Jota/Arin-Arin (arr. Apollo Chambers Players)

Mielotxin is not a composer but a folk band from the Basque Country in Navarra, Spain. Matthew Detrick of the Apollo Chamber Players out of Houston, Texas happened upon them on YouTube, and he arranged what he heard for his ensemble. The following is his program note:

“Journeying north to the Basque realms of Spain, one finds a rich palette of rhythms and colors in the region’s folk music. The jota– also in the family of pilgrimage dances – originates from the nationality of Aragon but thrives in a plethora of Spanish regions (including a characteristic form in Valencia, Aragon, Castile, and Navarra, among others). The dance rhythm retains a standard ternary meter, and the music utilizes instruments aplenty, from guitars and lutes to drums and castanets.

The traditional and popular arin-arin dance also hails from the Basque region. In contrast to the waltzing triple-meter jota, the arin-arin moves like a quasi-foxtrot in double meter, its eight-bar phrases displaying high steps, jumps, and violent movements. The two dances make perfect and enjoyable companions. This piece was transcribed and arranged from a work of the same name by a Basque folk band called Mielotxin.

One of the challenges in arranging a work like this involves translating the heavy ‘beat’ and rhythmic drive of the music to an instrument medium incapable of producing such perpetual accentuation; however, after experimenting with clapping, stomping, and the gentle slapping of our delicate wooden instruments, we hope to have found the right mix. (Listen in particular for the cacophonous bridge to the Arin-Arin…) Aside from the novel percussive additions, a strong melodic bass beat in the cello provides most of the needed rhythmic grounding for these two combined dances. One of our favorites, the Arin-Arin melody creates a visceral, sensual journey along beautiful Basque soundscapes.”
– Matthew J. Detrick, Apollo Chamber Players