WEEKEND: Basque musicians enjoy international airs of Fiddle Tunes
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Charlie Bermant/Peninsula Daily News
Basque musicians Arkaitz Miner, Javier Leturia and Joseba Tapia, from left, participate in an impromptu practice for their performance on Saturday as part of the Festival of American Fiddle Tunes.

By Charlie Bermant
Peninsula Daily News

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PORT TOWNSEND — The Festival of American Fiddle Tunes, which draws musicians from around the world, this year includes a trio of Basque musicians bringing their rural European sound to the festival.

“It is a surprise for me to see musicians from everywhere that come here,” said Joseba Tapia, who plays the trikitixa, a type of accordion, that provides the centerpiece for the music.

“The musical styles are completely different,” he said.

“But we still find people who become close to us, and the energy of all these people together gives us an international connection.”

The 36-year-old festival hosted by Centrum, which began June 30 with workshops, burst into public performances on the Fourth of July.

More concerts are scheduled today. And The Fiddle Finale will be at
1:30 p.m. Saturday at McCurdy Pavilion, 200 Battery Way in Fort Worden State Park.

On Saturday, Tapia, tambourine player Javier Leturia and fiddler Arkaitz Miner will perform a set of traditional Basque dance tunes.

Saturday's performance also features Los Jilguerillos del Huerto of Michoacan, Mexico; old-time American players Vivian and Paul Williams, Bobby Taylor, Kim Johnson, Don and Cindy Roy and Dan Gellert.

Tickets are $20 to $25 for adults and free for youth 18 and younger.

Hailing from the Basque region between France and Spain, Tapia, Leturia and Miner often tour the United States, and are helping to preserve an American tradition, according to David Romtvedt, a Basque instructor from Buffalo, N.Y. who is providing translation for performers during their visit to Fort Worden.

“They represent an American music that has not been represented at Fiddle Tunes in the past,” Romtvedt said.

“There are many different Basque communities throughout the American West, and they have played a lot of events throughout the United States and are helping to revive a lost fiddle tradition,” Romtvedt said.

Tapia acknowledges that his style of music is foreign to American ears, but the focus on dance bridges the gap.

“It is always the same when we have people in front of the stage dancing,” he said.

“The language is different, but I think we are all from the same place,” Romtvedt said.

“We want to make people want to be there, to make them want to dance.”

Miner said that one of the biggest differences between the Basque Country and a celebration such as Fiddle Tunes is collaboration.

Jam sessions are part of the Fiddle Tunes experience; there is less interaction at home.

Romtvedt said that part of this had to do with a wide separation between professionals and amateurs in his homeland, along with the fact that Basque instruments often are keyed to B flat and A flat, while fiddles and guitars gravitate to G and D.

The trio is age diverse, Miner is 37, while Tapia is 49, and Leturia is 59.

The tradition keeps them together, Tapia said.

“Sometimes, you are farther from your own generation and more connected to people in different generations,” he said.

“I have talked to many musicians here. One was 73 years old, and we were talking about the economy and politics,” Tapia said.

“We are all different, but we have a musical connection even though we are all different generations and live in different countries.”

Today's Fiddle Tunes concerts are:

-- The “Free Fridays at the Fort” series presents a Fiddle Tunes showcase at noon today on the Nora Porter Commons at Fort Worden.

--   A Cajun and Creole Dance, featuring Desiree Champagne, Joel Savoy, Jesse Lege and friends, Texas accordionist Cedric Watson and others, gets moving at 7 p.m. tonight on Fort Worden's Littlefield Green.

Admission is $15 for adults and free for those 18 and younger.

Fiddle Tunes tickets — and packages — are available, for more information go to www.Centrum.org or call 800-746-1982.

Jefferson County Editor Charlie Bermant can be reached at 360-385-2335 or cbermant@peninsuladailynews.com.

Last modified: July 04. 2013 6:48PM
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