by Jon Pagola.
No beaches in Pamplona, or the beauty of San Sebastián. It’s not as spirited as Bilbao, and it doesn’t have the environmentally friendly pedigree of Vitoria-Gasteiz. But people of Pamplona are more than proud to celebrate the festival of festivals, San Fermin. In recent years they can add to their local pride many new pop music groups and rock and roll bands. The independent music scene beats more lively than ever in Pamplona, the epicenter for underground in the Basque Country.
It’s interesting to see that much of this output is happening right around two neighboring bars: the Txintxarri bar and the Nebula, located on San Francisco Street at the entrance of the old quarter of the city. Their importance is vital to the music scene in Pamplona and the majority of the groups keep a close relation with them. The Txintxarri, leaning more towards indie, brings together the pop faction headed by Kokoshca, while the Nebula bar attracts groups with a rogue type of soul like the Jambos.
Most groups sing in Spanish and some in English. In the pop-rock field, Kerobia is one of the few exceptions: they’ve been using the Basque language for the past ten years to create delicate soundscapes. “Supernova”, published at the end of 2012 as a multidisciplinary format (CD + DVD + script + mural on canvas) with a limited 1,000 copies printed, is its latest development. El Columpio Asesino (The Killer Swing), who lead the way at this same time, is playing in another league, enjoying its status as a first-rate pioneer.
Kokoshca is the group that everyone is talking about. “Hay una luz” (There is a light), recorded at the end of 2013, promoted under the label Ayo Silver! of San Sebastian, is the disk that should seduce all audiences and critics once and for all. There was a hint of a hit with “La Fuerza” (Force) a few years ago which has now been replaced with “No volveré” (I won’t be back). They also pay homage to the New York Dolls “El búho” (The Owl) and experiment with the wild side of Lou Reed with “Jon y yo” (Jon and I). Amaia Trapu, its lead singer, has a parallel group, Panty Pantera, four girls whose style is somewhere between alternative pop and punk.
In the orbit of the Txintxarri bar we find Tremenda Trementina with another female lead singer, Adriana. Almanaque Zaragozano is impregnated with a lo-fi spirit and you could say there is quite a resemblance to Kokoshca (a trio combining male and female voices.) “Doble de azúcar, que es Ramadán“ (Double sugar, which is Ramadan), its new delivery, is made up of seven laid-back themes, full of ironic lyrics tied to today’s reality. Check it out in the lyrics from “Los Amigos” (Friends): “Quiero ser tu amigo de Facebook, aunque no te veo desde BUP / Pero no te pienso saludar cuando coincidamos en un bar”. (I’ll be your friend on Facebook, even though I haven’t seen you since High School / But don’t think I’ll say hi when I see you in a bar.)
On October 4, 2013 the duo Muy Fellini, with Spanish indie influences of the 1990s and groups like Teenage Funclub, gave its farewell concert. Too bad, because they were good enough to transcend the borders of minority circles. In its place, the group with the most commercial projection has become Wilhelm & The Dancing Animals. These six guys singing in English with their up-beat choral songs remind us of Los Campesinos! in their more euphoric side. Their first album, “The war of the species” (2012) has been distributed in Japan. Last December they began recording songs for their next album.
As for the garage spirit of Pamplona, connected with the Nébula bar, we should first stress the impact of Bananas, a group that was active between 1999 and 2005. The label Gramaciones Grabofónicas just put their anthology into circulation “Hazlo girar” (Spin it) in vinyl format and includes a total of 27 songs. For the album release they’ve reunited to give a series of concerts. From the ashes of garage and lo-fi rock new projects have emerged: Los Ginkas, La Otra Gloria, June y los Sobrenaturales or Germán Carrascosa y la Alegría del Barrio.
Many of them, along with others like the Temblooores, the Kasettes and Karatekas make up part of the Chin-Chin Records Mundiales family. This label, which has been running for more than two years, has published 10 musical references, including two Christmas albums, the last of them with a total of… 37 tracks! It also works with the French influenced and delicate duo Souvenir, which has been very successful, although singing in English they use the name Leather & Lace. One of them, Jaime Cristóbal, has recently launched a crowdfunding campaign with the aim of publishing an EP record in tribute to Josetxo Ezponda, leader of the unforgettable Los Bichos, who died last year.
Los Jambos are probably the hottest garage group right now. The Maraví brothers, Txema and Iñigo, have welcomed Tamu and the three have released a fresh and direct EP reminiscent of compilations by the Nugetts of the mid-1960s. Their lyrics refer to gin & tonics, big boobs, flirting in bars and they make an appeal for uniting the mediocre of the world. New blood in a city that’s on fire, at least in the musical underground.
|Jon Pagola is a music journalist|