Improvisers without borders

Apr 24, 2009

The bertsolaris Xabi and Fredi Paya as well as Maialen Lujanbio took part in 2008 in several exchanges with Latin-American improvisers in Brazil, Argentina and Uruguay. An extraordinary experience which they talk about in a video documentary.

Improvisers without borders

Payadores & bertsolaris

The art of the "payada" (rhymed improvisation sung in Spanish accompanied by the guitar) in Latin America is close to that of bertsolaris (versified improvisation sung in the Basque language) in the Basque Country. Improvisation enthusiasts had the opportunity to discover it in 2003 during an intercultural oral improvisation event organised in San Sebastian and more recently when the Argentinean "payador" Wilson Saliwoncyk visited Getxo (Biscay) in June 2007, taking part in a verbal sparring match with local bertsolaris Xabi and Fredi Paya.

The idea was thus born of a tour of Basque improvisers to Latin America aimed at enabling bertsolarism to be discovered on the other side of the Atlantic and also to strengthen ties between "word artists" beyond linguistic barriers.

Extract from a sparring match between the Paya brothers and Wilson Saliwonczyk (June 2007)

Improvisation & interculturality

The bertsolari Maialen Lujanbio joined the Paya brothers in their journey during which they took part in verbal sparring matches from Argentina to Uruguay and Brazil.

Our three bertsolaris during the Montevideo verbal sparring match - March 2008 (Source:

In addition to improvisation, they also played the role of ambassadors of 21st century Basque culture, using multilingual educational material given on loan by the Basque Cultural Institute (interactive programmes on the Basque Country and Basque song, videos...).

Their tour ended on 29 March 2008 in Montevideo (Uruguay) with a memorable verbal sparring match between the Paya brothers who brilliantly improvised in Basque and in Spanish adapting with to the rhythm used by the Brazilian, Uruguayan and Argentinean improvisers present.

A documentary video account

A video documentary retraces the journey of bertsolaris to Latin America as well as the various events.

This was also an occasion to examine the situation of different forms of improvisation throughout the world.

Further details

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