A revolutionary spirit for the next generations

The 80´s were hard times in Basque Country. The end of the Francoism, the new democratic system, the increasing independent movements and the armed conflict between the Spanish State and ETA created tension all over the people. Everyone wanted to be heard, everyone had something to say. And there were the musicians, there was the music. “Even the Basque music started to be part from the revolution of that time,” explains Kaki Arkarazo, who has been the guitarist from the well-known band Negu Gorriak -whose meaning in English is Hard Winters-.

Despite of the political conflict, the economical situation in Basque Country, and also in Spain, was not the better neither. The unemployment started to increase a lot, the factories which were opened during the dictatorship in Bilbao and surroundings were closing, and the young people were stuck in non-future feelings. Arkarazo describes the youth in his own words: “The young people were non stoppable, chaotic, an explosion. They were looking for ways to express themselves.” And they found it: Basque Radical Rock -commonly known as Rock Radical Vasco (RRV)-.

Inspired mostly by the new punk rhythms heard in Britain, the new Basque bands wanted to offer something ground-breaking to their public. The Clash, The Damned and Sex Pistols, for example, were models to follow for those bands, since the main objective of the songs written by the English was to criticize and report the things made by the establishment. “It was so easy to make punk, because you did not need to have music knowledge. It was enough with playing four different chords with the instruments in four different ways. The only important thing when creating punk music in that moment was to attack the Government frontally. To complain,” explains Arkarazo.

“Lots of police, no fun” (Eskorbuto), “someone has to shoot the gun” (Barricada), “I like being a whore” (Las Vulpes) or “You fucking bourgeois are never going to understand anything” (Kortatu) were some of the famous lyrics spread by the Basque bands from the movement. There was not second meaning, there were no metaphors, just musicians singing against a system which was oppressing them. “The thing is that their political ideas were pretty basics. The only thing they were singing for was the self-destruction and chaos in the society; for the drugs and the short life. That brought them nowhere. But, somehow, they were understood by the humble people,” says Arkarazo. “They left something, a revolutionary spirit for the next generations.”

The innovative reggae and rap band Autobus MagikoaMagic Bus in English- is an example of that. His singer, Gotzon Retegi, who is also a freestyler and has his own projects out of the band, still thinks that the Radical Basque Rock has influenced the way he started doing music and the way he does it now: “They got their objective. They left ideas that me, for example, still try to highlight in my songs.” But which ideas are those? “I do not believe in politics at all. So I am not use to sing things in favour of an ideology. I just sing what I feel. And try to remind the people the oppression we lived here some years ago,” continues Retegi.

The oppression, however, is still there. Maybe there is no more police violence, no more terrorism, no more random arrests in a demonstrations, but the politicians have found another way to shut the people up: the law. In 2015, the Spanish Government introduced a new law in the constitution called “the gag law.” This law bans the people all over the country to, for example, insult the police or damage the image of them. In addition, it has become also an instrument to protect important figures as the king or the president.

In 2021, a rapper called Pablo Hásel was arrested because of the lyrics of his songs. They were attempting against the royal family, the current president and defending ideas ETA defended in the 80`s. This case became really controversial in Spain and people started to wonder to themselves: “Are we now as free as we were when in the 80´s we were singing “someone has to shoot the gun”?” Probably not. Or not, at least, in the same way. Retegi has a clear opinion: “I do not care about what they do to try us to be quiet. I am going to continue doing what I love, and I am going to continue defending my ideas. They are not scaring me.”

That is also a revolutionary spirit the punk left for the next generations: the attitude of doing whatever they want. “It is not really about the punk. Is more about your attitude, your way of feeling the music. Those young people they can sing reggae or rap and still continue with the punk philosophy,” confirms Arkarazo.