Olatz Zugasti (Hernani, Gipuzkoa,1965) is a singer, composer/arranger, harp and keyboard player, living and working in the Basque Country.
She has been an integral part of legendary singer Benito Lertxundi´s group since 1981, playing both Celtic harp and the more classic pedal harp, as well as keyboards, and singing backing vocals.
At 8, Olatz Zugasti got her first guitar and a few years later was singing and accompanying herself at school and local festivals.
Later, the singer Benito Lertxundi heard her and asked her to sing on his next work based on epic songs and called “Altabizkar/Itzaltzuko Bardoari” (Elkar, 1981). Two years later she started singing in concerts with him, later playing harp and keyboards and becoming part of the singer´s band.
She has since played and sung on all of Lertxundi's acclaimed recordings.
Inspired by listening to the music of Alan Stivell - and given her passion for traditional music - in tandem with her studies at the Conservatory of Baiona - she learned the traditional style of playing the celtic harp. She has since developed her own unique style of playing and continues to explore the beauty and boundaries of her chosen instrument.
As a solo vocalist/instrumentalist she has recorded four CDs for the Basque record label, ELKAR:
Kantu Baten Bila Nabil (1991)
Bulun Bulunka (1998)
Elearen Lainoa (2002)
Gau Hotzenean Ere (2010).
Olatz Zugasti's material ranges from her own arrangements of traditional Basque songs and instrumental pieces, to original songs and instrumentals composed by her - and, in collaboration with other musicians and writers.
Her instrumental melodies are written for traditional harp as well as for its classic version. She also composes for chamber music.
Kantu Baten Bila Nabil (Elkar,1991) “Searching for(?) a song”. This, her debut album featured the celtic harp as a main instrument. Accompanied by guitars, drums, percussion, bass, and diatonic accordion the album created an interweaving of self-composed, contemporary songs with more traditional ones. These were arranged by Zugasti in collaboration with Joël Merah, the guitarist and composer, living in Baiona (Bayonne).
Bulun Bulunka (Elkar, 1999). “Lullabies” A work based on Basque traditional lullabies entrusted to her by the record company Elkar. For this album, Zugasti immersed herself in the most ancient Basque collections of song that she could find. Angel Unzu, another guitarist and arranger accompanied her as performer and co-producer. On this album, apart from the harp we hear other classic sounds, clarinet, bassoon, Irish flute, strings etc.
Elearen Lainoa (Elkar, 2002) “The word mist”. This album is mostly driven by songs, written by Zugasti herself, as well as settings by her of lyrics written by the Basque poets Itxaro Borda and Henriette Aire. The album also contains some instrumental compositions for classic harp and oboe.
Gau Hotzenean Ere (Elkar, 2010) “In the cold night” is the name of her latest work co-produced by the highly regarded Basque musician, Mixel Ducau. Here the songs are mostly written by Zugasti, apart from four jointly written songs with the renowned Irish songwriter, Brendan Graham.
Her harp playing can also be heard on the CDs of other artistes - Maite Itoiz y John Kelly, Mestisay, Alboka, Ganbara etc
Zugasti has given Master Classes in the playing of the celtic harp and in arrangement techniques for this instrument (Conservatory of Donostia /San Sebastián, Conservatory of Bayona, Music School of Donibane Garazi /St Jean Pied de Port,…).
She has also given classes on the Basque traditional song repertory.
In her hometown of Orio, a Basque fishing village, Zugasti has created a Young Female Voices group. She also gives individual singing and harp lessons
From1994 until 2006, Zugasti presented an eclectic radio programme, specializing in world music, called KANTAITA, on Euskadi Irradia (Basque Radio)