Bearcoon comes to A Basq Kitchen for a special night of traditional food and song

By Mark McDermott – Added on November 30, 2017

“The Basques are noted for their love of singing. ‘On chant comme un Basque,’ You sing like a Basque, is a French expression for someone who sings loudly, well, and often.”

Mark Kurlansky, “A Basque History of the World.”

Among the scattered tribes of the Earth, few are quite so mysterious as the Basque. They have lost their country several times over, most recently to the French and the Spanish, and though their mountainous homelands are in the midst of Europe their language is completely unrelated to any of the surrounding romantic languages. Some scholars believe the Basque are the original Europeans.

But for a nation-less people, they have pulled off a miracle: their culture, reflected in the richness of their cuisine, music, and art, has remained vibrant through centuries of invasion and occupation. Basque culture is a collective act of defiance,  an ongoing reminder of the indefatigable persistence of their national identity.

Last month, Chef Bernard Ibarra, originally from the Basque Country, was serving as a guest chef at Farm Lot 59, a non-profit, biodynamic farm in Long Beach. A band named Bearcoon was playing at the event. Their lead singer, Solange Kaye Marie Igoa, is from the Basque community in Bakersfield. Igoa and Ibarra had never met before. She happened to see his name on the menu and immediately recognized his surname as Basque.

When Igoa took the stage, she sang a Basque song called “Hegoak.”

“That song is about a bird, but essentially about the character of this bird….about this bird that is very free and wild and how it is a struggle to love a creature that is wild and free,” Igoa said. “But you wouldn’t love the bird if it wasn’t who it was. So all the things that are hard about loving this creature are also what you love about it.”

“Hegoak” is also a metaphor for the Basque people. It would have been easier to give in, to only call themselves Basque and subsume their culture to their occupiers. But then they would not be truly Basque. And so they have fought to remain themselves, to be free within their captivity as a nation, for centuries.

As Igoa sang, the words of “Hegoak” drifted back through the kitchen, where Ibarra was working. He momentarily thought he might pass out.

“I lost my balance,” he said. “I was working and all of a sudden those lyrics came to my ears. I was not expecting it at all. I mean, I was cooking. I thought, ‘Am I dreaming?’”

Ibarra left the kitchen, and walked through the dining hall towards the stage, singing along, tears blurring his eyes.  Igoa’s grandfather, who immigrated to Bakersfield a half-century ago, shares Ibarra’s first name, Bernard. But their real name —  which neither could be called growing up in the Basque Country, where even the language, called Euskara, has political implications —  is Beñat.

Igoa called the chef by his true name. He was stunned. “Everybody always thinks I am Spanish,” he told her. “I am Basque.”

Being Basque means eating well and singing loudly. Both Ibarra and Igoa’s grandfather shared something beyond their name; each sang so emphatically in Basque choirs as boys that they broke their voices. Each cannot help but still sing, but never again loudly.

Igoa has no such limit. She sings like the wind. Bearcoon is a duo, featuring Igoa as lead singer and Andrea Walker playing guitar and singing harmony; they don’t usually perform Basque songs, though sometimes they slip one or two into a set. If you had to classify the band by genre, you’d call it folk. Bearcoon came to some prominence shortly after forming in 2014 when they won Buskerfest in Long Beach, and in performance, there is still something of the urgency of street performing in their delivery. But it’s as if they are somehow performing on more ancient streets. There is an old sound in Igoa’s voice, and ghosts in Walker’s guitar.

“I definitely think my style of singing is highly influenced by the fact there is specific sound —  Basque men have a specific timbre and sound, and Basque women have another specific sound and timbre,” Igoa said. “Most of the time you hear women singing in Basque bands, they have very pretty but gruff voices —  pretty and gruff at the same time.”

Walker is a classically trained guitarist who grew up immersed in blues in the American South. Her playing, mostly fingerstyle, is intricate and soulful. Igoa started singing at age four and began performing in her father’s Bakersfield-based Basque band, Amerikanuak, at 12. She performed in musicals in high school and has been a devoted fan of Barbra Streisand as long as she can remember. Her singing thus possesses both the rawness of her Basque upbringing and the refinement of theatrical singing.

“It’s definitely morphed,” she said. “The Basque thing first, then growing up in high school and doing musical theater, which is more serious and precise and very articulated…As I’ve gotten older, I kind of let all that go to the back of my mind and just started to sing from my own feeling and developed my own thing.”

The band honed its sound through two years of living on the road. They traveled the country in a 1992 Chevy G20 conversion van, finding gigs as they went. They spent part of one wet winter in Portland, Oregon, and the van’s leaky roof resulted in a mold infestation. The van had to be entirely taken apart and put back together with a little help from Igoa’s father in Bakersfield, which also meant Walker got to experience the deep old Basque culture of that area, where the Basque began settling around the time of the Gold Rush. The band’s second album, perhaps not coincidentally, is called “Laminak”, which is the name of mythical creatures in old Basque stories.

“Those are the Basque version of nymphs who sit at a riverside combing their hair with beautiful combs,” Igoa said. “They are very beautiful maidens, but they have duck feet. They are duck-footed maidens. So it’s kind of funny for us.”

On Sunday night, Bearcoon will perform at A Basq Kitchen on the International Boardwalk in Redondo Beach, and Ibarra will prepare a special feast of Basque food to accompany the show. Bearcoon will sing all Basque songs.

The night will be a celebration of the survival of Basque culture. Ibarra notes that without these old songs, the Basque people themselves might no longer be Basque.

“Songs are not taken lightly,” he said of his native land. “They are part of the culture. Without songs, I think the Basque culture would regress, and the songs are also a big part of the language’s survival.”

Igoa is a living example of this. She isn’t a fluent Basque speaker, but she knows the language from songs. “Sometimes the language is not passed down from parents to kids, but even if you don’t know the language fully, the songs are in your heart,” Ibarra said. “They are a part of you.”

And like “Hegoak”, many of the songs are both poetic and subversively political.

“That song, to me —  it means either you can settle for something less than what you want, say independence and culture, and instead just have it in name,” Ibarra said. “You can have the name of Basque Country and be satisfied with it, or you can push further to have the culture fully part of us on a daily basis.”

“Most of the songs, like ‘Hegoak,’ can be received both ways —  they can be very romantically meaningful and very deep in your heart, but at the same time can be taken in a very political way. So the songs give you a message, and a reason to still believe in something, to open your mind and wonder.”

BEARCOON play at “A FULL MOON FEAST” at A Basq Kitchen (136 N. International Boardwalk, Redondo Beach). A special set menu will be offered with house wine for $65;  a full la carte menu will also be available. Call 310-376-9215 for more information. To learn more about the band, see


Bearcoon Releases New Album

By Eric Gray (LBLN Contributor)
Long Beach, California

Bearcoon, Long Beach musical group who began forming in the summer of 2012 has announced the release of their new album “Laminak” after the wild success of there first album, “El Guapo,” which hit #1 on the “Hot New Releases” chart in June 2015.

“Laminak” which comprises of tracks from musical duo Andrea Walker & Solange Igoa also has musical contributions from local musicians Antoine Arvizu from the Compound Studio on drums for the songs (“Portland”), (“Ships”), (“Until You’re Mine”), Lily Stretz on bass, Matt Cohn on keys for the song (“Ships”) and Candra Jakeem also on drums for the song (“Until You’re Mine”).

“Laminak,” Andrea Walker describes,  “is a collection of old and new songs. “Until You’re Mine” was one I wrote in an afternoon about 5 years ago. I wrote “Holes” while we were in San Diego last spring and “Portland” was written in the fall of 2015. Solange wrote “Apparitions” while we were still living in our apartment in Long Beach and i wrote “Ships” the week after we won Buskerfest in 2014.”

Over the past year before releasing “Laminak,” Bearcoon hit the road touring many cities across the United States from Bakersfield, San Diego, Santa Cruz,  and San Francisco, CA,  to Portland, Ashland, and Eugene, OR, through cities in Virginia,  North Carolina, and South Carolina.

Andrea Walker describes their whirlwind year of touring and recording in her own words, “Exactly one year ago Solange and I were frantically rebuilding the interior of our van. We’d spent 7 rainy weeks in Portland with a bunch of leaks in the roof and by the time we made it south again we had a variety of molds growing on nearly every surface in the van. We had 2 1/2 weeks to get the job done, a limited budget, and some very basic carpentry skills. But we hunkered down and got it done and came down to Long Beach to play some gigs around town and in San Diego also. We tried to start recording in February but we were both pretty sick from the mold so we weren’t really able to start recording until the early summer. We spent the early summer touring up and down the coast. We spent April May and June gigging and playing festivals (we headlined the LB Green Prize Festival, played Joshua Tree Music Festival, and also Psychic Faire in Bakersfield). We spent July hanging out in Oregon and playing shows around Portland. In August we made our way back to SoCal and decided last minute to throw a surprise EP release party at the Compound Studio. It sold out in less than 24 hrs and we did a preliminary release of the EP at the show. Then we took off for the east coast! We spent Sept gigging around Virginia, North Carolina, and South Carolina. We spent the month of October busking, playing shows, and hanging out in Asheville, NC. We left the east coast in early November and headed back up to Portland. We opened for the Posies in Portland, played some gigs around town, and made our way back south. We spent Thanksgiving in Bakersfield with Solange’s family and landed in Long Beach the first week of December. We played 8 Long Beach gigs in December and played a killer new years party too (The Official New Years Eve Long Beach Banger). I think that just about sums it up….”

Laminak is available for download at CD Baby, iTunes, and Amazon with physical copies available online.

Here’s a video and song from Bearcoon’s travels through California and Oregon called “Waking Eyes”:


BEARCOON to Headline Benefit Show Fundraiser for Legally Blind Woman’s Experimental Stem Cell Surgery


Image courtesy of Jax Braggiotti. 

When Jax Braggiotti was 11 years old, she woke up one morning to a strange sight: when she looked at her door frame, it seemed as if it was bent inward. She closed her left eye and realized she had a huge grey spot in the middle of her right eye that was blocking her center vision.

A week later, the Long Beach local was warming up for a softball game when she experienced double vision for the first time.

“At that point, my parents got worried and took me to an optometrist,” she said. “He looked in my eyes, quickly sat back and told me he had never seen anything like this before and to get to a retina specialist immediately.”

She would later be diagnosed with Multifocal Choroiditis, a rare disorder characterized by inflammation with swelling of the eyes and multiple lesions in the choroid, a layer of blood vessels and connective tissue between the white of the eye and the retina, according to the National Center for Advancing Translational Sciences (NCATS), a center of the National Institutes of Health (NIH).

Continue reading →

Weekend: Bearcoon on Saturday

Press Telegram

Also totally worth it is whatever clump of beer-sodden bills you find in your pocket to gain admittance at 10 p.m. tonight for a wild and weird triple bill at the Prospector, 2400 E. Seventh St., in Long Beach.

Headliners are Bearcoon, which is, like, ‘nuff said. It’s the acclaimed Long Beach duo’s first appearance at the opulent (in an ersatz Gold Rush tavern way) Prospector. The band goes on at midnight.

On the undercard, you’ve got openers the Champanties, a trio of singing women who sound like they stepped out in the 1960s’ girl-band scene by way of the 1950s.

Sandwiched like a delicious Reuben between the two acts is (or are) Cowboy & Indian which, if you hate train songs, don’t even bother. But who doesn’t love train songs? Cowboy, in this instance, is crack guitarist and singer Robbie Allen, with Indian being played hyper-realistically by the mighty Antoine Arvizu (who’ll also be behind the kit for the Champanties).

Cowboy & Indian go on at 11-ish.


Best of Long Beach 2015 Winners: Arts, Culture and Entertainment


Long Beach’s thriving arts and culture scene is not just healthy; it’s the pulse that keeps the city alive. We asked you to tell us about your favorite things that bring life and color to your life, from karaoke and open mics to up-and-coming artists and galleries off the beaten path. You voted, we counted, and here they are: your Best of Long Beach 2016: Arts, Culture and Entertainment winners.

Bearcoon – El Guapo
Best Long Beach Album of 2015
By Matt Cohn


After winning Buskerfest in the late summer of 2014, Long Beach duo Bearcoon went into mission mode, teaming with producer Antoine Arvizu early in 2015 to record their first album, El Guapo.  After making the album, the duo continued gigging steadily in and around Long Beach.

Just days after a sold-out album release concert at Fingerprints Music last June, Guitarist Andrea Walker and vocalist Solange Igoa gave 30-day notice on their apartment, bought a conversion van, and headed north to parts unknown, with their instruments, a small PA system, and CD copies of El Guapo.

The duo lived in the van with their two dogs and took their music to the people, gigging at coffeehouses, busking, and getting unexpected opportunities along the way.

“One of our favorite shows was this one we did on a 1940s decommissioned Navy tugboat up on the river in Portland,” said Walker.  “On another day, we were busking in Sebastopol and a girl bought one of our CDs.  She went home at played it for her father, who happened to be putting on a music festival the next day.  We found ourselves playing for a crowd of 600,” Walker said. Continue reading →

Your Next Favorite Band: Bearcoon

GERM magazineThe West Coast-touring indie duo Bearcoon has a sound that makes you feel like you’re always sitting around a late-night beach bonfire with the most important people in your life. Solange Igoa’s vocals tell you the story while Andrea Walker’s guitar actually takes you there. The two are distinct sounds that could stand on their own, yet they still find the perfect match in one another, balancing technical musicianship and emotion. Their music is feel-good-esque and, in all seriousness, charming.

I got the chance to speak with the band about their dreamy songs and their experiences in music.


Germ Magazine: Hello, and thanks for agreeing to this interview!

Let’s start with how you both got into music. Then, how did you come together to form Bearcoon?

Andrea: You know, I just always remember wanting to play guitar. I think I got my first one when I was seven, and I started taking lessons when I was eleven. I played “Tangerine” by Led Zeppelin in my sixth grade talent show. I didn’t necessarily come from a musical family, but I was always obsessed with music — folk music especially. I used to steal my dad’s CDs like Simon & Garfunkel and Jim Croce and listen to them non-stop.

Solange: Both of my parents are singers, and I’ve honestly been singing since before I could even talk. I’m 50% French Basque, and singing is a huge part of the Basque culture. When I was a kid, I was totally obsessed with The Phantom of the Opera, and I learned how to harmonize by memorizing the boy and the girl parts, and I’d watch the movie and switch back and forth. Continue reading →

Bearcoon’s “El Guapo” – Album of the Year


Bearcoon have created a truly remarkable debut record that is, in our opinion, this year’s best album. The acoustic folk duo consists of Solange Kaye Marie Igoa on lead vocals and Andrea Walker on guitar and vocal harmonies. Their album titled El Guapo is a collection of poetic lyrics combined with spellbinding harmonies. Like all great recordings, several themes run through and bind the overall sentiment of relationships, love and loss. The redemption of hope is the silver lining in this profoundly heartfelt collection of recordings.


The theme of loss runs from the beginning track through to the end of the album. The tracks run the gamut from beautiful laments to intense anger. Cold Steel of Night, Darkest Corners, End of Days, Waking Eyes and Whiskey are sonic parallels to the emotional roller coaster ride that loss creates. Continue reading →


Geek and Sundry

BEARCOON Feature Image Credit: Sean Armenta

Feature Image Credit: Sean Armenta

OCTOBER 2, 2015

Meet Bearcoon, a band made up of two lovely ladies, Andrea (Guitarist) and Solange (Vocals), who have the best chemistry you will ever see on stage. Maybe it has something to do with the fact that they are the coolest couple (who just got engaged!) you will ever meet and were literally brought together by music.

The Long Beach based Bearcoon won the 2014 Buskerfest Music Festival and used their winnings to record their debut full length album, El Guapo. After their first performance on the stream, the album quickly hit #1 on the New Folk Releases Chart on Amazon and also sold out on CD Baby. Bearcoon became the first band to be asked back for an encore performance on Geek & Sundry Twitch Channel.

While they’re now on the road as full time musicians, we’re still keeping tabs on the band. Get to know Bearcoon a little better as they share about how they got to know the Geek & Sundry community.
Continue reading →