“The songs are very grateful, they give you back a lot”


” We are a song ”

Natxo Velez | EITB Media

The bertsolari, writer and singer publishes “Kantu bat gara”, a summary in disc-book format of a journey of 30 years dressing songs with his lyrics.

Thirty years have passed since the musician Fermin Muguruza convinced the then young bertsolari Jon Maia, 18 years old, to write some lyrics for Negu Gorriak’s second album, the fundamental “Gure jarrera”. They are due to that invitation, for example, the lyrics of the mythical songs “Lehenbiziko bala” and “Gora herria”. That invitation, that challenge, opened the doors for Jon Maia to a prolific career in which he has already written more than 160 songs.

Maia has faced in this three-decade career melodies and metrics of all kinds in search of the round song, all kinds of rhythms and sounds: Zaldibobo, Gari, Bizkar Hezurra, Def Con Dos, Gozategi, Imuntzo and Beloki, Anari , Soziedad Alkoholika, Benito Lertxundi, Pirritx eta Porrotx, Esne Beltza, Kepa Junkera, Thierry Biscary, Kai Nakai… More variety, impossible.

That is why now publishes the album-book “We are a song” (Elkar, 2021), fifteen songs written by him and arranged by the musicians Pello Ramirez, Gorka Hermosa, Nacho Soto and Ander Zulaika, and several interesting and exciting texts about his career and the art of writing songs, all adorned by the beautiful illustrations by Maite Mutuberria.

We have spoken with Jon Maia about this work and the art of making songs, those intangible entities (“a song cannot be tied, nor caged, nor stepped on, nor burned, nor crushed, nor torn apart, nor separated, nor melted, nor burst “Maia says in the book) but almost invincible (” There’s only one way to kill a song. Only one, “she adds).

What reflection or impulse is behind the publication of “Kantu bat gara”? Why compile now all the lyrics written during all these years and why in disk-book format?

My songs are not poems or edited texts that someone liked and turned them into a song. All have been made to order.

Since they have been spread over several albums for 30 years, I have been thinking about compiling, shaping and publishing them for a long time. This year marks 30 years since I wrote my first songs to Negu Gorriak, and I have encouraged myself with that pretext.

On the other hand, I did not want to reissue everything as it was, and I have created a group to cover a selection of songs, updating them and giving them a new personality. I think we have done a job with great musical value.

The book collects many reflections and comments on the songs. What is the song to you? What potential do you recognize?

The song is a fascinating human-made format. You do not know when it is from, it is thousands and thousands of years old and today it is still absolutely valid. It does not need a support, it has an incredible transmission power between generations, from one soul to another …

It fulfills many functions: it can make us dance, spread messages, represent nations, fire people, express, project … I would say that the essence of Euskal Herria is a song, rather than a legal or administrative form.

What lyricists serve as a model for you? What songs have made you the lyricist you are today?

I have many I love lyrics, and among my favorites are Franco Battiato, Xabier Lete, Javier Krahe, Andrés Calamaro, Silvio Rodríguez, Benito Lertxundi, Anari, Harkaitz Cano, Atxaga, etc.

How has the way of approaching this job changed from the 18-year-old Jon Maia who sat in Fermin Muguruza’s kitchen to write to the one who recently wrote the lyrics for the song for the movie “Akelarre”?

Without a doubt, you are acquiring the trade of writing lyrics, reading melodies, improving psychology to connect with him or the singer … Life experiences are also more, personality changes, being a father …

The world has also changed a lot since then, Euskal Herria … And the themes and trends also change along with that, you have another imaginary universe …

When writing lyrics about music created by someone else, who is it written for? For oneself? For that or that artist? For the public (which public)?

They have to be a hybrid between the two. I am the one who writes, but it has to come out of his mouth, he has to feel comfortable, he has to connect with the message and the form. It is an interesting exercise, an intimate joint work.

What is this collaboration between artist and writer like in practice, this journey in common?

There are two main ways; generally, they pass me the music. The other would be to be inspired by a text of yours and compose.

When I receive the music, I try to get into that melody, and find what it needs: the tone, the images, the landscapes, the words, the phonetics… I put all the resources at the service of the song.

'We are a song'

‘We are a song’

What satisfies you as a creator, when you publish a song? What do you wish for each of your songs?

It is very exciting to find a song written by you, it is like meeting an old friend or an old friend in a bar, at parties, on the bus, in the supermarket … Or seeing that your songs represent the feelings of thousands of people, or listen to the personal stories related to your songs that people tell you.

The song is very grateful, it gives you back a lot. Not always, but when he gives it to you… It’s amazing.

On the album versions, you have accompanied some of your cello, accordion and keyboard lyrics. Why did you choose that sound?

I wanted to do it with friends, and these musicians are my friends. Besides, I was looking for that sound; They are instruments that I love.

I think it is a group with a lot of personality, and, obviously, of a high level. They are great musicians, with great personality and technical prowess. For me, it is a luxury.

And it’s great to hear with those instruments “Pauso bat” by Soziedad Alkoholika or “Lehenbiziko bala” by Negu Gorriak.

The songs range from Sozdades Alkoholika to Pirritx eta Porrotx, and the list of collaborators from Asier Etxeandia to Aire Ahizpak. Why those songs and why those collaborators?

I wanted there to be everything, so that I could show the variety of everything I have done. From Asier Etxeandia to Xabier Amuriza, that is the Euskal Herria that I like. And all and all in Basque.

Will you present the album live?

Many concerts are coming out. The first will be on December 29 at the Victoria Eugenia, on January 6 at the Arriaga theater and on January 7 in Zumaia. And then more will come.

In the first two there will be some guests, and they will be special. In the rest, we will suffice for ourselves.


Related Posts

George Holan

George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *