Kepa Junkera became a professional musician as a young man, when the band Oskorri took a liking to him and became interested in his advanced abilities on the trikitixa, the Basque style of diatonic accordion. The word can be roughly translated as "bellows from hell," which should get the point across. His exposure to music had begun as a child, with his mother appearing as a dance partner to the flamboyant Spanish dancer Txilibrin and his grandfather providing tambourine accompaniment for these performances. The diatonic accordion was the first instrument he took an interest in and he immediately began to show a rare aptitude for it, developing his own style of playing at an age when most players are still fussing with the fingering. From 1983 onward, he enjoyed an intense musical collaboration with Osskori, appearing on all of the group's albums as well as playing as a guest performer on concert tours. A composer as well as a performer, Junkera's first original scores were recorded in 1988 on the album entitled Kepa, Zabaleta eta Mutriku. Subsequent releases as a leader in the early '90s blended jazz with the traditional dance music that is associated with the trikitixa. He began to get a reputation as an innovator in the genre, and in 1990 he won an award in Madrid for the best young contemporary folk artist.
In 1992, he created Trans-Europe Diatonic, a special diatonic accordion trio project with John Kirkpatrick and Riccardo Tesi. This project created a much needed opportunity for musical association and interplay between accordion players from different parts of Europe, who found the musical climate ripe for blending their often contrasting styles. Subsequent recordings included an intense exploration of folk-rock sounds and a new duo collaboration with Ibon Koteron, a virtuoso player of the alboka, a unique Basque wind instrument made out of two ram's horns. In 1996, the duo released an album exploring the music of the Basque homeland. Junkera has performed with many important international folk musicians, both on the road and in the recording studio. These artists include the important Irish group the Chieftains and the German accordion player/composer Andreas Vollenweider. In the late '90s, he realized a long-held dream of uniting his instrument with a symphony orchestra, creating a lavish, intricate, and well-received collaboration with the Bilbao Symphony Orchestra. A greatest-hits collection entitled Tricky features many great moments from this artist's prolific recording career. ~ Eugene Chadbourne