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Basque, Basque-American and Other Special Guests

BASQUE, BASQUE-AMERICAN
and OTHER SPECIAL GUESTS

Spoken Word

Photo by Tom Pich

Photo by Tom Pich

Martin Goicoechea - Rock Springs, WY

Martin Goicoechea was born the fifth of ten children to Santos and Mikaela Goikoetxea in Gorriti, Nafarroa, in the Basque Country in 1948. At age 18, he came to the United States to work on a sheep ranch for three years, but decided to stay. In his ten years at the ranch, he was given the responsibility to tend 8,000 head of sheep, including lambs, year round (and double the number in the summer). Martin tried his hand at various fields: oil service, butcher shop, real estate and car sales. He now owns his own car dealership. Martin has a parallel life in artistic and cultural ventures. From an early age, he became fascinated by the songs of bertsolaris, or singer storytellers. He became popular in the Nafarroa region after singing at a dinner at age 12. For his first 20 years in the United States, he sang verses only to himself, until he decided to sing at the 1991 Kantari Eguna (Day of the Singer) in Gardnerville, Nevada. In 2003, Martin (along with Jesus Arriada, Johnny Curutchet and Jesus Goñi) was awarded the National Endowment for the Arts National Heritage Fellowship Award. He has taught Basque Language classes and initiated the Alkartasuna Basque Club in Southwest Wyoming in 1990. Martin has been the Euskara (Language) Preservation chairman for the North American Basque Organizations for many years, and he was a participant in the Smithsonian's Folklife Festival in 2016, in which the Basque Culture was featured. His family includes two sons, Santos and Mikel, a daughter, Mikaela, and his wife of 20 years, Ronnie.   


Photo by Tom Pich

Photo by Tom Pich

Jesus Goñi - Reno, NV

Jesus Goñi is from Oronoz, Navarre Spain. He emigrated to the United States by coming to Rupert, Idaho, in 1976 working as a sheepherder. He has been living in Reno, Nevada for many years now, and has participated in Basque festivals in places like San Francisco, Chino, Bakersfield, Gooding, Elko, Los Banos and visited Washington D.C for the National Heritage Fellowship Concert. When not traveling to these festivals he enjoys the outdoors such as hiking, fishing and camping. In 2003, Jesus (along with three other bertsolari from the United States) was awarded a National Endowment for the Arts National Heritage Fellowship Award. He is well-known throughout the American West (and beyond) for his skillful verse and strong voice.


Photo from the artist

Photo from the artist

Oihana Iguaran Barandiaran - Amasa, Gipuzkoa, Basque Country

Oihana Iguaran became a bertsolari as a child. Today, she is a very active bertsolari, having sung in different parts of the Basque Country. Oihana studied Audiovisual Communication and finished a Masters of Social Communication at the University of the Basque Country. She has also worked as a journalist. As a researcher, she studied the creative work of the bertsolariak, which currently is the topic of her doctoral research. She investigates the themes used by the bertsolariak and the influence that the media has on them.


Photo from the artist

Photo from the artist

Vince Juaristi - Alexandria, VA

Vince Juaristi is CEO of ARBOLA, a management consulting and technology company in Alexandria, Virginia. Born and raised in Elko, Nevada, his western roots of self-reliance helped him graduate with honors from Harvard University, receive appointment from two U.S. presidents, serve 13 months in Afghanistan, and participate on numerous boards in the public and private sectors. No matter how far he has traveled, Vince never forgets Nevada. He was vice chairman of AmeriCorps, and recently accepted appointment as finance chairman for the congressionally-created Digital Promise and Digital Promise Global; yet still, he serves on the board for Great Basin College in Elko. When times were tough, he started a scholarship program in 2008, and this year awarded his 119th scholarship to kids in rural Nevada. In his spare time, Vince has written two books - Back to Biscaya and Basque Firsts: People who Changed the World, donating 100% of the royalties to fund scholarships. He loves the smell of sagebrush.


Photo from artist

Photo from artist

Maialen Lujanbio Zugasti, Hernani,
Gipuzkoa, Basque Country

Maialen Lujanbio started to improvise at a very early stage of her life. Since then she has been one of the most active bertsolariak in the Basque Country, while graduating with a degree in Fine Arts. For years she has sung in squares, theatres, cinemas and all over the Basque Country and abroad. She was the champion of Bertsolaritza in Gipuzkoa in 2003 and became the champion of the Basque Bertsolariak in 2009. In 2013 she was finalist in the Basque Bertsolaritza championship. Her versification has transformed over the years and she has developed a successful, innovative way of producing improvised poetry.


Music & Dance

Photo from the artists

Photo from the artists

Ardi Baltza - Lamoille, NV

The Lamoille Basque Society is proudly comprised of both Basque and non-Basque families that are committed to preserving and perpetuating the ancient culture of the Basques. Featuring dance troupe, Ardi Baltza, they are able to connect  with today's youth and style in order to preserve their history. Weaving emotion and storytelling into their performances, Ardi Baltza captures the essence of the Basques. Pulling choreography from both traditional and modern Basque dance, Ardi Baltza is able to connect past to present.The troupe is lead by Director Kiaya Memeo, Accordionist Anamarie Lopategui and Lead-Choreographer Franci Mendive. Ardi Baltza has been featured in many cultural events across the country including Jaialdi in Boise,Idaho and The Smithsonian Folklife Festival in Washington D.C.. https://www.facebook.com/pg/ardibaltza/


Photo courtesy of Mercedes Mendive

Photo courtesy of Mercedes Mendive

Elko Ariñak - Elko, NV

Elko’s very own Ariñak Basque dancers have been instrumental in preserving the tradition of Basque dancing in America since 1968. Their goal has always been to present Basque dancing in it’s purest form and tell its story through music and dance. The Ariñak dancers have been a popular fixture not only in Nevada, but have taken their talents on he road to venues in California; Boise, Idaho; Buffalo, Wyoming; Reno, Nevada; Washington, D.C.; and even Mar del Plata, Argentina. Elko Ariñak dancers are also the proud faces of the Elko National Basque Festival, which the Elko Euzkaldunak Club hosts annually (always near the 4th of July holiday weekend). Together with their live musicians, their mantra is to share their love of culture through music and dance.


Courtesy of the artists

Courtesy of the artists

Jean Flesher and Amerikanuak

In 1989, Jean Flesher volunteered to put together a band for a “Pastorale,” a traditional Basque musical play, presented by the Basque Cultural Center in South San Francisco. Jean, an accordionist and vocalist, enlisted the services of Christian Iribarren (clarinet, then circula and keyboard) and the late Rene Caballero (drumkit, congas), among others. Soon, Pierre Igoa (vocals, trumpet) and Christian’s brother Daniel Iribarren (on bass) joined. And, so began the Jean Flesher Orchestra. With bandmembers living in far-flung places, they would often forego rehearsal, relying instead on their musical skill and a growing configuration of talented friends to play with, including Jean-Pierre Etchechury (drums), John Ehlis (mandolin, jazz guitar, and more), Michelle Iturriria (vocals, saxophone, trumpet), and Jean’s own son Jean-Jules (percussion, strings, vocals). In light of the immense talent that makes up the band, Jean decided that it was no longer right to just call the band the Jean Flesher Orchestra, so they decided that Amerikanuak or “The Americans” would be a great name. From Bakersfield, California to Salt Lake City, Utah and places in between, Amerikanuak has performed and celebrated Basque music in the American West for almost 30 years. http://www.euskalkultura.com/english/resources/jean-flesher-his-band-heber-city-utah-usa


Courtesy of Mercedes Mendive

Courtesy of Mercedes Mendive

Mercedes Mendive and Melodikoa - Elko, NV

Mercedes Mendive (second from left) began learning piano accordion from the late Bernardo Yanci at age 10. His mentoring, musical technique and style have given her a unique interpretation of Basque music, which she elaborates upon with modern influences. She spent 11 years in Miami, Florida, before returning to her roots in Elko where she now writes music, plays for the Basque dancers, performs at various festivals and teaches accordion. Mercedes released her first album, Journey to Euskadi, in 2003. She is joined by musicians from Elko’s Melodikoa, including Ken Harriman (guitar), Janet Iribarne (tambourine, txistu) and Beau Steward (percussion).  https://www.basquemuseum.com/content/mercedes-mendive


Photo by Jen Ten Productions

Photo by Jen Ten Productions

David Romtvedt & Caitlin Belem Romtvedt - Buffalo, WY

Father and daughter musicians David and Caitlin Romtvedt are from Buffalo, Wyoming. David married into Buffalo’s Basque ranching community and Caitlin grew up in that community. David has served for many years as the musical accompanist for the Bighorn Basque Club’s dance group Zaharrer Segi (Hold on to the Traditions). Caitlin has performed with David for many Basque events including at the Smithsonian National Folklife Festival devoted to Basque culture, and at the North American Basque Organization’s 2011 and 2017 national festivals. The two also completed a tour of Wyoming, Montana, Colorado, and Idaho, performing Basque music with trikitixa, fiddle and vocals to accompany David’s novel Zelestina Urza in Outer Space, which traces with some digressive asides the life of a young woman who immigrates from the northern Basque Country to Wolf, Wyoming, in 1902. Caitlin and David play with the Basque American band Ospa (Celebrate!) whose recording Hori da features old and new Basque music.