Beste Bat: 18 Herri Kanta. 18 canciones populares. 18 Pop Songs
Published in 2004 as part of the events commemorating the advent of Basque Radical Rock (RRV) in the 80s, Beste Bat was the first in a series of works that, over the last two years, have contributed to develop a much-needed bibliography on the subject. While a few, scattered articles had previously dealt with RRV—a highly politicized appropiation of punk by the disenchanted Basque youth of the 80's—from the perspective of American academia, they tended to center on a particular issue, and how a certain band or song engaged with it. Likewise, with the exception of a couple of historical accounts, written by journalists, and memoirs written by musicians, textual production and critical reflection coming from the Basque Country has been equally scarce. Somehow, Basque "radical" culture has finally become an object of study not only for those who lived its birthing stages directly, but also for those who grew up under its influence.
The Beste Bat volume was released in time to coincide with a series of conferences and an exhibition under the same name held at the Rekalde Exhibition Hall, a prestigious modern art centre just down the street from the Guggenheim Museum Bilbao. The goal of the event was to establish the culture of RRV as a defining, integral part of the development of Basque society since the creation of the Spanish Democratic State. To that end, the organizers gathered an impressive array of fanzines, videos, and sound recordings that had, until then, been surviving fragmentarily in the closets and attics of collectors and fans. Thus, the first step in the larger process of reconstructing the history and meaning of RRV was the creation of an archive of the antihegemonic products that gave a material presence to this movement. The second, and more complex, phase of the Beste Bat event was to provide a forum for discussion for Basque journalists and musicians, as well as US-based scholars, such as Jacqueline Urla and [End Page 311] Joseba Gabilondo. The event brought together a rather heterogeneous mixture of people and materials that, much like the Beste Bat publication itself, offered results that cannot be detached from the historical circumstances of both RRV and the moment when Beste Bat became a public, social event.
Among the contributors to the volume, we find journalists, musicians, bertsolaris, comic creators, and scholars. Each section of the book consists of a written and/or visual reflection on a song from the 80s, and the 18 songs selected are themselves quite useful as a basic approach to mapping the period. The chapters range from a minimalist, anti-climatic comic strip retelling the author's personal involvement with RRV (Mauro Entralgo), to the ironic deconstruction of a "radical" song that ends up denouncing the underlying lack of radicality of the song as in the suggestive discussion of Hertzainak's Hil ezazu aita! (Kill your father!) between Gabriel Villota Toyos, professor of Audiovisual Communications at the Universidad del País Vasco/Euskal Herriko Unibertsitatea, and Joseba Gabilondo, Professor at the Department of Spanish and Portuguese, Michigan State University. Fragments of history (both personal and collective) are provided, as well as nostalgic and ironic reinterpretations of the past. Yet what underlines all fragments is a shared understanding of the music and popular culture of the 80s as mediators between the individual and a Utopian imagining of the community. The aptly titled Beste Bat (Encore!) presents at the end of the book helpful translations of all the "texts" into Basque, Spanish, and English (although none of the collages and comics are translated themselves).
For the non-specialist reader, there are other books that offer a more comprehensive narrative of the movement, such as Elena López Aguirre's Del txistu a la telecaster: Crónica del rock vasco (Vitoria: Aianari, 1996), or privileged views of its beginnings, such as Flores en la basura: Los días del Rock Radikal (Algorta: Hilargi, 2003), by Roberto Moso, journalist and singer of Zarama—with Hertzainak, the two groups that began singing punk in Basque. What Beste Bat! brings to our understanding of RRV is a myriad of possibilities for critical analysis and scholarly discussion. Perhaps more importantly, through its sheer heterogeneity, Beste bat proves that, no matter how much time goes by, and how much disillusionment hinders the possibility of radical social movements, RRV represented a source of creative energy that provided youth culture with the means to articulate dissenting, anti-hierarchical politics at a time when public culture was saturated with antagonistic articulations of the social climate.