Occitan Beats, Tarantella Power and Beyond

Lesser known than the music of powerhouse countries like Ireland, the UK and Spain, Italy is, nevertheless, a land of rich musical traditions. These are the latest Italian recordings received at World Music Central.

On La Finestra Dell’ultimo Piano, Paroplapi bases its music on traditional folk from the Mediterranean region bordering Italy and France. The group is formed by Samuela Gallinari on vocals, Gael Princivalle on vocals and percussion and Giorgio Albiani on guitars and bass. The beautiful vocal harmonics explore ancient Provensal music (also known as Occitan), respecting tradition, with new arrangements.

Eugenio Bennato always had a passion for the music of southern Italy. He founded the legendary Nuova Compagnia di Canto Popolare (New Company of Popular Song) in 1970s. In the late 1990s he created a new movement known as Taranta Power, seeking to promote the ritual Tarantella rhythms. His music on Da Iontano… is exquisitely lyrical at times, while at others he will drift into dreamy and rhythmic trance-like passages based on Tarantella rhythms and vocals, combining traditional percussion such as tambourines with electric instruments.

The renewed interest in Occitan music is also present in Gai Saber. They represent a contemporary vision of Occitan folk, combining flutes and hurdy gurdy with powerful rhythm section with drum set and digital programming. Gai Saber was born in the Occitan linguistic-cultural area, which includes the Piedmontese valleys where the ancient Oc language is spoken. The name Gai Saber comes from an ancient poetic challenge between poets of the XIV century; words and music draw their inspiration from the very rich oral tradition and the rhythms of the Occitan dances. The project started in 1992 as Kalenda Maia. In 1996 the group changed its name to Gai Saber.

La Fabrica Occitana (2006) is Gai Saber’s latest offering, which the group describes as “musical mongrelizing.” The ancient songs of the troubadours meet the electronic sounds of 21st century European clubs.

Gai Saber is formed by Maurizio Giraudo (bagpipes, hurdy-gurdy, flutes, voice), Maurizia Giordanengo (accordion), Paolo Brizio (accordion, jembe, darbuka, mandolin, voice), Chiara Bosonetto (voice), Elena Giordanengo (harp, Provensal drums and flutes, voice), Sandro Serra (drums), Alessandro Rapa (acoustic guitars, bodhran, voice, digital samples and programming).

The Radici label released Soffi D’Ancia: Decennale Del Festival Pifferi Muse E Zampogne (RMR113, 2005). The album features live Italian bands recorded at a festival, playing several types of Italian bagpipes: piffero, musetta and zampogna. Most of the music is based on Medieval music, and traditional and contemporary Italian folk, although there are also contemporary Celtic acts such as Birkin Three, an Italian band that plays Irish music. The best pieces are the ones where the ancient tradition is taken to new territories. Calicanto is one of the best examples of how folk traditions can evolve on the excellent “La pastora e il lupo.”

Continuing with its Italian series, the Alan Lomax Collection released Italian Treasury, Lombardia (Lombardy) in 2005. The compilation contains recordings from 1954 made by Alan Lomax and Diego Cartipella. At the time, Lomax and Cartipella traveled throughout Italy, recording and documenting Italian folk music. In Lombardy, the two ethnomusicologists recorded a varied collection of folks styles, ranging from child ballads and calls of songbird hunters to a panpipe orchestra.