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Free topic post: “Trikitixa, a closer look”

December 13, 2012 Leave a comment

I sincerely believe that music grants a deep sense of fullfillment, one that improves life to limitless extents. This, though, is no wonder, since I am a musician myself -it would be rather counter-productive to go against the guild, dont you think?-. My most cherished instrument -of the few I own- is called “trikitixa”, a diathonic accordion typicial of the basque country, whose characteristic sound you must have surely heard. My intention with this post is to enlighten the reader with some deeper understanding of the instrument itself, the way it works, and some personal impressions.

Let us start with some history: The trikitixa is actually a variation of the diathonic button accordion, which has its roots in italy (incidentally, the main manufacturers are italian). Its “Diathonic” nature makes each an incredibly complicated product of luthiery, and thus they are quite costly, but, on the ther hand, if properly taken care of, they can outlast their owners. Because of this, it is not infrequent for the most veteran (and succesful) players to sport real vintages, antique models handed down from generation to generation in their families.

trikitixa models from 1942

Here are some of the best trikitilaris of the past century, with models of the time.
Image taken from: (accessed: 19.20 13/12/2012)

The diathonic accordion was introduced in the late 19th century by french and italian sailors and/or railway workers, in a time its use was extending all over europe. The trikitixa was developed as the originals suffered some small modifications in tone and bass-notes (and later on the 20th century, also by adding 4 altered notes). It consists of two keyboards and a bellow; the one for the right hand bears individual sounds and the one in the left, chords in different octaves. The sounds are made when the air (either stored in the bellow or from the outside) is made to go through dual windpipes each containing a thin metal sheet, which are sealed in one side so as to isolate notes. These windpipes are covered by a plug connected to its corresponding button through a small lever, thus allowing to play one note at a time, or any combination wanted (so long as the harmonics allow it).

Description of each section with complementary images here.

Traditionally, it has been assotiated with folk music from the basque country, being present in most of the traditional song types (specially “fandango”, “arin-arin”, and “kopla”), and frequently played accompanied by a “pandero” (a hand-percutted frame-drum), though from the late seventies onwards it has been increasingly paired with unorthodox instruments so as to include it in many other genres (pop, rock, jazz, and so on). Here are some examples of the “old” and the “modern” songs:

“Odolaren boza” – Traditional march.

“Kalanbreak” – Pop-rock song by Gozategi.

Personally, I think that it is a complicate instrument to play. It is an acquired taste, one that requires constant practice lest the player get rusty and the fingers sloppy, and there have been cases of people quitting out of sheer frustration. Nevetheless, once it gets to you, it is enormously satisfactory to play it, because of the challenge it suposses. I’ve been playing it for 12 years already, and I still have vast amounts to learn, so that should give you a pretty accurate idea of how tough it is.

And that’s it. I hope you enjoyed it.

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