The trio behind the MDNA Tour amazing male vocals and spiritual atmosphere in the opening act.


Music is not restricted to specialists, it belongs to everyone.

Today we are talking to Thierry, Jamixel and Xan from the Kalakan Trio. First of all thank you for chatting with MadonnaNewEra community. We really loved your collaboration with Madonna and we wonder how it happened you both met?

Thank you MadonnaNewEra for contacting us. We were introduced to Madonna by Katia and Marielle Labèque, when she was on holiday in their house located in the Basque coast, South West France. Katia and Marielle became our godmothers. We've been performing Ravel's “Bolero” with them since 2009 and we continue to work with them these days. They give us many advices, support us and help us a lot.

You may know Labèque duo from "I'm going to tell you a secret" scene

We heard that you had performed at Madonna's birthday party...

Yes! Katia asked us to do it. We performed “Bolero” as well as several songs from our repertoire. It was the best birthday present we could give to her. We spent two nights with her and her family having a lot of fun.

Kalakan & Labèque duo performing "Bolero" by Ravel

What was your first thought when you learned about possible collaboration with Madonna?

When Madonna asked us if we'd like to go on a world tour with her, we said that it would please us but we didn't really believe it. Then her management contacted us in January and asked if we were available in 2012. Actually we were already very busy, having plans for 2012, but we immediately said yes. We made some covers of her hits and we came to New York to do the workshop with many dancers. We went back home and then the management confirmed our participation in the tour.

We can only imagine the audience's energy and all those amazing venues when it comes to such a world tour. What was your best tour experience? On the contrary - what was the hardest part?

Our best venue was Olympia in Paris. We were so close to the audience and the fans were crazy. We had a very good time there. And the hardest show was in Abu Dhabi because of the high temperature. But to be honest all the venues were great and it was always a pleasure to perform - her fans are so warm and kind.

The full show: MDNA Tour in Olympia, Paris

Madonna is known for a hard work and hours and hours of rehearsals... was it really that hard?

It was a lot of work but Madonna was the one who worked the most. So we were doing our job and we tried to give our best everyday.

You sing in a couple of songs during the show. You also play your own numbers. Could you tell us more about the proccess of choosing those songs?

Show director Michel Laprise and musical director Kevin Antunes asked us to work on some arrangements of different songs. We prepared them before the workshop. Then, during the creation of the show, Madonna wanted even more arrangements and we were also asked to record the vocals. We didn't expect we would participate so much in the show and we were very happy to have this possibility.

Which of the MDNA Tour songs, that you perform, are your favourites? Also which part of the show you like the most?

We really like the whole show but watching the crowd from the roof during "Give me all your luvin'" was always a great and special moment for us.

Kalakan were the part of the flying drummers during "Give Me All Your Luvin'"

The MDNA Tour opening is said to be one of her best, if not the best. Your chants are mystical, spiritual and magical in the same time. Everyone wonders what are you singing there?

We did the arrangement based on two songs: a Basque traditional song called "Birjina Gaztetto bat zegoen" and a 3000-year-old Hebrew song which is more known as "Psalm 91". We added some vocal drones as we used to do it in our trio and also because we wanted to achieve the sound of Tibetan monks.

For the opening act Madonna asked for a spiritual song related to the Virgin Mary. We chose this traditional Basque song which is actually a Christmas carol about the Annunciation to the Virgin Mary by the Archangel Gabriel, that she would become the mother of Jesus Christ, the son of God. During somes nocturnal musical walks we did in the Basque village of Labastide Clairence in the summer 2011, Jamixel was singing "Psalm 91". He had the idea to add it to the arrangement and Madonna loved that.

After the lightning sound, before we hear Madonna's "Oh My God", we are singing:

"Birjina gaztetto bat zegoen
Kreazale Jaunaren othoitzen,
Nuiz eta aingürü bat lehiatü
Beitzen zelütik jaitxi
Mintzatzera haren."

which means:

"There was a young virgin
Prying the lord creator
An angel appears
Taking down from the sky
To speak to her"

Click here to read more lyrics from the Kalakan MDNA Tour songs, including "Psalm 91" and "Saggara Jo".

What's the meaning of this intro - literally and artistically?

For us this introduction is sacred and raises the general atmosphere of the show. The Virgin unfolds gradually and we discover all the important phases of her life, mostly from a spiritual point of view.

So you sing in Hebrew there... and what other languages do you sing during the show?

Yes, we sing in Hebrew and Basque in the opening act. We use of course English in several songs but also Sanskrit in "Cyberraga".

There is also amazing "Sagarra Jo"... Madonna says a lot about it during the speech. What does "Sagarra Jo" mean to you?

"Sagarra Jo" means literally "smash the apple". That's why we can see some dancers smashing apples in the “Open Your Heart / Sagarra Jo” backdrop video. The song is a mix of a lullaby called "Aldapeko sagarraren" and the sound of work you can hear during the producing of cider (which is made of apples). This sound of labour is also one of the roots of the txalaparta, the percussion we play during the show.

Madonna treated this song in a very symbolic way saying that "Sagarra Jo" is an expression of smashing the prejudices and inequities. We also feel it that way because Basque people have also many prejudices. It's almost 2 years when there is a peace in the Basque country but unfortunately everything is going very slow as France and Spain don't want to negotiate with Basque terrorists ETA.

Kalakan and Madonna singing in Sanskrit during "Cyberraga"

It's the second time when Madonna invites non-mainstream, traditional musicians to her show... How do you think folk/world/traditional music can mix and cooperate with modern pop productions?

We play traditional Basque songs and our repertoire is full of very well known tunes. European folk music is actually one of the roots of current pop music. And she's the Queen of Pop, so we necessarily had something to do together, don't we?

And could you tell us more about your music influences, those Basque songs you play?

We sing in Euskara (the Basque language) to show our roots - as the Portuguese poet Miguel Torga says "the universal is the local without walls". We sing Basque texts from 16th century as well as by some contemporary poets, a capella or with drums. The soft voice of a lullaby can come together with proud voices of a "Jota" or a medieval song.

Kalakan singing a capella

...and you use a lot of drums. What instruments do you play?

We hit some drums with exotic names: txalaparta, ttun ttun, atabal, pandero... All these traditional instruments are being played in the Basque country nowadays.

So what do you want to tell people by your music?

That music is not restricted to specialists, it belongs to everyone. That's one of the messages we try to send to our audience. Our music is tribal and organic. We try to generate emotions with natural things like wood, nuts, skin, body...

Does "Kalakan" mean anything? What's the story behind your name?

Kalakan means "chatting" in Euskara. Our trio started from a duet of txalaparta which is a percussion played always by two persons who needs to find their own language to be able to chat. Txalaparta it's a dialogue and we also believe that music is our first language. We based our work on the colour, rhythm, diversity and inherent musicality of Euskara. Since the beginning of this trio, the most important things in our music are: drums and voices, rhythm and melody.

Where can we hear you these days? Any plans for a CD or your own tour?

We were touring the whole year across the world. All the current gigs can be found on our website: www.kalakan.fr We've recorded also some songs for our new album.

Last year, December 2012, our editors awarded you with a special prize "NEW ERA Achievement" during 2012 MNE Awards (our Madonna summary of the year) saying: In 2012 we chose Madonna's music inspirations on The MDNA Tour: for inviting Kalakan trio and Abel Korzeniowski’s music to The MDNA Tour resulting in spectacular arrangements and bringing real art to pop music. What would you like to say to your fans?

We say "Milesker" (thank you)!


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