Bertsozale Elkartea

Barakaldo will become the epicentre of verse on Sunday

Dec 13, 2017
The final of the National Bertsolaris Championship will be held this weekend at the BEC. The finalists have held a press conference together with the President of the Bertsozale Association, Elkartea Iñaki Murua, and Lorea Bilbao, Deputy of Basque Language and Culture at the Provincial Council of Bizkaia.

There are just five days to go until the grand final of the National Bertsolaris Championship. On Sunday, 14,000 people will gather at the Bilbao Exhibition Centre (BEC), "the largest covered venue in the Basque Country", as described by the President of the Bertsozale Association, Elkartea Iñaki Murua, at today's appearance. "We have been delighted to see how much everyone has wanted to attend the final; unfortunately, there isn't room for all the fans, but we are really happy with the response we have had during the entire championship", he added. 

The Deputy of Basque Language and Culture at the Council of Bizkaia, Lorea Bilbao, accompanied Iñaki Murua at the press conference held today to give all the details about Sunday's final, as did the eight finalists: Aitor Mendiluze, Aitor Sarriegi, Amets Arzallus, Beñat Gaztelumendi, Igor Elortza, Maialen Lujanbio, Sustrai Colina and Unai Agirre. 

The championship began in September in Baigorri (Baja Navarra) and it has travelled to seven provinces in its almost three months. "We have been welcomed by municipalities where there are many fans and others where there is little knowledge about improvised singing; the championship has been a very effective means to raise awareness about bertsolarism", explained Murua. The championship has involved 43 bertsolaris (improvisers), but it must be remembered that the journey began much earlier, as these participants have qualified through the regional championships that were previously organised in Álava, Bizkaia, Gipuzkoa, Navarra, and Lapurdi, Baja Navarra and Zuberoa. 

Iñaki Murua commented on the performance of the improvisers during the championship: "With their own styles, each of them has contributed to the art of bertso, which is the undisputed star of the championship". 

Sebastian Lizaso, responsible for placing the txapela (Basque beret)

The winner of the championship obtains the txapela as a symbol of being the txapeldun ("champion" in Basque can be translated as "txapeldun", which etymologically means "the one who has the txapela"). That moment is one of the highlights of the championship and, therefore, awarding the txapela is also a great honour. This year, that privilege will fall to Sebastian Lizaso, champion of the 1986 edition. Born in Azpeitia, he grew up in an environment where bertsolarism was part of daily life, mostly because of his father Joxe Lizaso. He was also a runner-up in 1989 and 1997.

International oral tradition experts at the Mintzola Terraza

The Mintzola Ahozko Lantegia foundation, a project launched by Bersozale Elkartea and other organisations from the Basque Country and that promotes research into bertsolarism and contributes to the synergy between different improvised singing traditions from across the world and other oral artistic disciplines in the Basque Country, has invited expert researchers in the field of oral tradition to Sunday's final, along with improvisers of other improvised singing traditions from across the world that are similar to bertsolarism.

The final is a unique event that stirs our curiosity and that of others: John Foley from the University of Missouri joined us for the 2009 championship. He is a leading figure in the field of oral tradition and assured us that he couldn't think of any other event that is organised every four years and attracts so many fans.

Those who have not managed to get a ticket for Sunday's final can follow it on the platform and on the channel ETB1. in both the morning and afternoon sessions, with commentary from the presenter Aitzol Barandiaran and the commentator Uxue Alberdi.