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Sea Green Singers - Txoria Txori or Hegoak (Basque) - click on score for image only - similar score written for piano voices: same instruments (piano)




Txoria Txori or Hegoak
by Hitzak Artze and Mikel Laboa
Hegoak ebaki banizkion
neria izango zen,
ez zuen alde egingo.

Baina horrela
ez zen gehiago txoria izango.

Eta nik txoria nuen maite.
Eta nik txoria nuen maite.

La la la ra la…

If I had just clipped its wings
it would then have belonged to me,
it would not then fly away. x2

But doing it that way
it would no longer have been a bird. x2

And I, I really loved that bird.
And I, I really loved that bird.

La la la ra la…


This may help remember the prononciation:

Ay 'ch' oa Kay barki Baniss Ki o (n)
neria izango zen
ez zoo en ay dey gingo

Baaaaaaanya horrela (scottish 'rr's)
ez zen gay ar go T-s' or ee ah Izango

Ay ta neeeeeeeek,
T-s' or ee ah noo en my tay

Mikel Laboa

The song sounds like a 60s-era protest song and, sure enough, it was actually written in 1968. So the story goes, the words came to Artze during dinner one night in a Donostia restaurant and he hurriedly wrote them down on a napkin in the form of a poem. Artze had in mind the severe restrictions on freedom maintained by the Franco regime in Spain at the time. Marisol Bastida, Laboa’s wife, noticed Artze doing this, read the poem, liked it, and told her husband he should read it too. He liked it as well, took the napkin home with him that night, and composed the music there and then. The rest, as they say, is history.

Analysis by Leire Olabarria

'A more correct translation is as follows: "If I had clipped its wings, it would have been mine, it would not have escaped. But like this, it would no longer have been a bird. And I loved a bird"

In the song, the poet has lost his beloved bird because he was not willing to subdue it; the poet accepts the bird as it is, and he prefers to make the ultimate sacrifice of losing it instead of changing the intrinsic nature of the bird, showing that his love is true and pure. The songwriter is challenging the listener to ponder: would you be willing to subdue a person (or a culture, a people, a language...) so that you obtain what you want? Or do you think you should accept it as it is even if that means that your selfish desire would no longer be fulfilled? Why not let people be what they really are? Why not let people decide by themselves whether they want to fly?

So the song is not only political. The words could easily apply to personal relationships, to the infantilisation of other cultures, to the price of freedom... and that's the beauty of poetry! Again, if the author wrote the song with political overtones (which he certainly did) the only way to get it through censorship at the time was to make is so ambiguous that it could be claimed the song was not about politics at all, and I think this song does just that.

Basque singer central to his culture's revival

The Basque singer Mikel Laboa, who has died aged 74, was a legend in the Basque country, the region spanning part of northern Spain and south-west France. Always singing in Euskara, the Basque language, he was central to the region's cultural revival.

His father was a Basque Nationalist party councillor on the San Sebastián (Donostia) city council, who left for exile on the arrival of General Franco's troops in 1937. His mother and her seven children took refuge in the fishing village of Lekeitio, but the family was reunited in San Sebastián in 1939. The old quarter of that beautiful seaside city remained Laboa's haunt until the end of his life.

The post civil war years were tough: not only did hunger and fear rule, but speaking Euskara was forbidden. His family were musical and Laboa learned the guitar. In 1955 a friend gave him a record by the Argentinean Atahualpa Yupanqui that suggested a way of singing about suffering and politics.

At the same time, Laboa was studying medicine in Pamplona. He took his finals in Zaragoza, where, in 1962, at a student concert, he first sang in public in Euskara. In 1964 he married Marisol Bastida and went on to study child psychiatry for three years in Barcelona, where he made contact with the Catalan protest song movement.

From 1967 till its closure 18 years later, Laboa worked at the San Miguel hospital in San Sebastián as a psychiatrist, caring for children with Down's syndrome and autism. With his well-worn clothes and beret, he looked more like a farm labourer than a consultant physician, but combined the two careers with great success.

Laboa had found a Basque popular songbook in the early 1960s and his particular contribution was beginning to fall into place: Basque traditional songs, 1960s protest music, but always with a personal interpretation, including an album of translations from Bertolt Brecht (1969), and Lekeitioak (1988), an album of experimental pieces involving screams and onomatopoeic sounds that were closer to John Cage than Joan Baez. His curiously pitched, clear, nasal voice, the minimalism of his poem-songs and his commitment to Basque culture struck chords with his audience.

His first records were EPs only published in the French Basque country, but, in 1974, a double album was issued in Spain, Bat-Hiru (One-Three), his best-known record. It includes his hymn to freedom Txoria Txori (The Bird Which Is a Bird), inspired by his work with autistic children: in all, he made 16 records.

In later years Laboa experimented with other styles such as jazz and rock. A younger generation, mainly Basque post-punk rockers, paid him homage in the album Txerokee (1990). In 2003, he wrote the music for Julio Medem's documentary La Pelota Vasca (The Basque Ball). Medem wanted to interview him for the film, but Laboa refused: "I have nothing to say apart from my songs."

The writer Bernardo Atxaga described Laboa as a tall Viking warrior with piercing blue eyes, trapped inside the nervous nature of the singer. For his last performance, on July 11 2006, Laboa overcame his stage fright to perform in front of tens of thousands of people on San Sebastián beach, when he opened for Bob Dylan in a concert for peace.