In the age of MTV and digital domination, it's always wonderful to discover a style of traditional music that hasn't yet been swamped by the omnivorous monster of pop music. Oreka TX are the duo of Harkaitz Martinez and Igor Otxoa. They were born and raised in Euskadi, a town in the Spanish Basque country. They play the txalaparta, a unique instrument that consists of wooden planks of various sizes laid over two wooden stands. The planks are struck with wooden mallets to produce a sound that's somewhere between a xylophone and a marimba. It takes two men to play the instrument because the planks are not tied down and it takes coordination and cooperation to play. The instrument almost became extinct in the 1960s; only two duos played the instrument then, but the txalaparta (TX) has made a slow comeback, thanks in large part to Oreka TX. In 1997, they joined the band of Kepa Junkera, who plays trikitixa, a Basque diatonic accordion. Junkera's style of world music fusion won a Latin Grammy for his album K, to which Oreka TX contributed. To make Nömadak TX, Martinez and Otxoa took their txalapartas and computer and traveled the world to record and collaborate with other musicians from traditions that remain largely unsullied by modern technology. They recorded in igloos in Samiland, a recording studio in India, on the steppes of Mongolia, and in the deserts of North Africa. They mixed and recorded as they went, adding final overdubs after they were back home. The journey was filmed for a documentary, also called Nömadak TX, for which this album provides the soundtrack.
"Lauhazka" drops Mongol throat singing, Berber women singing a traditional melody, the chanting of Buddhist monks, and the rippling pulse of the txalaparta into a thumping club beat. "Garinisa" segues into "Jai Adivasi"; both feature sitar, gottuvadhyam (veena), tabla, Indian percussion, and stone and wood txalapartas. The basic structure is Indian, with the txalapartas adding rhythms that inhabit a space someplace between Africa and Manhattan minimalism. The Adivasi are the indigenous people of India, and Bagu is a storyteller/bard, roughly equivalent to an African griot. On "Bagu-Ahmedabad" his traditional singing is mixed into a minimal track consisting of txalaparta rhythms, tabla, fretless bass, and slide guitar played by Angel Unzu, a Spanish musician and arranger who worked with Oreka TX on this project. "Harpeslat" was recorded in a Sami igloo with Terje Isungset playing Jew's harp and txalapartas made out of ice that were constructed on the spot. Yana Mangi's forceful yoik, a traditional form of Sami song, supplies the basic melody. "Etzgarit" uses a traditional oud melody from the Saharawi people of eastern Morocco played by Iñigo Agirre, a gentle loping tune supported by txalapartas of stone, wood, and ice and subtle accents from violin, bodhran, bendir, and castanets. The intercultural mash-ups on Nömadak TX have a surprisingly unified sound, and the inventive ways Martinez and Otxoa blend their txalapartas with other instruments always makes for compelling listening. ~ j. poet, Rovi