This article was translated by John R. Bopp
The National Heritage Fellowship (NEA) is an award given since 1982 to traditional artists in the US by the National Endowment for the Arts.
The award was created by Bess Lomax Hawes, the first director of the Folk and Traditional Arts Program at the NEA. We highlight it because this name might ring a bell with our long-term readers, thanks to the article we wrote about the extraordinary work compiling our culture her brother Alan Lomax, another great folklorist, did in the 1960s in our country.
This year, among the ten award winners was a Basque musician, Dan Arostegi. He was recognized for his more than thirty years of music, including his “Amuma Says No“, which we’ve blogged about several times, and with traditional Basque dancing (with the group Oinkari, también frequently referenced on the blog). The reasons why he was recognized are summarized in the award’s introductory text:
The depth and breadth of Ansotegui’s craft, abilities, and mentorship have reinforced the vibrancy and health of the Basque community in Idaho and throughout the Great Basin region, securing cultural continuity for generations to come. His efforts serve as living links in the historical chain that maintains cultural connections between ancestral and living communities.
The value and importance of Basque culture and the legacy of our compatriots in the US gains more recognition all the time. It’s a legacy and a presence we’ve covered extensively on this blog.
And this is due to the fact that this award, the highest honor a folk or traditional musician can receive in the US, is far from a fluke.
In 1985, just three years after it had been created, it was awarded to Idaho Basque accordeon player Jimmy Jausoro, among others.
And as if that weren’t enough, in 2003, bertsolaris Jesus Arriada, Johnny Curutchet, Martin Goicoechea, and Jesus Goni from California and Wyoming received it collectively.
It’s hard to put into words the pride and gratitude we as Basques feel towards those compatriots of ours who, all over the world, fight to preserve and share our culture, our language, and our traditions. And they do it out of love, for their culture and their roots.
We’ll leave you with the files on the different awards of the National Heritage Fellowship (NEA) for Basque traditional artists in the US.
NEA NATIONAL HERITAGE FELLOWSHIPS – 2019 – USA
Dan Ansotegui was raised by the scents and tastes of his mother’s cooking and the sound of his father’s music. The music came from the accordion and the aromas that filled the house were brought to this country by his grandmother Epi. His exposure to the traditions of the Basque Country prepared him for a life of immersive study, commitment to preservation, and a talent for performance. Through his role as master, mentor, and entrepreneur, Ansotegui is a bearer of Basque music, dance, and foodways traditions that contribute to the creative growth and sustainability of his cultural community.
NEA NATIONAL HERITAGE FELLOWSHIPS – 2003 – USA
Language and the oral tradition have long served as central markers of Basque identity. Basques refer to themselves in their own language as Euskaldunak, or “speakers of Basque.” The Basques who came to the western United States, first with the California Gold Rush and later to work as sheepherders, have retained their connection to Basque language and culture. As a result, the improvisational poetry tradition, known as bertsolaritza, is one of the most revered forms of Basque artistic expression. At festivals and gatherings, the bertsolari (poets) sing improvised rhyming stanzas in a variety of pre-determined forms on pre-selected topics in public verbal jousting sessions.
NEA NATIONAL HERITAGE FELLOWSHIPS – 1985 – USA
Jimmy Jausoro was born December 30, 1920, in Nampa in southwest Idaho. His parents had migrated to Idaho from the Basque country in Spain, looking for a better life. His father, Tom Jausoro, worked as a miner, and his mother, Tomasa, was a housewife; together they operated a boardinghouse called The Spanish Hotel. Jausoro recalled: “We all worked hard. We all had our chores to do, but it was a more sedate life than it is today. When I was a kid, I’d take care of the chickens and the rabbits. I sold papers on the street, and I’d run to the butcher shop for a soup bone every day.”
KTVB – 18/6/2019 -USA
Boise Basque musician wins the highest honor for folk and traditional artists in the country
Dan Ansotegui is an instrumental part of the Basque community in Boise and his role in the community’s music scene was cemented on Tuesday after he became a recipient of the National Endowment for the Arts Fellowship – the highest honor for folk and traditional artists in the country. Ansotegui is a businessman, family man, teacher, and musician. But he says he doesn’t see himself as the type to receive awards like the Fellowship.