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Imanol Larzabal, singer; born 11 November 1947; died 25 June 2004

Imanol Larzabal, usually known simply by his first name, was born on 11 November 1947 in the Antiguo neighbourhood of San Sebastian and was one of the masters of Basque folk music.

Resistance to Franco's regime found many forms of expression, and the 17-year-old Imanol chose his by joining a folk dance troupe, Argia. He was a dantzari until 1968, when he switched to singing.

During his imprisonment in San Sebastian, torture was routinely used on members of ETA. Imanol used his confinement to develop as a songwriter. On his release, he fled to France, where he started his recording career. During his exile in Paris, Bordeaux and Bayonne, he became a prominent protest singer.
Imanol's early records were produced to raise funds for Basque political prisoners.

Above all he was known for his singing - one critic defined his style as "thunder harnessed". He leaves a huge volume of work, most of it in the Basque language, from his first "underground" tracks written in prison and recorded in the 1960s under the pseudonym Michel Etxegaray, to last year's album, Versos Encendidos (Blazing Verses), a poignant set of 15 songs reflecting on his exile from Spain and within her borders.

His hit albums included Herriak ez du barkatuko (1974), Lau haizetara (1977), Jo ezan (1981), Orhoituz (1985) and Muga beroetan (1989). In the 1990s, he widened his repertoire to include songs in the Castilian tongue.

Despite constant insults and threats from ETA and its camp-followers, Imanol refused to quit Euskadi until his mother died in 1999. From October 2000, protesting that he "could no longer breathe freely" in Euskadi, he settled in Torrevieja, in Alicante. Imanol ventured home from time to time, giving a recital in the San Sebastian Kursaal in February 2003. His last concert was in Lasarte-Oria in January, and his last recording was of two songs in Euskera, one a tribute to the Basque composer Julen Lekuona.

Imanol died on 25 June, 2004.

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