Singer-songwriter Ruper Ordorika won the Etxepare Prize for the Best Album in Euskera at the MIN Awards this year. Among all the albums published in our language in 2018, the winner was Bakarka (Alone), which the artist recorded with nothing but guitar and vocals. We caught up with Ordorika to share a few words.
To begin with, how did you react to the news?
To be honest, I didn’t expect this award – it caught me by surprise. I was in Madrid at the time, because I was giving two concerts in the city. It feels good to have your work rewarded, but you have to remember that there is a lot of paraphernalia around these types of ceremonies. You’ve got to take them for what they´re worth: recognition for your work, nothing more, nothing less.
Your last album is called Bakarka, or ‘Alone’, and was recorded with only your voice and guitar. Why did you decide to make an album like that?
I’ve always wanted to do something like that. Three years ago, I began to prepare a solo concert, and after touring the show to several places, I managed to put together a good repertoire, looking at my best-loved songs from a different perspective. That led me to record the album.
You’ve been making music in Euskera for a long time. Today, more and more Basque musicians are singing in Spanish and English. How important is it for you to create music in Basque?
I suppose the importance is intrinsic in a society that practices a language. There have always been artists who create in Euskera, both now and before. I consider my job to be one just more link in the chain.
There have also always been Basque artists who’ve written in English, French or Spanish. What happens today is that it’s much more common to learn other languages at school, and since for some people their own language isn’t as important as it is for others, they’d rather create music in a language that’s more comfortable for them. English is expanding not only in Basque society, but everywhere; art is being created in English everywhere. English, in short, is the language of a style: it spread rock all over the world. Who listens to rock music in German, for example? It’s a very influential and developed language, and an aesthetic trend throughout the world. I myself am quite an Anglophile, but I do keep in mind that if they didn’t have guns on their side, we’d be listening to tangos instead of rock, or if Hitler had won the war we’d be listening to music from the Tyrol.
Rock is very influential in the Basque Country, and, along with Euskera, many artists have created their songs in English. Who knows how long that influence will last? But we must be free to do whatever we want.
In any case, there are also many artists who create in Euskera. How do you see the current panorama of Basque music?
I’ve said a number of times lately that the offer is higher than the demand. There’s no question that the demand has dropped. We still consume music, but not in the same fashion. The way we source and listen to music has varied hugely in a short period of time, and that has influenced artists. But, as I said when I received the award, I definitely think that music is one of the most dynamic practices in Basque culture.
What do you think about Basque, Catalan or Galician music being awarded at national competitions? And what about rewarding music in general?
Music in Basque has been awarded on the national level for a long time. Some of my records have already won prizes of this type. After all, it shows that there is a circuit outside the general industry, and that it’s ours. Basque music has a very long history and its own circuit and industry, even if small. The same thing goes for Catalonia, and for Galicia, although weaker. Awarding prizes for work done in minority languages is nothing more than the act of recognizing a reality.
As for music awards in general, I’ll try to be clear: as I see it, it’s one of those things you have to deal with as an artist. Awards such as this try to copy those massive international events aimed at boosting the record industry. You don’t ask to be given an award. But, hey, I suppose if you get a prize for something you´ve done, it´s a sign that you´ve done it well, and that’s a good thing.
The MIN Awards honour independent music albums either self-produced or released by small record labels. What, in your opinion, is the importance of self-production or recording for small record labels?
I think I should be in the Guinness Book of Records! I don’t know of anyone who has recorded for more labels than me: Xoxoa, Elkar, Warner, Metak, Esan Ozenki, New Media ... and those are just some of them. I’ve also self-produced. I think that any way music is released is a good thing, but it’s not the solution to the issue facing music today. The problem today lies in the musician’s status and in the technologies that allow people to consume music for free; that totally influences the artist’s creative process. It’s still an unresolved equation. Musicians do what they can; that’s why I think that self-production is neither better nor worse than releasing music on a traditional record label.
I also think that when we talk about this, we use parameters that no longer apply. What isn’t independent in the Basque Country today? Are there any record labels as big as the ones in the past? In the US market, it used to make sense to talk about independent labels; but here it doesn’t make sense anymore. All Basque labels, whether they like it or not, are independent.
Another thing that bothers me are concepts like ‘mainstream’ in the Basque culture. Only 25% of the people in the Basque Country speak Basque. How can you be mainstream in the Basque market? The most popular artist here is still a tiny fish in the big pond. It seems to me that we copy scripts from elsewhere that don’t fit with our circumstance here.
And finally: Do you have any short-term projects?
I´m mixing a new album to be released in autumn. I recorded a live show in Bilbao in December; that’s what I’m working on now. I’ll also be giving concerts both solo and with the band. I’m continuing along the same path as always.
If you want to listen to the album Bakarka by Ruper Ordorika, you can click here.