Carly Sauvageau is a freelance journalist in Reno, Nevada who penned an article published by The Nevada Independent about bertsolari Jesús “Jess” Goñi.

Goñi is a Basque from the mountains of Navarre, who was born in a baserri in Barbenekoborda in Oronoz, and spent his youth singing bertsos with his grandfather.  Life took him, like so many others from his place and time, to emigrate to the United States, first to Arizona, and then to Idaho.

On his arrival to his new homeland, he spent several years not singing.  He was in the mountains caring for his flock, and in his isolated environment, there were no other Basques.  It was after he moved to Idaho that he got back into it, and started singing as a bertsolari.  He did so, and continues to do so, with his friends, at picnics with other Basques in that part of the world who get together once a year with their countrymen.  He even performed before the US Congress in 1992.

Goñi is an institution unto himself among the Basques out west, as shown by how in March, he was awarded the Special Bertsolari Tribute at the annual NaBasque meet-up in San Francisco.

Indeed, “Jess” Goñi has already appeared on this blog, though rather by chance, when we recognized fellow Basque musician Dan Arostegui was awarded the National Heritage Fellowship (NEA).  In the article recognizing hims for this award, we recalled how the same award was given collectively to bertsolaris Jesus Arriada, Johnny Curutchet, Martin Goicoechea, and Jesús Goni from California and Wyoming.

We loved this article, and the video-interview included in the same.  We love it for how it takes a close look at Goñi himself, but also contextualizes the Basques and Basque culture.

 

The Nevada Independent – 3/5/2022 – USA

Improvising through hardship, Basque singer keeps tradition alive in Nevada

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Washoe County resident Jesus “Jess” Goñi’s knack for a traditional Basque singing style called bertsolaritza has taken him all over the region and even to the halls of Congress. But his talent has also helped keep a unique language and culture alive, particularly in Northern Nevada and the Great Basin region, where many Basque immigrants settled after leaving Europe in the face of harsh persecution in the 20th century.Bertsolaritza is a type of improvisational singing where the singer is asked to perform a song on a specific topic and fit it into a traditional verse structure. Singers like Goñi — known as bertsolaris or bertsos — take on topics ranging from the touching and dramatic to the humorous and playful.

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