came to Hendaye. That’s how we created a new group in Hendaye. It almost
feels like I was born knowing how to improvise. I know that’s not the case,
but it’s the impression I have.
I actually decided that I enjoyed improvisation when I was 16, when I
realised that I couldn’t do everything: dance, drama, music, improvisation
and pelota. When it came to the crunch, I realised that if there was one
thing I really didn’t want to give up, it was improvisation. From that time
on I think that I accepted it more easily.
I’m convinced that it’s the people, the group that makes you stay …
because it’s not easy when you’re young. Not many of us were improvisers,
few girls, and the group got smaller.
I think that today things are easier. There are more groups, and
improvisation is encouraged more.”
"I acquired a taste for improvisation when the ikastola (Basque-medium
school) in Bayonne opened a class. I was in CM2 (10-11 years old) and we
were only a small group. From then on, I’ve always continued. Karlos
Aizpurua was our teacher.
I must admit that in the beginning I was pushed by my mother, but
afterwards, I realised that improvisation enabled me to learn many things.
Also, it was something new, and it was a change from usual activities like
football or pelota.
When the improvisation schools got off the ground, we met outside lesson
time for an hour a week with Karlos Aizpurua as our teacher. Then I attended
to high-school in Cambo and there, a new group was set up: there were a few
of us from the Lycée in Bayonne, others came from inland in the Basque
At present there are five of us, four boys and one girl. In the
beginning, there were more of us, simply because some left. Improvisation is
not everyone’s cup of tea"