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

From the spoken word to the written word

From the end of the 18th century to the beginning of the 20th century most improvisers were ordinary people who did not know how to read or write. However, some of their verses have remained in the collective memory.

Cahier de bertsus d'un basque émigré aux Etats-Unis / Estatu Batuetara joan zen euskaldun baten bertsu bilduma (EKE)There was a time when, on the initiative of educated people, certain improvisations celebrating love, nature, the family or the Basque Country were copied by someone who was able to write.

The manuscripts were sold at church entrances or left at the gate of each farm. Later on, verses were printed on loose sheets and distributed in public places, sometimes by the improviser himself, or, most often, by a "professional" who travelled to the different villages where he would sing them in a beautiful voice in order to sell them more easily.

Thanks to these printed verses, many bertsularis made a name for themselves. This tradition continued until much later since Félix Iriarte from Banca used this method to distribute his verses entitled "Hitlerren amentsa"("Hitler’s Dream") in 1946.

When, at the end of the 19th century and the beginning of the 20th century, the first newspapers and magazines appeared, some accepted or even proposed publishing verses, which is why these "fliers" disappeared little by little. There was even a specialised magazine "Bertsulariya" ("the versifier") which for one year (1931-1932) published verses and the biographies of improvisers. All of its issues were published together in the form of a book by the "Sendoa" publishing house.

The magazine "Argia" and the newspapers "Herria", "Berria", as well as many others, also regularly publish articles accompanied by verses.

There are also verses present on the web, many of which have been digitalised.

There is a wide selection of improvised verses at the following web address:



ICB - B.P. 6 - 64480 UZTARITZE - USTARITZ - TÉL. 00 33 5 59 93 25 25 - COPYRIGHT © 2003 EKE - Tous droits réservés- Legal notices
Euskara Français Español


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.