Articles by: Tiziana Rinaldi castro

  • Art & Culture

    The Big Man - Conversation with Mauro Pagani

    "We gotta be tough we gotta be strong no fear no pity, no mercy for our enemies stay with me we'll win 'Cause in the end everybody loves me "

    The song underlines an elegantly directed video, pleasant to watch, and sometimes even amusing. In it a flamboyant and quite puppet like character with an extended belly and a prominent blond hairdo, wearing a pair of huge boxing gloves bearing a white and red symbol, moves clumsily on the scene. This changes fast between a post atomic landscape of skyscrapers under attacks by cartoon missiles, the four Mount Rushmore Presidents’ heads opening their mouth to vomit some dark green stuff and winged pigs flying before the blondie.

    Meanwhile he punches through the air and advances in a threatening manner but at an erratic pace, or winks dubiously at the viewer while inviting the latter to come closer, amidst dilapidated factories and a lonely, overgrown country side with forgotten silos in the background. In an empty hangar, Mauro sings, dressed in Edwardian clothes and sporting a bowler hat, sitting on a plush leather armchair. He holds a cane with an animal head silver knob which, if he is not using it as if it were a bass he pummels the air with it, possibly in an attempt to drive out the unsavory character out there, who now appears to be the head of a disturbing small army of young soldiers clearly bearing on their shirted elbows the same symbol on his gloves, and dancing behind him, as in a musical. Close-ups shots of people young and old, seemingly distressed, a black strap on their eyes, are brought forth while a Fitzgerald’s volume and a copy of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hide go up in flame.

    Both the rhythm section and the horn line are tight, expressing a sense of urgency mirrored in Mauro’s voice, and the song is beautifully supported by female background vocals. Ultimately, however, the mere possibility that this coming winter we could end up with a similar histrionic political figure as our president, makes this an unsettling experience.

    I reach Mauro by phone in early August. He's closing his recording studio in Milan, Officine Meccaniche, for a well-deserved vacation and he speaks to me about the reasons behind this project.

    “America belongs to everyone, because in our imagination it plays a greater role than any other foreign country, but you lived in NY on and off for four years, so I imagine your reasons are even more personal”.

    "Yes, I owe a lot to New York for my personal development as a musician. What a forgery that city has been for improvisation, for the pursuit of creativity, and thanks to its obsession with novelty! in a way, because I received so much as a musician from America, I guess I also expect so much from America on a political and social level, content and progress wise.

    I guess I expect it because it’s still a new nation, even though is older than Italy nation wise. It’s a new continent, and one that could have been built and still could build apart from all the mistakes of European civilization. It could have left these in Europe while taking the best from the latter and make itself the next cradle of the new human progress. I also expect that if America considers itself the lighthouse of the world and the defender of democracy, it would have to observe the obligations that such a role has”.

    “To be the greatest one has to behave like the greatest”.

    “Exactly. And that would mean for example to be the Lords of peace. On the contrary She is the Lady of War. Unacceptable, especially when She is the nation with the largest military arsenal in history. Let’s not forget Iraq, for example, and how, in the wave of military fury, America engaged in that horrendous offensive, only to admit, years later, that there were not weapons of mass destructions there, nor they had ever been. In doubt, a responsible nation doesn’t attack, but in America the tendency is to always choose the military option. Now, in matters so delicate and dangerous, the possibility that Donald Trump can serve as commander-in-chief in America affects everyone in the world. So it involves me as a citizen of the world”.

    “And so you came up with this song”.

    “Well, first I realized how important the topic was to me: I’m used to take along with me a moleskin notebook and take notes, and at some point I realized that the last fifteen notes were relating to Trump. I had to express myself on this: to feel like a living person, who remembers being part of a civil forum in which we are all obliged to contribute morally. Unfortunately, I also had to censor myself, three-quarters of the things I wanted to say I couldn’t; I consulted with my lawyer”.

    “What made you think of a satire?”

    “Trump doesn’t show good common sense and neither education. I have been naturally tempted to express my concern in a whimsical way, typical of songwriting… you know, in the end we aren’t but minstrels and we shouldn’t forget. Also, when we do, we are immediately reminded anyway: ’stay in your place, you are but a minstrel!”.

    “So you turned it into a joke”.

    “Yes, I did my job and took the liberty then to satirize it, to ridicule it, to put it in jest. Though I'm not laughing at all, ‘cuz the picture is quite dramatic. I did reflect on many things. We Europeans are so used to consider Americans as cowboys, at best “big kids”. And when it gets bad in the world we make allegiances with these “big kids”, but when it is the boogey man who assumes power in America, who do we make allegiances with? What do we do?

    I can’t forget an image on TV, which I consider emblematic, during the Trump electorate: a father in his fifties, a middle age white man, a redneck. Along comes his young son, a pimply face, looking not too bright, with his backpack and an automatic rifle! on his shoulder, and a small American flag hanging from the barrel of the weapon. Once I recovered from the shock I realized that we Europeans are really not aware of the racial problem in America, and of how serious it is. Now, as long as the States are able to keep their worse instincts at bay we can hope for a slow and inevitable progress. Should they choose to be governed by those who represent those worse instincts, I have to worry”.

  • Art & Culture

    Crêuza de mä: A Mediterranean Experiment 30 Years Later

    Crêuza de mä (Muletrack by the sea) came into the world three decades ago. 

    Tell me about it, how was it born?

    "Thirty years! They flew by…I would have sworn no more than twenty had passed… even fewer, perhaps! Crêuza de mä was, first and foremost, a courageous work, the offspring of a very fruitful collaboration between Fabrizio De André and I. 

    Fabrizio was known for his uncanny ability to write perfect, elegant verses in Italian, and there we were, recording songs in a Genoese dialect that wasn’t understood well even in that city! At the time I had been working with Fabrizio for about three years, since 1981, on the record Indiano while also compulsively working for years on a lot of Mediterranean material on my own, researching the roots of that music. Once in a while I would have him listen to it to get his feedback. I never thought we would do something with it together. It was unthinkable to sing the Mediterranean material in Italian. 

    But Fabrizio had just done two ballad-style, American-inspired records, Rimini and Indiano, and was ready to plunge into something new. So we decided to do this record. At first we thought about ‘inventing’ a language that could have been that of a sailor who speaks Portuguese, French, Indian, and Arabic, until Fabrizio came up with the idea to do it in Genoese instead. That alone magically fixed everything. He started writing stories about the Genoa Republic and about sailors, as well as political songs like Sidún (Sidon, Lebanon), which denounced Israel’s ongoing attacks (1975-1991) on the civilian population, especially on the many Palestinian refugees."

    How is this remix different from the original? Did you change a lot of things? Why should one buy the new version?

    "Going back into the recording studio after thirty years has meant reworking Crêuza de mä both from a stylistic and technical standpoint. When we recorded it originally we did it on analog tape, at a time when the analog system was at the peak of its development. Digital, on the contrary, was in its infancy, thus some frequencies and harmonics in the mix were lost and the sound was a bit weak. 

    Yet I remembered brilliant and full-bodied sounds from the original analog recordings, so I asked for the analog tape to be sent to me and, armed with the patience of a monk, I mixed each track as faithfully to the original as possible, keeping the same frequencies and sound, and respecting the original artistic choices as well: the entrance of instruments and the order of most of the tracks. 

    In some, however, I have reordered the instruments and modified the arrangement. But I only used the existing elements. I also remixed three of the tracks, Crêuza de mä, Â duménega, and Sinàn Capudàn Pascià, to give them a more modern sensibility. 

    Lastly, I remembered that there was a different version of the song Jamin-a, and I added that to the final mix too. So we have both songs on the remix."

    What did this record mean to the music world when it came out?

    "The album was way ahead of its time; we recorded it in ‘83 and released it in 1984. Peter Gabriel’s Real World label wasn’t founded until five years later, in 1989. Italy was very cutting edge in the 70s, with groups like Nuova Compagnia di Canto Popolare, Canzoniere del Lazio, Area, Napoli Centrale, and artists like Pino Daniele. It was really because of the Italian record industry’s shortsightedness that Italy failed to take the lead in world music.

    When we came out with Crêuza de mä in 1984, the album was isolated in a world where Glam Rock was triumphing – Duran Duran, Spandau Ballet – and it took a while for it to be noticed. But once it did, the record has never been forgotten. It has been honored with every possible award from music critics. To date it has been considered one of the best 100 albums of all time in the history of Italian music. I think it is ranked number 4.

    At the end of the 80s David Byrne, along with other American artists, was interviewed by Rolling Stone and he was asked to name the 10 most important world albums of that decade, and he mentioned Crêuza de mä among them."

    What has it been like to work on Crêuza de mä again after all these years?

    "Doing the remake was quite engaging: listening to the songs one by one, finding hidden musical phrases among the scraps of paper and notes to self leftover from so long ago. It has been a strange journey back in time…Crêuza de mä is maybe the most important thing I have done in my career. But I am naturally inclined to look forward, to the future. The most exciting step for me is the one I am about to take."      


    Mauro Pagani is a musician, a composer, a violinist and one of the founding members of the progressive rock band Premiata Forneria Marconi in the 1970s. A leading voice in the Italian music panorama, he has directed the Festival of Sanremo in 2013 and 2014. He has won numerous prizes for his movie soundtracks and is also a fiction writer, currently working on his second novel.

    Tiziana Rinaldi Castro lives in Brooklyn. She is a novelist, poet, and editorialist from Italy. She teaches Ancient Greek Literature at Montclair State University.

  • Art & Culture

    All Music is Political

    This time, meeting over dinner in Brooklyn, I started by engaging the Maestro on the difference between making music today and forty years ago, and the opportunities for young musicians today.

    Let’s talk about being a young artist yesterday versus being a young artist today. What do you think are the main differences between your experience starting out and what today’s young musicians have to face?

    For thirty years, between the Fifties and the Eighties, music in the western world has been the boat fording the river of dreams for young people. Music used to be listened to religiously. People would buy vinyl and CDs with a sense of urgency and pride. The power it had and the power it fostered in younger generations was real, it had a tremendous transformative power on a personal level and, consequently, on a social level too. Today music competes with the web, the internet, and so much more. The media conditions what kind of music is produced and how it’s produced, for music is used to generate audiences. If one wants to circulate one’s own music, one has to adjust to that reality and modify one’s sound, one’s content, one’s style according to that model. Young people have a commercialized relationship with music. A much larger percentage than before wants to make music in order to achieve success. And if they don’t want to do that, well, it’s a hard struggle.

    In your early twenties you co-founded the legendary progressive rock band PFM (Premiata Forneria Marconi), which gained international renown. The band was staunchly political—leftist—and became a touchstone for a generation of young people in Italy.

    Yes. Music was political, as all forms of art were then. Really, though, art is always a clea reflection of its time. Throughout history there have been times when songs have become cultural and political hymns, when they have stopped being songs. In those cases,

    the content becomes more important than the music. As we were saying, the quality of everything one does is political, so music is always political in that it has a political effect. An ugly song is a “carrier” of subculture whereas a good song is the opposite, so the only way to be positive in music is to produce beautiful songs.

    Do you feel that the political militancy of young people has changed too?

    Today young people are terrified by politics in the traditional sense of the word. When I was young the word politics was a noble word. Today it’s an insult. Those of us in PFM didn’t want to become hymn writers, and yet clearly we were extremely political. One of the band’s great merits was to organize thousands of concerts and musical gatherings. This was great, but also exceptional; its power has never been repeated. Let’s hope politics evolves positively. We can’t expect a song to improve politics, but good songs with great content can and will raise people’s social and political awareness.

    It’s difficult for people outside of Italy to understand the Sanremo Festival. It’s a platform for musicians to launch their careers, yet for decades it has also supported mainstream music in Italy. Why did you agreed to direct it?

    It has been a great professional challenge; it has pushed me to the limits of my professional abilities and competencies. I have to arrange (and conduct) music for a fifty-six member orchestra.That’s no small feat. It’s a big responsibility and a wonderful chance to learn something new. It would be too easy to say no. If we complain that things aren’t as they should be, shouldn’t we accept the responsibility to be the ones to change them? There is little space for music, and the Sanremo Festival is the one platform for people to launch original songs. It’s a competition between professional singers rather than amateur interpreters of other people’s hits, unlike on to today’s talent shows. I think we should defend it; it’s one of the few occasions when the entire country is involved in a conversation about music for a whole week— in coffee shops, at home, at work. Sanremo rekindles people’s interest in music, it’s a cultural asset that we must protect. I think it would be best to focus our attention and energy on creating a really quality event.


    Mauro Pagani is a musician, composer, violinist and one of the founding members of the progressive 1970s rock band Pemiata Forneria Marconi. A leading voice in Italian music, he directed the popular Festival of Sanremo in 2013 and will again this coming spring. He has won numerous prizes for his film soundtracks and is also a writer currently working on his second novel.

    Tiziana Rinaldi Castro lives in Brooklyn. She is a nov- elist, poet, and journalist from Italy. She teaches ancient Greek literature at Montclair State University.

  • Facts & Stories

    The Global Power of Music

    “Central to our Southern music is the tradition of Neapolitan song, which in itself has had a very interesting evolution. On one side, in fact, it is learned and very refined, seeing as musicians of great caliber, educated in the classical tradition, have composed music for that immense repertoire. On the other, Neapolitan music (as well as more traditional trance music such as Tammurriata, Tarantella, or Pizzica), has for centuries been heavily influenced by

    Arabic and North African cultures, from which it has inherited the strong rhythms that distinguish it. Rhythm is fundamental to the construction of Neapolitan song, and in that sense Naples has influenced the rest of northern Italy, which traditionally did not have much rhythm, introducing, for example, the ternary rhythm.”

    How far back can we trace the rhythms of Pizzica and Tarantella (the dance of the spider)? 

    Frescoes, reliefs, painted pottery, and ancient documents from various sources suggest that similar trance dances were performed with cymbals and tambourines during the Eleusinian mysteries and the Dionysian festivals in Ancient Greece dating back to the 5th century BC.

    Sure, and also later on, during the conquest of the East by Alexander the Great, we can identify traces of Eastern influences in the polyrhythmic corpus that arrived in Greece, the Balkans, and eventually Southern Italy. In the Pizzica, for example, the influence of Balkan rhythms is most evident.

    So can folkloric music interest an international public?

    Modernity’s problem is communication, especially in this time of cultural globalization. And good communication depends upon cross-cultural exchange, which is in itself a twofold process. One has to be equally good at taking, importing, and absorbing different rules, as well as at conserving one’s core principles, to avoid completely losing the original form. It is important, in other words, to remain authentic, that is, tied to one’s roots but open to a new breath, and capable of remaining in dialogue with the other culture in order to coin a new language.

    It’s no different with music, and if any part of that process fails, the whole project does. We will either have fixed rules that won’t adopt the new, and in that case music will belong to ethnomusicology, or, on the contrary, there will be a music so heavily contaminated that it will be hardly recognizable, and therefore lost. In the case of the former, it will still be powerful, as traditional music from all over the world usually is, but it won’t necessarily cross over because it hasn’t created a more universal language in which to be expressed.

    In the specific case of Tammurriata, Pizzica and Tarantella, the exhilarating power of the music and its ability to move people of all ages to dance almost immediately is uncanny. Yes, its physical, repetitive, enthralling quality recalls the Blues in a way, and that what is universal about the latter: a recognizable rhythm, texts made of a few repetitive lines, and the evocative power in its yearning and sensuality.

    That the rhythm is so fast paced and invites us to dance makes it definitely more exportable to a wider international public than modern Italian song. The latter, still short on rhythm and more concentrated on stylistic features of melody that are more traditionally Italian, would only interest a public either versed in the language or more culturally attuned to Italians, as is the case with Latin Americans, who have historically appreciated our more popular repertoire.


    Mauro Pagani is a musician, composer, violinist and one of the founding members of the progressive 1970s rock band Premiata Forneria Marconi. A leading voice in Italian music, he has directed the 63rd Edition of the Festival of Sanremo in 2013 and will again next year. He has won numerous prizes for his movie soundtracks and is also a writer currently working on his second novel. Tiziana Rinaldi Castro lives in Brooklyn. She is a novelist, poet, and journalist from Italy. She teaches Ancient Greek Literature at Montclair State University.

  • Art & Culture

    Music and the Italians.

    I met “il Maestro” at his home in New York, where he comes for short periods of the year to write, compose and meditate in solitude. He lives in a beautiful loft in a building of a former Hebrew school in the Jewish neighborhood bordering Chinatown, a few steps away from the Manhattan Bridge. As we spoke on his terrace, the high-pitched laughter of children from the schoolyard below mingled with the shrieks of the seagulls flying over the East River a few blocks away. Mauro Pagani is still learning, he says, and New York is the perfect place for such pursuits. It is also the best spot for him to study and play with other musicians.


    We begin by talking about what music means to Italy and Italians, and how this relationshipevolved over time.
    “Music is one of the great cultural riches of our country. I always say that music is a country’s second language. Of the two languages used to express a culture, music is the language tasked with transmitting its most irrational and emotional sides.

    Our culture’s capacity to touch and be touched has been expressed by music in a sublime manner, with some exceptions. From the 1800s up until the 1950s we gave so much to opera – a genre that was so truly ours – and then up until the 1940s we had a great period of “la canzone,” which was not necessarily popular music, in fact, it was authored by sophisticated writers.

    Nowadays you could say that our music is ‘casting around’; we are finding it difficult to coin our own powerful language to best express ourselves. The difficulty stems from the fact that we are expressing ourselves in a musical narrative suited to an evolution that, in a way, started without us.”

    What do you mean? What kept us out of the evolution of contemporary music?
    “We did! Italy literally heard the first African American records at the end of World War II, when the Fascist regime fell. For the twenty years before that, foreign music had been forbidden in our country, so the natural evolution of music – that is, encountering new cultures while hanging on to one’s roots – was stunted in our country. Pop music was born over the next thirty years, during a fecund period of musical fusion: the encounter between European and African American cultures, for example, which produced beautiful hybrids of traditional, contemporary, classical music, etc. Italy was at a disadvantage, however; it was twenty years behind. It wasn’t until the arrival of progressive music in the seventies that musicians found a voice and narrative in our country again; progressive music borrowed generously from the classical repertoire, a language inherently Italian, so we could really express ourselves, knowingly and freely, and our music was exported and recognized internationally. Now the golden age has ended for the whole world. We are at a standstill. Nothing new is born and we listen to new versions of the same beats created up through the eighties.”

    Tell me about the relationship between Italian songwriting and opera.
    “Well, our pop songs obviously dig into opera, in fact, melody plays a much more important role in composition than rhythm. Of course, opera took inspiration from the popular music of its time, the same way Beethoven or Bartok did. In Italy this osmosis has been prolific, but eventually melodrama was coopted by film and musical theater, and great composers shied away from it. Around the same time, the disaggregation of classical culture, especially in Europe, was sped up thanks to the avant-garde movements at the beginning of the 20th century, like Arnold Schoenberg’s dodecaphony, for example, with its total negation of melody. Since then, there has not really been a new style, and music has been condemned as “neo” melodic, “neo” romantic, etc., witness to its own identity crisis. And in the end, the real innovation in music has been the mixing of musical languages from different cultures.”
    His glance lost after the seagulls let me understand that our encounter is nearing to an end. But I’ll be back next month for a new special conversation with Mauro about the history of Italian pop music. 

  • Art & Culture

    To Sing Across the Seas

     Pizzica. It is a dance and a genre of music played in a fast paced rhythm of six eighths, with extraordinarily ancient roots and it has engendered the more famous Tarantella. It is played and danced in the Grecìa Salentina region, the Southern area of the Apulia region of Italy, itself in the heel part of the peninsular boot.

    It used to be a ritual exorcism, the remnant of rites and festivities of the seemingly long lostcult of Dionysus brought to Southern Italy by the ancient Greeks 2300 years ago, and as such it is a true example of synchretism.

    The latter is a word dear to the group of wonderful musicians, eight elements of the larger “Orchestra della Notte Della Taranta” and Mauro Pagani, -musical director, arranger, and musician for the event- who this past Monday and Tuesday have brought to our beloved island an unforgettable sample of Pizzica’s beauty, of its power and its poetry while tying to its rhythm sounds and melodies from throughout the Mediterranean and enriching its ancient strong language with at times an ironic take, at times a revealing intuition, while at others a matter of fact clarification.

    Violinist, composer, co-founder of the legendary Italian Rock band PFM, and conductor, the Maestro Mauro Pagani has recently won the distinguished prize Il Ciak D’oro for the soundtrack to the movie “Siberian Education”, by Gabriele Salvatores, and has directed the 63rd edition of the Italian Music Festival Sanremo, a monumental task which he prepares to repeat next February. Presently in New York where he is completing the writing of both his latest novel and his CD, he is happy to have brought Pizzica to us.

    “From 2007 to 2009, I have been the musical director and arranger for “La Notte Della Taranta”, an itinerant festival in the Salento region, which brings to the financially depressed area about 150.000 people each August, an uplifting event for the people of Apulia”.

    But Mauro’s interest in Pizzica stems from afar.

    “Since the end of the seventies I have been passionate about World Music. Crêuza de Mä, an album I have composed in 1984 in collaboration with the late Italian musician and singer Fabrizio De André, was in a way the first result of my research, the merging of different musical canons.

    And that is eventually what got me interested in Pizzica, how the musicians were holding on to the traditional core of this music and dance and yet they were open to the dialogue with other cultures and their music, and how to weave new languages between them”.

    Pizzica, literally “It bites”, refers to the bite of a small spider, the lycosa tarantula, a common one in the Grecìa Salentina region.

    The spider bit women while they worked in the field, maybe harvesting the tobacco, or the wheat in the heavy season of summer. The women fell into a mysterious melancholia, a state of stupor almost, leaving them unable to function, to be.

    Doctors were useless and psychologists would be taboo in a peasants’ society, for the women weren't "crazy". A magical, mysterious curse had rather fallen upon them and had to be dispelled. What to do? True thaumaturgy was needed; a ritual exorcism had to take place. Yet the priest wasn't called here, the musicians were summoned instead. Only the healing music of the tambourine, the violin, and the accordion, in fact, would be able to cure the malaise of the woman.

    In a pure instance of ritual exorcism, the tarantolata, the victim of the spider’s bite, would dance sometimes for days. The incessant, raving rhythmic music of the Pizzica would induce a state of trance that would help her dance. And the dance had a liberating effect, helping her to get rid of the spider’s poison and dispel thus the utter sadness that had taken over her so that she could return to herself.

    This phenomenon was known as Tarantismo in Italy and was studied on the field in 1959 by anthropologist Ernesto De Martino who wrote about it in a very important book: “The Land of Remorse: A study of Southern Italian Tarantism”.  As it is suggested in the title of De Martino’s book remorse is key in his interpretation with respect to the reasons behind the malaise. As it was never proved that the spider could in fact poison anyone with its bite, it was proposed that the malaise was self “inflicted” as a means to express one’s secret fears, one’s repressed guilt, or one’s inability to cope with a future that couldn’t be averted, may that be an unwanted marriage, a life of utter poverty, or simply the realization that work was harder than expected and that it would only end with death; ultimately one’s inadequacy towards the expectations of a close knit society, bound by rigid moral codes, and especially unfriendly to women. 

    The phenomenon lasted until the end of the 70’s and then declined until it pretty much disappeared, though at times still today, isolated cases of Tarantism are recorded.

    As any mystical and, or initiation rituals, Pizzica was eventually canonized and throughout
    the centuries became part of society’s mundane sphere. For centuries it served thus a dual function: it offered a ceremonial healing ground, holding space for the wounded psyche of women and it comforted the working class from hard work through the fast pace rhythm of its music and the stylized fight against the spider, as recreated in the dance with its light, graceful steps mimicking the stomping over the wretched small creature that caused the terrible malaise.  At once, however, both in its therapeutic and its artistic form, Pizzica promoted respite in the psyche as well as in the spirit. 

    A peasants’ dance, Pizzica was traditionally performed during the celebrations surrounding religious festivities or in weddings and other private celebrations. In the past 15 years, however, a revival of both dance and music on a much wider platform has taken place, involving a new generation of educated and eclectic musicians, who have approached the large canon of traditional music of Apulia re-elaborating it through fusion with other musical languages.

    On stage with Mauro Pagani and the “Orchestra della notte della Taranta” that fusion is clear: blues, rock, and echoes from folk and traditional music from Portugal, Albania, Croatia, North Africa, and Greece. And one premonition of the tango yet to come from across the ocean, in the splendid theme of “Aremu Rindinedda”, an old, old song of longing for one’s own home far away, played on the accordion and sung by the phenomenal musician and singer Claudio Prima in Griko, the Grecian dialect still spoken in parts of the Apulian Region.

    And what to say of the splendid interpretation of “Ferma Zitella”? A true honest blues in the hands of the musicians on stage and in the sultry voice of Enza Pagliara, who gave a poignant rendition of the heart breaking minor key song, telling the condition of loneliness
    in a society that used to look unsympathetically at unmarried women. 

    Worthy as well of a particular mention is “Tarantella del Gargano”, another song of longing and sighing over feminine beauty and the grace of love. One of the most famous love poems of the tarantella canon in Italy, la “Tarantella del Gargano” is slower and more cadenced as in the tradition of Tarantella in that particular area of Apulia –the Gargano mountainous region-. It has been arranged and sung by many exceptional musicians along the years. Antonio Castrignanò’s rendition of this masterpiece in the arrangement of Mauro Pagani was nothing less than breathtaking while lamenting in his high pitch voice the invincible forces of beauty and love.

    All musicians were wonderful, the tambourine and tammorras of Carlo "canaglia" De Pascali have vibrated through the heart more than once throughout the concert and Stefania Morciano’s voice has resonated splendidly in the many songs she sung both solo and in duet with powerful, generous Enza Pagliara. Gianluca Longo, with his mandola and guitar, Antonio Marra on his drums and Silvio Cantoro on the bass have encompassed and held tight the entire band with their mean, clean, and precise rhythmic section.

    And Maestro Pagani on the violin, the piccolo, and the bouzuki has kept the thread of the narrative from the beginning to the end of the concert, listening to everyone carefully, and with each of his instruments dialoguing with all the others: emphasizing a voice with his bow, calling another with his wood-wind; provoking a chit chat with a tambourine with his strings, inviting the accordion for a promenade. And maintaining continuous contacts with the bass, the guitar, the mandola, the drums, assuaging a dramatic musical moment, awakening the next, prolonging a respite from a surge of emotions: never once forgetting anyone on his instruments.    

    How beautiful it was, above all, to see people get up and dance on the floor, especially the young ones. The power of Pizzica and Tarantella is this: a bite of the “spirit spider” moving one into dancing with irresistible force. And as always it is deeply touching to realize how the music and the dance that for centuries have signified freedom and comfort for the people working in the fields continue to lift people everywhere, no matter where it is played.

    Another pearl in itself was the ongoing project of one of the musicians, eclectic pianist, accordion, and singer Claudio Prima. As his countenance summoned the image of Odysseus as available to us through ancient Greek pottery, I called out to him: “Ulisse”, the Italian name for the Homeric legendary sailor King. The young Maestro wasn’t put off. He told me that he is a sailor by passion, in fact, and that he has a band named BandAdriatica, in Italy, with whom he sails along the Adriatric sea, looking for the music of the Mediterranean.

    “We sail searching for a common thread in Mediterranean musicians. We are sailors on a sailing boat, looking for Salentina, Greek, Albanian, and Croatian music, the Adriatic Music. Our idea is that once there was only one music and then a kind of Big Bang generated all other music in the countries facing the Mediterranean. We dock in ports all over and look for musicians, whom like us, are searching for a new evolution in traditional music and we play with them”.    

    That Big Bang “Ulisse” is referring to must be migration, of course, the root of human evolution. How comforting the thought that once separated we cannot do much more but to return on our steps, sometimes centuries later. And in looking for one another, sing our song, hoping to be remembered, and thus recognized. Or the other way around.


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