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The zortziko is a dance rhythm that originates in the Basque Country. It is also used as an accompaniment rhythm for vocal melodies, such as "Gernikako arbola", the unofficial anthem of the Basques, composed in 1853 by José María Iparraguirre (Laborde 2001).

The zortziko has a distinctive 5/8 time signature, consisting of three subdivisions of 1, 2, and 2 beats. Some theories hold that it is in 5/4 time, "like the Rueda except that the 2nd and 4th beats are almost always dotted notes" (Kennedy 2006), or that it actually a double compound meter combining an irregular binary (5/16 divided 2 + 3) and an irregular ternary (8/16 divided 2 + 3 + 3), creating an ostinato pattern of "irregular bichrome" measures, which in Constantin Brăiloiu's terminology is called an aksak rhythm (Laborde 2001).

Despite the zortziko's origins and continued popularity in folk music, some composers (including Isaac Albéniz, Charles-Valentin Alkan, Aita Donostia, Jesús Guridi, Gabriel Pierné, Maurice Ravel (in his piano trio), Pablo de Sarasate, Pablo Sorozábal, and José María Usandizaga) have also incorporated it into classical music. British composer Michael Finnissy used the zortziko rhythm as the basis for his 2009 orchestral piece Zortziko, commissioned by the Basque National Orchestra.[citation needed]


  • Kennedy, Michael. 2006. "Zortziko". The Oxford Dictionary of Music, second edition, revised. Associate editor Joyce Bourne. Oxford and New York: Oxford University Press. ISBN 9780198614593.
  • Laborde, Denis. 2001. "Basque Music". The New Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians, second edition, edited by Stanley Sadie and John Tyrrell. London: Macmillan Publishers.

Further reading[edit]

  • Ansorena Miner, José Ignacio. 1993. "El zortziko: La frase de ocho compases y el compás de cinco por ocho". Txistulari, no. 155 (July–September).
  • Cronshaw, Andrew. 1990. "Trikitixa!". Folk Roots 11, no. 10:82 (April): 28–29, 31.
  • Sánchez Ekiza, Carlos. 1991a. "En torno al zortziko". Txistulari, no. 146 (July):44–53.
  • Sánchez Ekiza, Carlos. 1991b. "En torno al zortziko". Cuadernos de etnología y etnografía de Navarra 23, no. 57 (January–June): 89–103.