Renewed Neapolitan Roots and High Energy

Canto Antico - South Beat
Canto Antico – South Beat
Canto Antico

South Beat (Canto Antico, 2014)

The Vesuvius, Naples’ volcano, and the tarantula unveil an unsettled and overwhelming energy, all which moves with Canto Antico from the countryside to the city, gathering a fresh musical breath.The voice performs a meaningful and archaic world around the essential rhythm driven from the tammorra, while the piffero (a traditional reed instrument) or musa (bagpipe) betrays its origins from the South of Italy.

Canto Antico plays with the urban sound of the drums’n’bass. The final effect is a compact rhythmic and danceable sound. Renewed roots and high energy, that’s “South Beat”

One of Canto Antico’s strengths is the versatility of three players who are the core of the band (Francesca Di Ieso, Armando Illario and Francesco Nastasi). During the live performance we find on stage these three members, the same musicians who contributed to the recording sessions of the album “South Beat” released in December 2013.

The members of Canto Antico are descendants of the farmers around the Mt. Vesuvius. Before they went to town to study as musicians (even their profession now) and they lived part of their lives working on the field as used in this community. By this way, their fathers and elders transmitted their music and culture they want to preserve. This heritage of the inner soul of peasant communities mixed with classical and academic training creates an unique synergy in the traditional music and an explosion of instrumental virtuosity, a fascinating dialogue between tammorra, strings and brass instruments that you can listen in many parts of the album “South Beat”

Fico A Dicembre
F. Di Ieso – A. Illario – F. Nastasi

Nowadays, in a world where extravagance is not the norm, the attitude of a man who is aware of his feelings and lives with extreme freedom, it’s like a “Fico a dicembre” a out of season fruit.
A particularity of this community is closely linked to the vagaries of nature and the vulnerability of the volcano Vesuvius’ eruptions, which are considered as devastations with thousands of victims. However, the lava flows bring out minerals from the center of the earth making the land prolific. In relation to this, farmers have a willing heart, a way of being, a pleasure to share emotions, an extravagant fantasy expressed in words and actions that lead them to handle serious situations, a “Fico a decembre.”

F. Di Ieso – A. Illario – F. Nastasi

The challenges of an ambitious man in needs of going over his limits are like a fight guided from the rhythm of “tammurriata Avvocata”, a Neapolitan traditional ball.

Sanghe is a song and a dance performed on a mountain where there is a sanctuary for the Holy Lady. Starting from the coast, the pilgrims climb the mountain all night long. The dance has such strong rhythm and elements that it was often performed, like a fight, only by men. It’s the only kind of tammurriata played with more than one frame drum.

The pilgrims reached to the cult places walking or by “sciaraballo”, which means dancing cart. The most important characteristic is the presence of a high number of tammorre played at the same time. This cart is also decorated with local food and refreshment including wines that refers to the drinking Greek tradition more than twenty five centuries ago (Magna Grecia).

Two decades ago, this rural culture was on the edge of extinction. Today the oldest men in the villages, used to face the hard realities of the nature and life, show no signs of nostalgia. They are watching the youngsters playing and dancing with tammorra making sure that their traditions have a future. They claim the right to live in harmony with their environment.

The ritual dances whose origins are lost in the changes of faith and culture, have retained their identity of signs, gestures and music throughout the centuries. Today they can be interpreted as well as an expression of thanksgiving for the gifts of mother earth.

At Pentecost all members of Canto Antico join these festivities by walk or on the sciaraballo driven by the Biagio’s tractor, one of the prominent traditional singer, dancer, tammorra player. In daily life, he goes around the farms with agricultural tools, however, at the same time he is a living encyclopaedia of the Mt Vesuvius.


F. Di Ieso – A. Illario – F. Nastasi

There is a cemetery in Naples where divine goddesses and lost souls are somehow interacting with living people that look after their remains.

Along this line Canto Antico created a modern propitiatory act in order to fight a spell generated from the western world that forces a passive reaction in front of emotional or dramatic events.
The Fontanelle cemetery in Naples is located in a cave in the tuff hillside in the Mater Dei section of the city. It is associated with the folklore of the city. The cave became for several centuries the unofficial paupers’ cemetery, starting with the plague of 1685 up through the cholera outbreak of 1836.

In the second half of the nineteenth century, a spontaneous cult of devotion to these unnamed dead developed in Naples. This devotion is not an act of fetishism as the Archbishop closed the cemetery in 1969 for a while, but show the respect of the Neapolitans to their ancestors for the ones in their community who suffered in their life in poor conditions.

In these last thirty years tammurriata moved to the countryside to Naples and other cities in the Northern Italy as well. But the post-industrial effects and the economical crisis broke a lot of dreams in the mass-consumption society and now people come back to their roots and rituals to look for a new identity.

The connection among dance, singing and music creates a unique personal experience each concert and at the same time a social gathering. This heritage of the inner soul of rural communities and living to the urban vibes of the members of Canto Antico allow them to bring back to Naples the musical expression and the social impact of tammurriata linked to community behaviour. This is not closed to outsiders as long as someone shows respect to another.

The song on the “South Beat” album about The Fontanelle Cemetery illustrates the social responsibility of the Neapolitans.

Buy the South Beat CD

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Author: Crygor


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