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  • Interview With Maialen Lujanbio Zugasti
  • Estitxu Eizagirre

Maialen Lujanbio Zugasti was born in Hernani (Gipuzkoa) in 1976. She started to sing bertsos when she was a child and won several prizes in championships: the children's level of the Inter-school championship twice; the Osinalde Prize; the Euskal Herria National Championship finals in 1997 and 2001 (she ended second in 2001); the Gipuzkoa Championship in 2003. Lujanbio performs around 100 times a year and is one of the most solid representatives of the young generation.

Lujanbio is not only a successful bertsolari; she also has a degree in Fine Arts and does some work in creative writing. She served as the screenwriter for the film Ilargiaren skretua (The Secret of the Moon), as well as some short stories. She publishes editorials in newspapers regularly.

Lujanbio was also outstanding in sports when young. She played handball from beginners to junior levels, and she played for the Euskadi National Team in 1991-92.

How did you start singing bertsos?

There's one opinion that holds that bertsolaritza is transmitted through the family, that we carry it in the blood. That wasn't my case. We didn't live in a bertsolari environment; when I was little I didn't hear bertsos at home. My father and grandmother had a passion for bertsolaritza but kept it to themselves, and when I started to sing they began to sing those bertsos they already knew. Since I didn't get that influence from home, I started to sing bertsos at the ikastola1 at the age of 11, like so many others of my generation. I remember watching a neighbor when he started to write and sing his first bertsos at the ikastola. I was curious, but it wasn't really all that important to me at that time. And then, without knowing why, I also began creating bertsos on my own. I didn't know the rules or the logic of the bertso, nothing, but somehow I did it.

There were another two kids who had a passion and talent for bertsolaritza at the ikastola, and we all began singing our bertsos in class: one day one of them would sing a bertso [End Page 187] to me, the following day I would sing the answer, and so on. They might not have been "real" bertsos, but at least we wanted them to be. When our teachers realized our enthusiasm, they proposed the founding of a bertso-eskola2 within the ikastola. From there, we started to learn the basic technique at the bertso-eskola, refining what we had previously done on our own.

Up to what level did you learn at the bertso-eskola, and where and how did you learn afterwards?

It's never been intentional; it has happened without being really conscious of what I was doing, mostly without thinking about the next step, with no intention of getting anywhere.

I went to the bertso eskola because I've always liked the language very much and I liked the whole process. On the other hand, it was also due to the group environment that we had. At the ikastola we learned the basic techniques, as well as the culture surrounding bertsolaritza: old bertsos, things about other bertsolaris, and so on. The ikastola gave us the language and the bertso in all its scope, and through this a bigger interest in tradition and the Euskara language emerged. It gave us the context in which we could start singing; it was the initial push.

But my evolution as a bertsolari has been pretty peculiar. I didn't come out to the town square after being taught at the bertso-eskola—I started to sing in public much earlier. Therefore, I've learned things from both places . . . or maybe more from the town square. For example, when the bertso-eskolas at the ikastolas got together and the municipal bertso-eskola was created, I hardly attended. Sometimes due to laziness, other times due to lack of motivation. The group had an excellent environment, but I wasn't motivated to go into that white classroom in the culture hall every Tuesday evening; I felt a little...

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