Negu Gorriak

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Negu Gorriak
Negu Gorriak 1.jpg
Background information
OriginGipuzkoa, Basque Autonomous Community, Spain
GenresRock, hardcore, hip-hop, ska, reggae
Years active1990–1996
Associated actsKortatu, M-ak, BAP!!, Anestesia, Manu Chao, Nación Reixa, Joxe Ripiau, Sagarroi, 2 Kate, Kuraia, Inoren Ero Ni, Parafünk
Past membersFermin Muguruza, Iñigo Muguruza, Kaki Arkarazo, Mikel Anestesia, Mikel Bap

Negu Gorriak (Basque for "Red Winters" or "Severe/Harsh Winters") were an underground Spanish group from the Basque Autonomous Community. Their musical style combines various styles of rock music such as hardcore punk, hip-hop, ska, and reggae, although it is impossible to separate the band from its political ideology and its identification with the Basque Country and its language (Euskara).


Negu Gorriak was formed in 1990 by the brothers Fermin and Iñigo Muguruza with Kaki Arkarazo (former members of the band Kortatu). Later in 1990, Mikel Anestesia joined them and in 1991, Mikel Bap. This was the complete membership of the group until its dissolution in 1996.

They were completely committed to the political movement, starting with their choice to sing only in Euskera and continuing through their way of work and the message in their songs. They decided to manage themselves and created the record label Esan Ozenki. They performed their first concert in front of Herrera de la Mancha maximum security prison, leading to problems with the government. They were renounced by the Guardia Civil general, Enrique Rodríguez Galindo for the lyrics of the song «Ustelkeria», which accuses the general and the Guardia Civil of being involved in drug trafficking. This was the first time since the end of Francoist Spain that the government denounced a form of expression. These charges were dropped in 2001, five years after the group stopped performing together. In honour of their legal victory, the group performed three celebratory concerts to more than 30,000 people.[1]

The Music and Basque Nationalism[edit]

Negu Gorriak formed at the end of the Basque Radical Rock movement of the 1980s, a genre most similar to punk. Their sound can be identified as a mixture of Basque Radical Rock and American hip-hop. The Basque nationalist movement greatly affected the music and actions of all the members of the group.

Having enjoyed virtually complete political, economic, social and linguistic autonomy throughout its entire existence as a group of people, the Basques were stripped of all of their freedoms when in 1939, Spanish caudillo Francisco Franco came into power. Although Franco suppressed basically all Basque culture, it is said that "when General Franco became the dictatorial leader of Spain at the end of the war, he took immediate active steps to eradicate the Basque language. The fledgling Basque University (created in 1936) was shut down, books written in Euskara (Basque) were burned, and the language was prohibited in schools, public places, newspapers, and on the radio. All official documents had to be translated into Spanish, and citizens were not allowed to put their Basque names on birth certificates, death certificates or any other legal paperwork."[2] Upon the death of Franco in 1975 and the eventual signing of the Spanish Constitution in 1978, modern day Basques regained virtually all freedoms they once enjoyed before Franco. All of their songs are in Euskera, and two of the group's members went to adult language school (Euskaltegi) in order to be able to communicate in their language. This was a strong message to the Basque Nationalist movement, demonstrating the importance of language with regard to identity. They also incorporated traditional Basque instruments into their music, such as the trikitixa (button accordion).[3]

Negu Gorriak was also heavily influenced by American hip-hop and the African-American community. They considered Public Enemy one of their biggest influences because of their use of militant hip-hop to spread a message to African-Americans. The group related to the oppression of the African-American community because they viewed themselves, as Basques, similarly oppressed. However, when Public Enemy toured Spain, the group was disappointed that they were ignorant to their cause. The popularity of Negu Gorriak was growing at this point throughout the world, and so they turned to other oppressed people who appreciated the ally.[4]

Blatantly criticizing the Spanish government, Negu Gorriak songs condemn police brutality, Spanish institutions like the Catholic Church, and the past Francoist State.[5] Their song about police brutality called "Corruption" accused the chief of police of San Sebastian of having ties to embezzling drugs. After releasing this song, the group was tried and required to pay 15 million pesetas (approx. €90,150). Just weeks later the chief of police was convicted of the drug charges.[6] Thus, Negu Gorriak not only use their music to express ideas and opinions, they are also educating the youth about the reality of the Basque Country situation and the restrictive policies of the new government. Thus, despite the overthrow of Franco, there is still a need for the Basque region to express their local pride in form that provides the youth with a sense of identity through the native language and cultural references. The group shows a logo depicting two crossed axes on red background that some people find related to ETA's symbol, made up of a snake winding up an axe. With such a militant message, it is no surprise that the group idolised many black militants including Malcolm X, making more of a connection with the racist oppression and a marginalised form of expression, hip hop.

For these reasons, Negu Gorriak used hip hop not only to reach the young listeners, but also to make a political radical political statement. On Negu Gorriak's album Esan Ozenki, the title of the track "Napartheid" (1990) is a pun cross-referencing the discrimination of the Basque culture and people in Navarre to the system of legalized racism in South Africa. Furthermore, the song continues to pull at racism with the lyrics such as "the white man has invaded our earth. There is no peace, we have unearthed for always the war axe and it will stand until the death ends with us". These lyrics use the white man to symbolise the threat of Spanish nationalism and central government domination. Moreover, connecting the apartheid in South Africa with the Spanish political system draws on themes of injustice, racism, and oppression. All of these ideas allow the Basque people, like those of other regions throughout the world, use hip-hop music to make the connection between minority communities worldwide and the black experience in America. Then, the song calls for action against these restrictive institutions by saying, "let’s break the chains imposed by the white man". This is the very essence of Gorriak's music, not only creating awareness for the cause but also calling for organisation and action. Thus, they does not make music for commercial purposes; their ability to express their views and the effects of their words motivates their music choices. Subsequently, his fan base not only appreciates their music, but also spreads their political views all over the world, views that extend from Basque nationalism to universal messages about social oppression and cultural liberation.



See also[edit]


  • Urla, Jacqueline (2001). ""We are All Malcolm X!"" Global Noise: Rap and Hip-Hop Outside the USA. Ed. Toni Mitchell. New York: Wesleyen UP.


  1. ^ | Negu Gorriak
  2. ^ Forward, Jean S., Endangered Peoples of Europe: Struggle to Survive and Thrive, 2000
  3. ^ Urla (2001). p. 176.
  4. ^ Urla (2001). p. 173.
  5. ^ Urla (2001). pp. 171-193.
  6. ^ "Censorship Spain." FreeMuse: Freedom of Musical Expression. 28 Jan. 2004. International Basque Organisation for Human Rights. 9 Apr. 2008 < Archived 2008-05-03 at the Wayback Machine>.

External links[edit]