Animated feature Black is Beltza, Basque music, and the political art of Fermin Muguruza

Musician, record label founder, artist, songwriter, filmmaker, and the definition of political solidarity, Fermin Muguruza just released "Black is Beltza II: AINHOA," the second installment in his graphic novel turned animated feature films series.

"Ainhoa was born by a miracle in La Paz (Bolivia), after the death of her mother Amanda in a simulated car accident. She grew up in Cuba and in 1988, at the age of 21, she traveled to the Basque Country to discover the land of her father Manex. In the midst of repression and political conflict, she meets Josune, a committed journalist, and her gang of friends. After one of them dies of a heroin overdose, Ainhoa and Josune set out on an initiatory journey that will take them across Lebanon, Afghanistan and the city of Marseille. These are the last years of the Cold War and they will delve into the dark world of drug trafficking networks and their close links to political plots."

This is just the most recent collaboration by Muguruza. If you have never heard of him before, I hope this post gives you much to listen to, watch, and consider about politics, music, and the struggle for Basque independence.

Muguruza, a consummate political musician first known for founding the Basque Punk bank, Kortatu, in 1984. Inspired by The Clash, and along with his brother Iñigo Muguruza, Kaki Arkarazo, and Treku Armendariz, they established Kortatu as a central element of the cultural struggle for Basque independence. After seeing Public Enemy, Negu Gorriak, a new musical formation, emerged in 1990. Negu Gorriak means Red or Harsh Winter in Euskadi, the language spoken in the Basque Autonomous Community.

Euskadi is the language spoken by the Basque people. Situated across northern Spain and Southern France, the Basque country is an autonomous community that has long struggled against the Spanish state for political sovereignty, independence, or self-governance.

With the momentum and popularity of Negu Gorriak and the political necessity of creating a music label for Basque music, Mugaruza brought together like-minded folks and started Esan Osenki (Say it Out Loud in Euskadi) in 1991. The label produced some 200 albums from Basque artists that sang in Euskadi, like Selektah Kolektiboa, BAP!, King Mafrundi, and Joxe Ripiau, among a grip of other artists. Click here for a compilation of music from 1991-2011. Emphasizing culture as a way to maintain cultural self-determination amid nation-state cultures from Spain and France, Esan Ozenki produced, released, and distributed ska, reggae, punk, hardcore, HipHop, and other musical genres.

In addition, under the label name Gora Herriak, Esan Ozenki produced and distributed material from global artists involved in political movements, from Aztlan Underground (Aztlan), Hechos Contra el Decoro (Spain), Zebda (France) Todos Tus Muertos (Argentina), P18, Garaje-H (Cuba), and Nación Reixa. Both labels were vital producers and distributors of radical political music until 2011.

Fermin Muguruza's name is synonymous with solidarity. All his albums as a solo artist have been collaborations with artists engaged in political struggles from across the globe, on every continent. You can start with Brigadistak Sound System + Erremixak, then move on to FM 99.00 Dub Manifest, followed by Asthmatic Lion Sound Systema, Nola? Irun Meets New Orleans (feat. Katey Red & Erica Falls), and Euskal Herria Jamaica Clash. The range of lyrical intersections, the sonic geographies traveled, and the polyrhythmic incantations of all these albums will make you dance, nod your head, and share this music.

Muguruza has also worked on documentary projects. In 1999, he produced a documentary about Hip Hop in Palestine, "Checkpoint Rock: Songs from Palestine," featuring DAM.

"Javier Corcuera and Basque musician Fermin Muguruza profile Palestinians in Israel and the occupied territories who use music as both a balm and a vehicle for their political discontents. The performers in this 2009 video documentary include hip-hop acts (Dam, Safaa Arapiat, Ayman PR) and more traditional Arabic artists (Le Trio Joubran, Sabreen), their segments linked by the 2008 death of poet Mahmoud Darwish, who gave voice to the disenfranchised. Most of the performance footage, shot on urban hillsides and in recording studios, was created specifically for the documentary, which makes for a serious lack of spontaneity."

Black is Beltza II: AINHOA is the sequel to Black is Beltza, both based on graphic novels of the same name by Fermín Muguruza, Harkaitz Cano, and Jorge Alderet.

Set in 1965, Black is Beltza, tells the story of how the

"giant figures of San Fermín are invited to parade on New York's Fifth Avenue, but not all of them can participate: for racial reasons, North American leaders have forbidden the black giants to participate in the event. Taking their inspiration from true events, Muguruza, Cano and Alderete tell the story of Manex Unanue [Ainhoa's father], a fictional character given the task of carrying one of those black giants. Bemoaning the fact that his companions have accepted the decision imposed on them, Manex decides not to return home. Seen through the young boy's eyes, we discover the events that revolutionised the society of the mid-'60s: demonstrations after the death of Malcolm X, the bizarre atmosphere of Warhol's workshop, the relationship woven between the Black Panthers and the Cuban secret service and the early days of the hippy movement, enveloped in the psychedelic atmosphere of the first music macrofestivals."

The title track, a collaboration between Muguruza and Boots Riley from The Coup, is available here.

The entire soundtrack is available here. This is the webpage for both Black is Beltza films, graphic novels, and other background information on the project.