Basque culture


An ancient oral tradition in the digital era

A bertsolari is a traditional poet who composes, sings and, in particular, improvises verses in Basque in front of an audience, following specific rules for rhyme and metre and dealing with a specified subject.

The bertsolaris Zepai and Txapel in Elgoibar in 1933

Bertsolaritza is a key cultural activity in the Basque-speaking world which connects directly with oral traditions whose antiquity cannot be dated. The oldest book in Basque, Lingua Vasconum Primitiae, written by Bernart Etxepare in 1545, includes several songs and bertsos. However, the bertsolari’s habitat is not the page but the town square and improvisation before an audience.

Perhaps surprisingly, bertsolaritza is not a declining tradition; on the contrary, it continues to enjoy good health today. Children are learning this discipline and some of the best-known bertsolaris are little more than thirty years old.


Competing bertso to bertso

One of the specific features of this tradition is that the most important performances take the form of competitions between bertsolaris, helping to make them into genuinely popular events which attract large audiences of all ages.

You too can have the chance to see these displays and enjoy an authentic cultural phenomenon which is unique to the Basque-speaking world.


The national championship of bertsolaris

The national championship of bertsolaris is held every four years at the BEC in Barakaldo, but there are also provincial competitions in Bizkaia, Gipuzkoa and Araba, as well as countless local displays.

Look up forthcoming bertsolaritza dates here: