Shooting from the Lip
Basque people and bertsoak (improvised verse-singing) go hand-in-hand, and wherever the Basques emigrated they took along all the elements of the tradition: the bard and his audience, improvised and written poetry, and even the tunes learned in their hometowns. The bertso plant has stayed small and scrawny in some American places because of the climate or the lack of soil. However, at other times it grew and gave wonderful fruit.
Until now in the Americas, Argentina has been the champion of bertso singing. Let us mention just one name, Pedro Mari Otano, whom verse-singing enthusiasts still remember. The art is more recent in the U.S., but right now it is the strongest and most promising. While those in Argentina invited only one bertsolari (improvising singer), Pello Errota, U.S. Basques have played hosts to Xalbador, Mattin, Azpillaga, Lopategi, Euxkitze, Penagarikano, Egano, and others.
We Basques have been rather negligent concerning our own culture, and we thus began late collecting bertsoak. That happened in the Basque Country and abroad even more so. But with this superb compilation, it appears that things are turning around. A poet once said that as you travel you build the road, and author Joxe Mallea-Olaetxe intends to carry on with the project he started. May he nurture the bertso tree of the United States so that it may turn into reality what Iparragirre said about the Oak Tree of Gernika: "Give forth and spread your fruit to the world."