I am known to a lot of people in the Basque Country for my irrintzis. I have even used them to further scientific research, in an attempt to draw up a behavioural pattern for the throat, and a list of the potential benefits for human beings. Before I explain what an irrintzi is, why not see and hear what it is in this video? Then read on.
According to Basque encyclopaedia Auñamendi, an irrintzi “is a loud, high-pitched sustained yell, executed in a single breath, which shepherds enjoy letting loose in the mountainsides round about, and which is also a general scream of joy uttered by Basques. Writer Jean Piarres Duvoisin claims the yell “dates back to ancient times, and that the Hebrew people also used it. Nowadays Arabs make a similar kind of sound”.
But we Basques, of course, do not let off irrintzis just because we are happy. It can be done at any celebration, or whenever we feel the time is right. These yells are totally spontaneous. Normally no one teaches us how to do them, because we simply learn by imitating them.
Irrintzis are so popular that towns and villages hold competitions during the fiestas. Basque television has even broadcast some of the competitions. It was at one of the competitions, in fact, that I did my first irrintzi.
In the second video, you will hear my “gift” irrintzi for the promoters of Idiazabal cheese, who made a video in homage to the Basque Country’s most emblematic cheese. This kind of event obviously called for a traditional dance rounded off by a fine irrintzi, and it was an honour for me to perform.