Skip to main content
  • Kalakan: "Kantuz"

    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

  • Support the Folklife Festival, Smithsonian Folkways Recordings, sustainability projects, educational outreach, and more.