British Columbia, Canada

THE TXALAPARTA 

 
The Basque's developed rhythm by using a tree trunk, a rock or any other object to create a primitive sound and through this ritual the txalaparta came to being. 

The txalaparta was not a musical instrument like many thought, but was a communication device. It was used between "caserios" to communicate various events (i.e. funerals, festivities..). 

The txalaparta is made up of a dried up board (tablon or ohola), usually of alder, chestnut or wild cherry wood. The plank is about 2 metres long and 20 cm wide varying in thickness between 2 cms to 7 cms. The difference in thickness is due to the irregularities or concavities that the plank may have, therefore the sound varies.

The plank is supported on either side by 2 baskets (otarrak), placing dried corn leaves between the two for vibration.

The txalaparta is played by two txalapartaris (jotzaileak) with two drumsticks (makilak) for each player, made out of acacia, elm or ash wood. The drumsticks used for percussion should be at least 50 cms in height by 4 cms in diameter. The performers or jotzaileak face each other.
Two types of beats:
  1. BIKOA: one of the jotzaieak strikes 2 consecutive beats and lifts the drumsticks simultaneously. Using "bikoa" as a beat and leaving the same moment for pause between the two strikes will formulate the rhythm of the composition. 
  2. ERRENA: consists of placing one or 2 beats between 2 "bikoas". If you can fit in 2 beats and 2 "bikoas", that is called "LAUKOA" or "ZALDIENA". 

The txalapartaris do not always play the same beat. In fact, while one is playing one rhythm the other does the counterpoint (a beat played in combination with another beat), then they change in order to end up with the "Laukoak". Mixing these different rhythms and changing the speed they can produce different callings. 

The two different callings have been classified as follows:

  1. The calling of cal (KARE DEIA). Used to summon the neighbours to prepare cal used for plaster and domestic bleaching.
  2. The calling to battle (GUDA DEIA). This calling is well know thanks to the documents that were kept at the Diputacion Foral de Alava, that dates back to Imperial Roman times.

The cited documents describe that when the Romans worked there way into the mountains they could here the rhythmic sound of wood pounding. Such sound was a calling to the other Basque's to defend against the invaders.

From these two callings there are 3 rhythmic styles:

  1. Funeral calling (ILETA DEIA)
  2. Cider calling (SAGARDO DEIA). Once the cider was prepared, the calling went out to the neighbours inviting them to sample.
    The difference between the two is speed - very slow for the first and fast for the second. Other than that the beat is the same.
  3. Festivity calling (JAI DEIA). It is played a little slower than "sagardo deia". The one doing the counterpoint starts improvising gradually, ending with the Laukoas rhythm.

The txalaparta today can be heard in certain towns, played by talented musicians, using there imagination to interpret the soul of the Basque roots. 

Hear the sounds of txalaparta: 

 

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