Save for honorable exceptions, all artists that have established themselves within the shelter of a band tend to have difficulty when trying to relaunch their solo careers. As journalists, without exception in this case, we are responsible for reminding them again and again of their successful past with their old band.
On one such occasion, a singer who found himself in similar circumstances made the following comment: “when up against death, you always come out losing.” And if death (the old band, in this case) had earned great renown, you can’t even imagine… Strange, right? The group that built him up was his greatest burden. It’s nothing new. I have just said so. It is a phenomenon that has occurred many times.
I believe this is a very important point to clarify in order to develop what I wish to say later on.
Someday it will be time to start singing the praises of the 90s. We have elevated the 80s to such a level that we continually fail to give the rock music made in the 90s the recognition it deserves. Right now the echo of Kortatu, La Polla, Cicatriz, Eskorbuto, Rip, Itoiz, Hertzainak and other such groups is too loud. But if we enter into the 90s we run into very important names there as well.
Although running the risk of forgetting many names, I can mention here and now the second incarnation of Bap!!, the blooming of Gari, Anari, Xabier Montoia, Dut, Ama Say and Kashbad, the start of groups like Berri Txarrak, Zea Mays or Pilt, the careers of groups like Betagarri, Su Ta Gar, Etsaiak, Anestesia or EH Sukarra and, of course, the contributions of Negu Gorriak. I am sure I have left many names out. All lists are unfair. But what cannot be avoided is the following: Negu Gorriak is an essential name for understanding what the nineties implied for Basque language rock. It is indispensable. And when I saw indispensable, I mean it, because Negu Gorriak’s contribution is much more than that.
The group in question is as significant as the label borne out of the hands of Negu Gorriak: Esan Ozenki Records, a refuge for many interesting groups from the 90s. Likewise, this independent label was made for overcoming obstacles that no one had before. Being outside of multinational corporations, promotion and distribution were difficult hurdles to overcome. But this label from Irun (Gipuzkoa) managed to open a door into the international circuit to such an extent that it became an example. Don’t forget what I said before: Negu Gorriak was the key. Thanks to them, Basque language rock made it to many corners of the planet, even more so for Negu Gorriak, who were very successful. And they were independent. Additionally, since the beginning they behaved in a solidary manner. Instead of worrying solely and exclusively about themselves, the members of Negu Gorriak became the driving force behind Esan Ozenki, committed to clearing the way for other groups.
Now, thanks to the Internet, we have many opportunities to access music from all over. But during the 90s an independent label had to make great efforts to get into CD stores.
It was even more complicated to make it into the international market. But the Esan Ozenki label had something very important to its advantage: Negu Gorriak was successful in the international alternative circuit. If the melody attached to a message is good, there is no stopping that song. Taking advantage of this success, other names from Esan Ozenki Records could also expand at home and abroad. They created a school. Other labels arose, inspired by Esan Ozenki: Gridalo Forte in Italy, Dilo Alto in Venezuela, Disco Armados in Mexico, Todos Tus Muertos in Argentina, Label in Switzerland, etc.
He who is generous sooner or later will come to receive the recognition and warmth of others. Because of the lyrics to the song “Ustelkeria”, the members of Negu Gorriak had to appear in court. Freedom of expression was at stake and the wave of solidarity was enormous. It also gave way to a festival that will be remembered for a long time: “Hitz egin!”, which took place in Oiartzun (Gipuzkoa). This also happened in the 90s.
But there are other achievements that can be attributed to the Esan Ozenki label; reliability and credibility, for example. There were people who would go to CD stores and buy the CD’s of other Esan Ozenki groups just because they had the label’s logo. This was enough. Without having prior knowledge of that group, many bought the CD just because it had the logo plastered onto it. And as things go, today I was looking through the Esan Ozenki Records catalog and I believe that there is a lot of variety among the offerings published under this record label on an artistic level, an aesthetic level, etc.
But I have just said this. The Esan Ozenki Records brand was reliable and credible and this is very difficult to achieve. At the end of it all, what is it that brought all of Esan Ozenki’s music together? And what is behind these values of credibility and reliability? The answer is very simple: a way of doing things, a way of being, and a way of feeling.
And in similar terms we can speak about the sub-label Gora Herriak! along with more recent labels such as Metak or Kontrakalea.
What you have in your hands is only a sample. They are not all there. Okay. But what is there is there. Aupa Esan Ozenki! Long live the 90s!