We have to recognize it, Madonna is a miracle worker.  In these times of ever-decreasing faith and when our society finds it harder and harder to believe in miracles, Madonna goes and proves that it’s possible.

According to Webster’s, a miracle is “an extraordinary event manifesting divine intervention in human affairs.”  And we just saw one.

Against all logic, at least that logic that denies that we Basques are part of a reality called the “Basque Country,” one of the leading periodicals owned by Vocento (whose most representative newspaper is the pro-monarchy ABC) has published an article analyzing the tight relationship between the Basques, all things Basques, and the singer with a headline that left us gobsmacked:

El amor de Madonna por Euskadi 

“Madonna’s love for the Basque Country.”  This was such a big deal that we went ahead and broke our cardinal rule.  Normally, we want to know what the world is saying about the Basques, so we avoid the press in Spain and France.  But this is a very special case, so we’re breaking that rule like a Mack truck through a brick wall.

The newspaper that has published this article is El Correo, the Bilbao-based journal that until recently printed the masthead “El Correo Español — El Pueblo Vasco.”  For some context, this paper began its life on April 13, 1938 as the merger of two other papers.

The first was El Correo Español, which was founded not seventeen days after the Franco fascists, on July 6, 1937, not seventeen days after the fall of Bilbao, when the insurgents seized the printer that had been publishing the newspaper Euzkadi.

The other, El Pueblo Vasco, was a conservative-leaning newspaper founded in 1910 which supported the July 1936 coup which led to Franco’s military rebellion, and was later closed by Republican government order.  It was reopened in 1937 when Franco’s troops took Bilbao over.

We’re telling you all this so that you can understand just how much we were taken aback by the fact that this headline about Madonna and her relationship with the Basques over many, many years appeared in this paper.

Let’s not forget that for this publisher, the borders are very clear, and as the former mayor of Madrid, and wife to former Primer Minister Aznar, Ana Botella once said, “you can’t mix pears and apples.”  In this case, that would be “mixing” the “Spaniards” of the Southern Basque Country with the “French” of the Northern Basque Country.  Or so we thought until now.

Madonna’s relationship with the Basques

The article reminds us of the lengthy relationship Madonna has had with the Basques: her time with the Labèque sisters, the extraordinary Basque pianists from Bayonne who have taken Madonna to the their home on the Basque Coast; the singer’s relationship with Kalakan, also from the Northern Basque Country; or her relationship with Bilbao-born model Jon Kortajarena.  We’ve covered all this over the years.

Bayonne, and Biarritz, are the Basque Country

If our readers noticed, of all those cited above, three are from the Northern Basque Country, and only one is from the Basque Autonomous Community, which is what El Correo usually calls “the Basque Country.”  This is quite normal and logical for us, but we were surprised to see this newspaper calling all of them Basque.

Of course it shouldn’t be surprising that the Northern Basque Country should be included in the term “the Basque Country.”  Actually, that term refers to the seven Basque territories, joined together voluntarily as brothers, free and equal.  That is the term that Sabino Arana, the father of the Basque nationalist movement, gave this confederation.

It’s a term that has never excluded the part north of the Pyrenees, as is proven in the documentary that was filmed in 1936 — in 3-D! — under the name “Euskadi” which we spoke about at that time.

Like we said, miracles exist.  And we just witnessed one.

But what contributed to getting this newspaper to use the term “the Basque Country” and include the Northern Basque Country?

Madonna again fills her tours with the Basque language

This would have been our article’s title if it hadn’t been for the headline in El Correo.  This is because her new world tour, the Celebration Tour, just about half an hour into the show, starts playing the intro to her megahit “Like a Prayer,” but it includes a very special version of the traditional Basque song “Birjina gaztetto bat zegoen.”

This is a popular Basque carol that was collected by Charles Bordes in his 1887 book Archives de la tradition basque; he’s been mentioned before in our blog.  But Madonna’s also appeared before, not only because she included the group Kalakan in her MDNA Tour, but also because this carol is the base for one of the most well-known carols in the UK, “Gabriel’s Message,” as we brought to you back in 2014.

Call us naïve, but we get the impression that the intro to this live version, a medley titled “Like a Prayer/Unholy/Act of Contrition,” is the work of Kalakan itself.  Those voices, that Northern Basque pronunciation, those drums… we’re not sure what our readers might think, but we would swear that the sound is very reminiscent of Kalakan.

Nevertheless, there are a few things we disagree with in the El Correo article.

As far as we know, on this tour, Madonna doesn’t sing in Basque, though she has before when she sang “Sagarra Jo” with Kalakan.

At the end of this article, we’ll leave you a link to the full show in London filmed on October 27, in which we can find no moment when she sings in Basque.  Maybe we missed it.

Moreover, the fact that “Birjina Gaztetto bat zegoen” was published at the end of the 19th century in no way means that that is when it was written.  Given its structure and format, it’s logical to believe it’s quite a bit older.

Nevertheless, these are niggles, especially when compared with the mistakes committed by some “journalists” who confuse Basque with Hebrew, or Buddhist monks with “medieval bishops,” or who said that the Northern Basque group Kalakan, who are from north of the Pyrenees, were “Spanish.”

By the way, we completely agree, the whole Land of the Basques, all six/seven territories, are “the Basque Country.”

El Correo – 21/11/2023 – Euskadi

Un nuevo guiño de Madonna al euskera con una canción religiosa vasca

Una década después de que contara con Kalakan para sus conciertos por todo el mundo, la reina del pop arranca con el tema religioso ‘Birjina gaztetto bat zegoen’ uno de sus grandes éxitos

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El Correo – 22/11/2023 – Euskadi

El amor de Madonna por Euskadi

Sus veraneos en Biarritz, la colaboración con Kalakan, su amistad con Jon Kortajarena… Son varios los vínculos que la reina del pop, que ha cantado en euskera en un concierto de París, mantiene con el País Vasco

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Concierto completo de la gira «Celebration Tour» en Londres


Last Updated on Feb 12, 2024 by About Basque Country

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