Boise’s Basque band plays with a sense of tradition and vitality that is nothing less than contagious.
By Nicole Sharp
Photography Courtesy of Amuma Says No
If you live in Boise, chances are good that at some point you’ve beat feet to Amuma Says No. Whether it’s at Alive After 5 or one of the Basque feast days, it’s impossible to not watch in jaw-dropping awe those who instinctively begin to dance, feet constructing complicated moves, as couples circle and band members give a joyful ‘whoop’ of celebration.
I met with the founding band members of Amuma Says No (Jill Aldape, Dan Ansotegui, and Sean Uranga Aucutt) at the Basque Center during the last minutes of accordion practice, taught by Ansotegui and Aucutt. In the background three young women were playing the txalaparta, a traditional Basque instrument made of wood and, as one of the young women sang, the bar began to fill as volunteers headed toward the basement to make countless croquetas in preparation for The San Inazio Festival. As I took it all in, I couldn’t help but wonder: can you talk about a Basque band without mentioning tradition, dancing and food?
As I found out it’s difficult, as they are so closely intertwined.
“People organize – whether it’s around food, singing in the choir, or dancing,” said Aldape. And Amuma Says No’s music is an integral part of the culture’s social dances.
According to Aldape, Amuma Says No isn’t the kind of band that plays a ‘concert’ – “That’s a common misconception,” Aldape says, “Amuma Says No prefers to be the backdrop and let the dancing take center stage.”
Amuma Says No was born of the Basque culture’s need to feed its traditions. “We’ve never had a dance in Boise without a live Basque band since the 1940s” Ansotegui said. And that was a tradition the band (who, in addition to Aldape, Ansotegui, and Acutt, also includes Rod Wray on Bass and Micah Deffries on Guitar) wanted to continue. Many of the Basque festivals they attended outside of their immediate community had resorted to playing recorded music for their social dances or had begun bands to play as a fix for the lack of an authentic Basque band. Amuma Says No has been able to fill that niche and keep the tradition of live music at social dances alive, across the Northwest and beyond. “We’ve grown beyond our expectations.” Aucutt said.
In addition to their Northwest performances, Amuma Says No has played at both the Ellis Island Basque Exhibit Celebration and the Kennedy Center in Washington DC, and has toured the Basque country as well. Add to that the laundry list of festivals the band has played all over the United States and it’s clear that if nothing else, Amuma Says No is busy.
What’s next for Amuma Says No? They would like to record another CD, write more songs of their own and, of course, tour the Basque Country again; but with the demanding schedule they keep (not to mention their day jobs), they have not had time to collaborate on these projects the way they would like.
Look for the busiest working Basque band in Boise this fall every First Thursday at Leku Ona from 8–11 p.m., as well as at the Sheepherders Ball the weekend before Christmas. More information, including the band’s schedule and downloads can be found at http://www.amumasaysno.com.