Kepa Junkera (credit: Attambur.com)
Kepa Junkera is, simply put, one of the the best, if not THE best reed players in the world. He hails from Basque country and is the master of the diatonic accordion known as a trikitixa or “bellows from Hell.” Kepa has such a deft, athletic and riotous touch on the keyboard that he turns an otherwise devilish instrument into a heavenly one.
When he was a very young boy he first took to the trikitixa and mastered it while most other children are stumbling through learning proper fingerings. Still at a young age, he approached the Basque folk band, Oskorri, which took him under its wing. He has performed on all of their records and many of their tours.
Another stellar quality of Kepa’s is the desire to transcend national boundaries and musical genres. In 1992, he formed Trans-Europe Diatonic, an accordion trio project with John Kirkpatrick and Riccardo Tesi. Their goal was to create a musical forum that would encourage interplay between players from different parts of Europe. They hoped in this collaboration to inspire a musical climate ripe for blending their often contrasting styles.
In Bilbao 00:00Hr (1999), Kepa created a true masterpiece of the accordion genre. While firmly rooted in the Basque musical tradition, he also embraces other folk music traditions represented by Bela Fleck, Paddy Moloney of the Chieftains, Fain Dueñas of Radio Tarifa, and Carlos Beciero of La Musgana, who also perform on the album. Each song radiates a different and powerful emotional timbre. Some songs are profoundly romantic with lush melodies. Others are althletic exercises in the flight of fingers across a keyboard. None of these songs is less than stellar. I’ve chosen the wonderful, Gaztelugatxeko Martxa to represent this collection, though I could’ve featured any one and not gone wrong. This song is an irrepressible romp through all the capabilities of his instrument. It is filled with joy and life and propelled along by the boisterous accompaniment of Liam O’Flynn’s uillean pipes. It simply takes your breath away and makes your feet want to leave the ground.
Vist the English-language Kepa Junkera official site.
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Thank you, Richard. What a treat. We’ve been listening to the Kepa recording over and over, have visited his site and are now on to learning more about the Basque Country.
Steve Owens says
Richard, I didn’t realise you were a fan of Kepa junkera as well.
I think we must have very similar CD collections!
Do you have much Astor Piazzola? I would have loved to have seen the two free reed masters playing together.
I went a bit mad about a year ago and bought a bandoneon on ebay. Fiendishly difficult to play.
take care and keep on listening.
Steve Owens says
I finally managed to track doen some more Kepa Juunkera.
Just in case you haven’t heard them, may I recommend “Lauu Eskutara” the CD he did with Julio Pereira, and particularly recommend “Leonen Orroak”, the one he did with Ibon Koteron, the Alboka player.
Keep up the good work
Richard Silverstein says
Steve: I have one Astor Piazzola album & I love his playing! I would’ve loved to get a chance to see him play period–with or w/o Kepa.
You are one brave dude to take on something as complicated as a bandoleon.
Thanks for those suggestions. I’ll be looking out for them.
Kepa played here in Seattle again recently (a small Basque community here) but alas I couldn’t go (newborn twins don’t you know).
Greg Froelke says
I love the sound of the Trikitixa, however I play a keyboard accordion. Can I get tranposed sheet music from Kepa’s “Bilboa 00:00H” CD’s or any of his music for that matter. I hope playing his music on a keyboard accordion wouldn’t be considered sacrilegious. I’m too old to learn a new instrument. Is the Trikitixa hard to learn?
mercedes mendive says
For those of you who are looking for Kepa Junkera sheet music, there IS some sheet music for his early works all the way through to Bilbao 00:00. I am unaware of any further sheet music being published. The book: Kepa Junkera Triki Tixa has his bipgraphy, some history AND the sheet music. I have the book and play a lot of his music (I am a piano keyboard accordion player and a triki tixa student). Kepa is also a friend of mine, so if there is any information I can offer, feel free to contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org