Outside the Basque community, Kalakan is best known for accompanying Madonna on her 2012 MDNA tour. Within their community, they are rock stars in their own right, combining traditional instruments, rhythms, and songs with a modern sound. They are one of the most famous rock groups in Basque country, and their evening concert performance was the personal highlight for many Basques attending the 2016 Folklife Festival.
The lyrics of this song, “Kantuz” or “Singing,” suggest that they want to continue in song throughout all stages of life. Adding only percussion to their close vocal harmony, this song shows off their vocal and musical skill, with three melodic vocal lines equally exposed throughout the piece. The first line, “I was born singing, singing I want to live,” reflects the importance of musical expression and entertainment in Basque culture, which Kalakan honors—and reinvents.
Kantuz sortuz naiz eta kantuz nahi bizi /// I was born singing, singing I want to live
Kantuz igortzen ditut nik penak ihesi /// Singing, I chase off my troubles
Kantuz izan dudaño zerbait irabazi /// Singing, I always get something
Kantuz gostura ditut guziak iretsi /// Singing, I have endured it all
Kantuz ez duta beraz hiltzea merezi? /// Therefore, do I not deserve to die singing?
Kantuz iragan ditut gau eta egunak /// Singing, I spent days and nights
Kantuz ekarri ditut griñak eta lanak /// Singing, I conducted sorrows and toils
Kantuz biltzen nituen aldeko lagunak /// Singing, I reunited my friends
Kantuz eman dauztate obra gabe famak /// Singing, my fame was made, without reason
Kantuz hartuko nauia zeruko jaun onak! /// Will the good Lord of heaven welcome me singing!
Kantuz eman izan dut zonbeiten berriak /// Singing, I announced the news of some
Kantuz atseginekin erranez egiak /// Singing with pleasure, telling the truth
Kantuz egin baititut usu afruntuiak /// Singing, I was often brave
Kantuz aitortzen ditut nere bekatuiak /// Singing, I confessed my sins
Kantuz eginen ditut nik penitentziak /// Singing, I will do my penance
Kantuz eginez geroz munduian sortzia /// After coming into the world singing
Kantuz egin behar dut ontsalaz hiltzia /// I should die singing
Kantuz emaiten badaut jainkoak grazia /// If the Lord gives me grace, singing
Kantuz idekiko daut San Pierrek atia /// St. Peter will open the doors for me singing
Kantuz egin dezadan zeruan sartzia /// That I go to heaven, singing
Kantuz ehortz nezate, hiltzen naizenian /// Let them do, when I die, my funeral, singing
Kantuz ene lagunek harturik airian /// My friends will carry me on the air, singing
Kantuz ariko zaizkit lurrean sartzian /// They will bury me singing
Kantu frango utziko diotet mundian /// I will leave them a lot of songs in this world
Kantuz has diten behi nitaz orhoitzian /// So that they start singing when they remember me.
Lyrics by Jose Mendiague, from KALAKAN (2010) album liner notes.
Videographers: Charlie Weber, Helen Lehrer, Michelle Mehrtens, Lillian Schneyer
Audio recordist: David Walker
Editor: Helen Lehrer
Text: SarahVictoria Rosemann