“Idaho is extremely proud of Dan Ansotegui for earning national recognition for his role in keeping the Basque culture alive in Idaho and the region. The story of the Basque people is part of Idaho’s story, and we are grateful that Dan has chosen to direct his artistic and musical talents in this way.” ~ Governor Brad Little

Boise-based musician and tradition-bearer Dan Ansotegui is one of nine recipients of the 2019 National Heritage Fellowships, the highest honor bestowed on folk and traditional artists in the United States. The award recognizes the artistic excellence of tradition bearers and supports their contributions to our nation’s artistic heritage.

Through his role as master, mentor, and entrepreneur, Ansotegui is a bearer of Basque music, dance, and foodways traditions that have contributed to the creative growth and vitality of the Basque community in Idaho and throughout the Great Basin region.

National Heritage Fellows are nominated by members of their own communities and judged by a panel of experts in the folk and traditional arts. The panel’s recommendations are reviewed by the National Council on the Arts, which sends its recommendations to the chairman of the National Endowment for the Arts, who makes the final decision.

Since 1982 and including the 2019 class, the Endowment has awarded 440 National Heritage Fellowships, recognizing artists working in more than 200 distinct art forms.

Ansotegui joins five previous recipients from Idaho including Nez Perce drum maker, singer, and tradition bearer Horace P. Axtell (2008), saddlemaker Dale Harwood (2008) and Basque accordionist Jimmy Jausoro (1985).

“This nomination marks a significant passing of the torch of cultural legacy. Through his music, dance, food, and language, Dan maintains a critical connection to the European Basque homeland. Jimmy Jausoro and Dan’s father, Domingo, learned their traditions in boardinghouses and bars directly from the men and women who carried those traditions on their backs as they forged a new life in a new country. Dan’s success has been to take those time-honored traditions, adapt them, and make them relevant to generations of Basques who have always called this country home.” ~ Steven Hatcher, Director of Folk and Traditional Arts for the Idaho Commission on the Arts.

Dan Ansotegui was raised by the scents and tastes of his mother’s cooking and the sound of his father’s music. The music came from the accordion and the aromas that filled the house were brought to this country by his grandmother Epi. His exposure to the traditions of the Basque Country prepared him for a life of immersive study, commitment to preservation, and a talent for performance. Through his role as master, mentor, and entrepreneur, Ansotegui is a bearer of Basque music, dance, and foodways traditions that contribute to the creative growth and sustainability of his cultural community.

“I have been surrounded with great food, inspiring music, and riveting story tellers all of my life. Some of it had to wear off.” ~ Dan Ansotegui

Ansotegui began dancing at six, taught, as many Basque children in the Boise area were, by Juanita Ormaechea and Anne Boyd while his father, Domingo, and friend Jimmy Jausoro (1985 National Heritage Fellow) played music for the dancers. At 14 he began dancing with Boise’s Oinkari Basque Dancers. A trip to Spain in 1982 introduced him to the trikitixa, the diatonic button accordion, and in 1990, he was invited by trikitixa master Joseba Tapia to the Basque Country as an apprentice. Ansotegui’s children started dancing for the Oinkaris in 2000, and he rejoined the group as a musician playing txistu, a Basque fife, and trikitixa. His mastery of the trikitixa earned him the 2001 Idaho Heritage Award, the 2004 Governor’s Award for Excellence in the Traditional Arts, and an honorable mention in the 2010 Fellowship Awards for Performance through the Idaho Commission on the Arts.

Other musical projects include drumming for his father’s friend, the Basque accordionist Jimmy Jausoro. With friend Chris Bieter, Ansotegui formed the Basque rock band Ordago in 1987. His next endeavor, a Basque folk band, Gaupasa, was formed in 1997 and represented Idaho at the National Folk Festival in Ohio. In 2006, Ansotegui and Sean Aucutt were inspired to create the band Amuma Says No. In 2016, both Amuma Says No and the Oinkari Dancers performed at the Smithsonian Folklife Festival that featured Basques from their homeland and as a diaspora.

Ansotegui is a founding member of Txantxangorriak, a group formed to teach the trikitixa and pandero to Basque youth and adults. He also helped to establish the Oñati Dantza Taldea, an all-male liturgical dance group that performs every summer at the San Inazio Festival in honor of St. Ignatius of Loyola, the patron saint of the Basques.

Ansotegui’s interest and influence also extend into foodways. In 1991, he opened Bar Gernika, modeled after a Basque taberna. Then in 2001, he opened the Basque Market, an import market and catering operation. In 2018, after retiring from teaching, Ansotegui returned to the world of foodways to be a part of Txikiteo, a tapas and wine bar in downtown Boise.

The depth and breadth of Ansotegui’s craft, abilities, and mentorship have reinforced the vibrancy and health of the Basque community in Idaho and throughout the Great Basin region, securing cultural continuity for generations to come. His efforts serve as living links in the historical chain that maintains cultural connections between ancestral and living communities.

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