Basquing in Glory


Fermin Muguruza enunciates the tongue-twisting chorus of his perky ska/Latin/pop/rock hybrid “Hitza Har Dezagun” so clearly that you’d think his Brigadistak Sound System was intended as an instructional record in his native Basque language. If you’re with a crowd too lazy to dance, challenge your drinking buddies to sing along to Muguruza’s rapid-fire “Hartu hitza/Hitza har dezagun/Iritzia/Eman dezazun” without a total verbal crack-up. Even your dry friends won’t be able to keep up with him.

When you read the English translation, though, you’ll notice this isn’t a beer-guzzling anthem; it’s really an exhortation to speak out against oppression. Other translated lyrics from the album reveal that Muguruza, who’s been making political music since he was in bands such as Kortatu and Negu Gorriak, believes the truism that our fate is tied to events in other parts of the world. “Urrun” lumps together the U.S. bombing of Iraq, the death of a North African boy in Toulouse, and the murder of a Basque youth; “Nazio Ibil Taria Naiz” mentions both Public Enemy and the Zapatistas amid the denunciations of police brutality and linguistic domination; and “Puzka” drops so many brand-name military and corporate boogeymen that it risks becoming an unintentional parody of left-wing paranoia.

The name-dropping is balanced by nature metaphors: foggy weather, hurricanes, a drought, a flood, the sun, a pair of oxen, a stone, and a cob of corn. Maybe Muguruza is taking advantage of the Basque language’s rich vocabulary for natural phenomena. Or maybe he’s just seizing an opportunity to incorporate folk culture into his music, which draws on reggae, dub, hip-hop, jungle, and other styles not specifically rooted in his homeland. A true believer in global solidarity, he also collaborates on Brigadistak Sound System with an international brigade of guest stars: Fishbone frontman Angelo Moore, Franco-Spanish fusionist Manu Chao, Venezuelan punk-ska musicians Desorden Público. They help flesh out the songs, compensate for Muguruza’s spirited but strained vocals, and provide a sense of congenial camaraderie. In the end, this Basque separatist’s music seems quite inclusive.

Piranha Musik, Camerstr. 11, 0623 Berlin,

Archive Highlights