Bertsolaritza (the art of the bertsolari) is a form of "poetry" that is spontaneously created from a given topic. These topics can be on anything from social problems to love.

There are many different forms of verse that are used by the Bertsolari with the most common ones being ZORTZIKO NAGUSIA and ZORTZIKO TXIKIA.

Zortziko nagusia consists of alternating lines of 10 and 8 sylables. the rhyme is carried on the lines which contain 8 sylables.

Zortziko txikia consists of alternating lines of 7 and 6 sylables. the rhyme for this form is carried on the 6 sylable lines. FOR EX:

Someone gives the Bertsolari a topic such as "you have been out all night with your friends at the bar and driving home a policeman pulls you over. you must convince the policeman that although you've been drinking, you are in perfect shape to drive". The bertsolari is then told that he or she must use zotziko txikia as the meter and which tune he or she should sing his or her verse in.

Many basque traditional songs are actually old verses made up by bertsolaris and then written down or passed orally from generation to generation. One such song is a VERY popular children's song in ZORTZIKO TXIKIA:

Maritxu Nora Zoaz

Maritxu nora zoaz       7
eder galant hori        6
iturrira Bartolo        7
nahi badezu etorri      6
iturrian zer dago       7
ardotxo txuria          6
biok edango degu        7
nahi dezun guztia       6

Here the rhyme changes from the first 1/2 to the second from "-ori" to "-ia" but it usually doesn't in most bertsos.

There are more and more bertsolaris all the time in the Basque Country and The younger ones have recently been winning competitions. As was mentioned before there are also now many women bertsolaris. Most of them also fit into the younger category. Estitsu Arozena, a young woman from Lesaka, Nafarroa, recently won the championship there. And Unai Iturriaga of Durango, Bizkaia and Aritz Lopategi of Muxika, Bizkaia both in their early twenties, recently won first and second places in the Araba/Bizkaia championships. The older bertsolaris, however, still win the majority of the competitions in the Basque Country due to their many years more of experience in the field. Bertsolaritza has also recently becom an optional suject in the Basque school system, thanks to the work of older champion Bertsolaris like Jon Lopategi, exposing even more children than ever before to this art-form. So the future of Bertsolaritza is looking brighter and brighter.

There is quite a similarity between this art form and rap especially if you look at the rap music that is spontaneously created between individuals and not the prewritten-recorded variety that is being exported. In this rap form there is also a great variey of topics ranging from friendship to love to funny experiences. If you listen to older rappers like the song "Rapper's delight" by The Sugarhill Gang, you will get an idea of what I mean here.

This information was originally posted to Basque-L by Christopher N. Upchurch .