In the Homegrown Plus series, we present Homegrown concerts that also had accompanying oral history interviews, placing both together in an easy-to-find blog post. (Find the whole series here!) We’re continuing the series with NOKA and Mikel Markez. NOKA is a Basque-language singing trio from California composed of Andréa Bidart, Begoña Echeverria, and Cathy Petrissans, the daughters and granddaughters of Basque immigrants. They are members of the Chino Basque club and were raised speaking and singing in Basque. In 1997, they formed the singing trio NOKA and have since recorded three CDs and toured internationally.
As NOKA, they specialize in songs about Basque culture, gender, and identity. They are particularly interested in songs that use Noka, a unique gendered grammatical form of Basque speech historically used as a familiar form of address in speaking to a girl or woman in whom one had konfiantza or trust. Noka has almost disappeared from everyday speech, but it is still used among some immigrants. By singing in Noka, they hope to bring more awareness to this important aspect of the Basque language and, perhaps, increase its use. Informed by life experiences and academic research, NOKA’s concerts are intended to entertain but also to educate their audiences. All songs are sung in Basque (an endangered language), and as often as possible in Noka. If you watch this video, you might end up with a catchy tune in your heart and a bit of Basque knowledge in your head!
They were joined for the concert by Mikel Markez, a singer and guitarist from the Basque country. They appeared at the Library of Congress on July 6, 2016.
In the first player, watch the concert. Then scroll down for the oral history!
In the oral history, I spoke with the band members about the Basque community and its music both in Europe and in the American West. We touched on questions of Basque language and identity, immigration, and life in Basque America.
I also spoke with Mikel Markez about his life in the Basque Country. For that portion of the interview we spoke in French, which is my second language and Mikel’s third (After Basque and Spanish). There is a transcript of the interview with the French parts translated into English at this link. Watch the interview in the player below!
The American Folklife Center’s Homegrown Concert Series brings music, dance, and spoken arts from across the country, and some from further afield, to the Library of Congress. For information on current concerts, visit the Folklife Concerts page at Concerts from the Library of Congress. For past concerts, including links to webcasts and other information, visit the Homegrown Concerts Online Archive.