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  • Interview with Andoni Egaña Makazaga
  • Josu Goikoetxea

Andoni Egaña Makazaga, born in 1964, is without a doubt one of the greatest bertsolaris (Basque oral poets) of our time. A three-time winner of the Euskal Herria1 Championship and an expert on the art of improvisation, Makazaga also has a degree in philosophy and is the author of numerous books and scripts. He is a person of great shyness, and, similar to many other great timid people, he hides his shyness behind a courageous and playful exterior. In a way, he is like Zarauz, the village he was born in on the coast of Gipuzkoa, which shows its kindest and sunniest side to all visitors but requires more time to reveal its inner side, its history, and its everyday life.

You live in Zarauz, the place where you were born. Are you comfortable there?

Zarauz is a very practical place to live. And I need very little public life here: I work at home, I'm not a person who likes to go out a lot, I don't even go downtown with my family (my wife and children) on a Sunday afternoon. That's not my way of life.

In spite of living in a village on the coast, you're not much of a sailor . . .

Our father was born in a country house and our mother on the boundaries between the city and the country. This background has affected us, so we were never really sea people.

In Franco's days, you were one of the first students at the ikastola2 in Zarauz. You studied almost entirely in Euskara3 when this wasn't easy at all. [End Page 169]

It was difficult, mostly for my parents. People in the village had the suspicion that we only sang at the ikastola. They also thought that children studying at the ikastola would have no future, that we were fools. At the beginning of the '70s, many people thought that way and very few took risks.

What kind of child were you?

I was a good boy. Maybe nowadays the concept of "being a good boy" has changed. We spent most of the time on the streets and only once in a while did we break a shop window playing soccer. If a boy does something similar now, we would crucify him. Some time ago even the good boys did things like that, so just imagine what the bad boys could do! I was also a good student until I was a teenager, but those were very difficult years. From when I was thirteen until I turned seventeen I had a bad academic history. There were continuous strikes and I didn't like some of the subjects, like math, physics, and chemistry.

Do your former teachers make comments about you? Do you think they expected something from you?

Maybe. But I'm pretty sure they didn't expect I would become a bertsolari. The bertso (verse) wasn't believed to be a channel of creativity. The general opinion was that bertsos couldn't encourage creativity. On the contrary, they believed singing, poetry, or literature could. Practicing the bertso was a very personal decision. Just have a look at Basarri,4 who lived 300 meters from my childhood home. His society5 was 50 meters away, but I wasn't conscious of that. I wasn't conscious of the bertsolari phenomenon, although I knew of its existence through the radio, listening to my grandfather, and also because Joxe Agirre6 would spend the night at our home once in a while, after he had finished his verse serenade on Saint Agueda's Eve, very late at night.

I know you had very good teachers . . .

Yes, Imanol Urbieta7 was the person who made the biggest impression on us. We began with Imanol when we were ten, and he remained as our teacher for four or five more years, but I believe he's been our spiritual tutor for many years after that. His way of life, his ideology, has always been based on creativity: you are free as long as you create, so create! You realize all this...

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pp. 169-185
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