Jaialdi music: Say yes to Amuma Says No

The story behind how Boise’s Basque-American band Amuma Says No got its name is as delightful as the band’s sound. When the members of Amuma (uh-MOO-mah) Says No were trying to come up with a name for their new band, several slightly risque Basque phrases were written down and passed around the table.

Each time, lead singer Jill Aldape would exclaim that her amuma (Basque for grandma) wouldn’t approve. As a joke, Sean Aucutt, the tambourine player, wrote the name that has now become synonymous with a sound that is energetic, contemporary and uniquely Basque.

Amuma Says No was founded in 2006 by Aldape, Aucutt, Spencer Basterrechea Martin and Dan Ansotegui, all second- and third-generation Amerikanuak (Basque-Americans). They had grown up dancing with the Oinkari Basque Dancers and listening to Basque musicians such as Jimmy Jausoro and Domingo Ansotegui. Bass player Rod Wray (a Basque by proxy; he’s married into the Hormaechea family) and guitarist Micah Deffries (no Basque relations; just an affinity for the music and culture) joined the group in 2009.

With its catchy mix of traditional and modern Basque dance music, as well as Basque-flavored folk and rock tunes, Amuma Says No quickly gained not only local and regional fans but also national acclaim.

In 2010, the group played at the Kennedy Center and Library of Congress in Washington, D.C., as part of the American Folklife concert series. The same year it played in New York City as part of the grand opening festivities for the Ellis Island exhibition “Hidden in Plain Sight: The Basques.”

Amuma combines a traditional trikitixa — a duo of accordion and tambourine — with a modern rhythm section and songs sung in the Basque language, Euskara.

The nature of Basque music and dancing is inclusive, and when Amuma performs, it is with the audience, not to it — and the audience can’t help but get moving.