Category Archives: Artist Profiles

Artist Profiles: Alpha Blondy

Alpha Blondy

Alpha Blondy has become one of the world’s biggest reggae stars. Inspired musically by Jamaica, and specially Bob Marley, Blondy also sings about struggle, revolution, peace, love and corruption.

Alpha Blondy was born Sedou Kone in Dimbroko, Ivory Coast. He was raised by his grandmother, who imparted knowledge from the Koran as well as traditional Jula morality. It was she who gave him the nickname “Blondy”, a version of the Jula word [also spelled Dyula, Dyoula, Diula, Dioula, Djula] for “bandit”, after he was thrown out of school for forming his own band. He added the name “Alpha”, which means “beginning” or “first”, hence his name means “first bandit.” As a young man he spent two years studying English at Columbia University in New York, often performing reggae in the streets and at Harlem clubs. Leading Jamaican producer Clive Hunt heard him singing Bob Marley songs and recorded six tracks with him that were not released. An altercation with the Ivorian ambassador in New York led to his arrest when he returned home to the Ivory Coast. There, a fight with a policeman led to jail. He finally was released and launched his career in earnest.

His debut recording, released internationally as Jah Glory, featured “Brigadier Sabari”, an account of a street raid by Abidjan police in which Blondy was nearly beaten to death. It became a sensation as others marveled that he had the courage to voice anti-police sentiments. He formed the Solar System Band and signed to EMI, recording his anthemic “Cocody Rock” in 1984. He was now drawing big crowds in Paris as well as Abidjan. Alpha then made a pilgrimage to Jamaica to Tuff Gong studios where he recorded the monumental Jerusalem album with the Wailers. The title track features lyrics in English, Hebrew and Arabic, reflecting his pan-cultural perspective. Widespread international touring, including his first American tour in 1987, established Blondy as a truly global star; his 1992 album Masada was released in 50 countries.

Three years before, he was voted the number one artist by a Radio France international poll. Having celebrated his 20th Anniversary as a recording artist with the release of the sublime Merci, Alpha Blondy resumed touring the United States after a period of cancelled tours. The shows were powerful, high-energy affairs often lasting over two hours, which showed that Alpha still is one of the world’s greatest live reggae performers.

Alpha Blondy

The issues that plague The Ivory Coast and other African nations are prominent on Alpha Blondy’s 2005 CD, Elohim, a wide-ranging set of classic Marley-esque reggae that showcases Alpha to be as vital as ever. Some artists raise political and social issues in their songs but Alpha Blondy the most popular international reggae star since Bob Marley, confronts them in real life as well as his music. With his beloved homeland, The Ivory Coast shattered by civil war and facing potential disintegration at the time, Alpha attempted to act as an honest broker between various factions in the country. It was dangerous work but Alpha is driven to see peace and justice prevail. Despite the fact that he has been jailed before, he still chooses to uses his music as a vehicle for positive change. “Machine guns sing louder than me,” he has noted “but if we don’t find a quick solution now…we’ll be talking about a war that will last maybe twenty years or more.”

Discography:

Jah Glory! (Syllart Production, 1982
Cocody Rock!!! (Pathé Marconi EMI, 1984)
Apartheid Is Nazism (Pathé Marconi EMI, 1985)
Jérusalem (Pathé Marconi EMI, 1986)
Revolution (Pathé Marconi EMI, 1987)
The Prophets (Pathé Marconi EMI, 1989)
S.O.S Guerre Tribale (Jimmy’s International Production, 1991)
Masada (EMI France, 1992)
Live Au Zenith (EMI France, 1993)
Dieu (EMI France, 1994)
Paris Bercy (EMI France, 1995)
Grand Bassam Zion Rock (EMI, 1996)
Yitzhak Rabin (Une Musique, 1998)
Elohim (Deelie, 2000)
Merci (Shanachie, 2002)
Jah Victory (Mediacom, 2007)
Vision (Wagram Music, 2011)
Mystic Power (VP Records, 2013)
Positive Energy (Wagram Music, 2015)
Human Race (Wagram Music, 2018)

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Artist Profiles: Tenores di Bitti “Mialinu Pira”

Tenores di Bitti

Tenores di Bitti “Mialinu Pira” was formed in Sardinia and takes its name from the well-known anthropologist Michelangelo ‘Mialinu’ Pira from Bitti. All the members have been learning the traditional singing since they were children.

After a careful preparation, the group began to perform the ancient melodies at many town squares, theaters and churches of Sardinia (Italy) and abroad, including many European countries, Dubai (United Arab Emirates) and Canada. In 2001, the group participated in the Christmas Concert for the Pope, with artists such as Hevia, Terence Trent-Darby, Cranberries, and Randy Crawford. The concert was broadcast by Canale 5. The tenores were also guests in the telecast Quelli che il calcio, on Italian national TV RAI Tre.

On September of 2003, the group collaborated with Hevia, the famous Spanish bagpiper from Asturias, who invited the Sardinian group to his concert in Avilés (Spain) to open his winter tour. In the same month, Tenores di Bitti “Mialinu Pira” received an award from the Maria Carta Foundation.

On November of 2003, the singers participated in the Festival Europalia as representatives of Italian popular music.

Tenores di Bitti “Mialinu Pira” works carefully to preserve Sardinian tradition by teaching courses at schools and merging this traditional form of singing with other musical genres, such as classical music.

The performances last an hour and the repertoire is made of profane and sacred tracks, preceded by an explanation about their origins and meaning. The group consists of five members who wear the traditional costume and sing a cappella (without instrumental accompaniment).

Discography:

Romanzesu (Amori, 1993)
Intonos (Robi Droli, 1994)
Ammentos (Robi Droli, 1996)
S’amore ‘E Mama (Real World Records, 1996)
Tenores di Bitti (Frorias, 1999)
The New Village (Il Manifesto, 2007)
Cunzertos (2013)

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Artist Profiles: Tenore “S. Gavino” Oniferi

Tenore “S. Gavino” Oniferi

The canto a tenore, typical from Barbagia region in the center of Sardinia, is a male polyphonic vocal style with a great charm, one of the highest expression of the vocal art in the Mediterranean area.

Immediately it sounds primitive and strong. It is not a chance that many scholars thought that this way of singing originated in the prehistoric ages by imitating the nature sounds: the four voices echo the ox bellows, the sheep bleating, the wind whistling and hissing. The origin is still mysterious, but for sure this is a millennia form of art.

Four are the voices: boghe (the soloist), mesa-oche, contra, bassu. The lead voice (boghe) sings the main melody and stands the song, while the other three voices are rhythmic accompaniment characterized by non-sense syllables. Performing this accompaniment the singers use a guttural emission of the voice, which surprisingly shows many analogies with the primitive vocal music of Oceania and Africa. Using this guttural timbre and particular tuning jumps, tenores can sing an enormous repertoire: muttos, ottave, battorinas, terzine, dances and improvised rhymes. The very peculiar harmony and poetic texts, the guttural voices and the characteristic tuning jumps make immediately recognizable this particular way of singing.

The Tenore “S. Gavino” from Oniferi is considered by music fans and ethno-musicologists the most prominent example of this vocal art. There are many points that make them so special: the canto a tenore is still well alive in Sardinia performed by many groups, most of them are old singers performing traditional texts. Their young age and the fact that three of them are brothers, is a first approach to notice how their sound, harsh and ancestral, is in fact very homogeneous. Their perfect tuning and their powerful sound is very rare today, because this skill needs years of practice and passion to be performed at its best. And in this sense Oniferi are the best young heir of the tradition and one of the very few promises for the future of this vocal marvel.

In the last years they’ve been touring extensively Europe (France in particular, where their CD Su Banzigu sold more than 2000 copies), the USA and Taiwan where they guested in a festival about traditional polyphony.

Another matter to be pointed is their accuracy in choosing lyrics this makes Onferi the foremost group in the new-traditional scene in Sardinia. Their texts are often oriented to contemporary arguments : social and working troubles, drug abuse, sex, today’s life difficulties, ironic and funny stories, some “philosophical” consideration about life…and sweet rhymes about love.

Both in dancing (lestru, dillu, passu torrau, ballu thoppu) and slow (boche seria, boch’e notte) forms, the lyrics, by famous poets such as Montanaru or from unknown contemporary authors, make the repertoire of Tenore S. Gavino an important vehicle of literary transmission. The oral transmission of poetry is another important point in Sardinian traditional culture from centuries, as well as the skill of improvising lyrics.

Discography:

E Prite Totto Custu (Felmay, 2006)
Su Banzigu

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Artist Profiles: Spaccanapoli

Spaccanapoli

Spaccanapoli comes from the streets of Naples, full of vibrant energy, impassioned vocals and wild abandon. The band sings modern protest songs from ancient roots. “One by one we die – all because of the bosses!”This defiant line isn’t sung at some socialist youth rally, but rather an informal gathering of automotive workers near Naples.

These age-old gatherings where people sing, perform street theater, tell stories and entertain their peers have been an outlet for the working people to express their troubles and ease their pain.

Spaccanapoli grew out E Zezi, the original gruppo operaio (socialist workers collective) of automotive workers in their native Naples.

Formed in 1974, E Zezi has consisted of over 100 singers, musicians, and dancers set out to express the cruelties of capitalism and the insensitivity of their corrupt bosses.

What began as a group of dedicated locals making music of the people, by the people, and for the people has gradually mutated into an internationally renowned cultural troupe who have been in much demand on the festival circuit. An old street of Greek origin in the center of-Naples, “Spaccanapoli” (meaning “split Naples”) embodies the soul of their city – in spite of being reduced to a stop-off on the tourist trail, it still retains the vital, irrepressible spark of authentic folk expression.

On Lost Souls, Spaccanapoli perform songs about political protest, beautiful girls, spirits, goblins, carnival, magic, and the beloved Mt. Vesuvius – emblem of the region and its explosive soul.

Pulsing drums and impassioned vocals entwine with the wild dances of the “tarantella” (ancient solo dance of possession) and “tammurriata” (a dance performed in couples within a circle of people to the steady rhythm of the tammorra drum).

The lineup in 2000 featured Monica Pinto (lead vocals), Marcello Colasurdo (lead vocals, tammorra), Antonio Fraioli (violin, piano, percussion), Oscar Montalbano (acoustic guitar, bass), Emilio De Matteo (acoustic and electric guitars).

Discography:

Aneme Perze – Lost Souls (Real World Records, 2000)
Janus (2009)

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Artist Profiles: Radiodervish

Radiodervish

The music of the Radiodervish (from the Persian dar and wish: visitors of doors) was born from the meeting between Palestinian musician Nabil and Italian artist Michele. Two lives, two worlds that virtually are thousands and that relate mutually and do not fear to be contaminated. Nabil and Michele live on the frontier, seeking roads and bridges between the East and the West. They explore the no man’s land, the border and the space that unifies and separates at the same time. They tell the story of a world which exists and which is self-sufficient. They tell the story of interior journeys set out by men and women who belong to different spaces, cultures and times. They tell the story of hidden but always vital paths whose trails are symbols and myths that permeate the cultures which they belong to. Biblical and Sufi symbolism, earthly loves and mystic nostalgia sung in Italian, in Arabic, in English and in French with a marked sense of melody joined by the sonority that is rooted in both the Western culture and the Arabic tradition.

Michele and Nabil meet in the mid-1980s in the city of Bari (southern Italy) where they visited university circles, studying respectively Philosophy and Engineering. In June 1980 they founded the Al Darawish and immediately made a name for themselves as one of the most important groups on the Italian world music scene. They received a very good response from both the public and the critics. They produced two albums and played more than 300 concerts.

In 1997 Nabil and Michele bring to an end their experience with Al Darawish and founded the new Radiodervish. In 1998 they signed a record contract with Giovanni Lindo Ferretti &Massimo Zamboni’s I Dischi del Mulo. In July at the apartments of the Castello Episcopio in Grottaglie (South Italy) they produced their first album under Radiodervish: Lingua contro Lingua (Dischi del Mulo/PolyGram), in collaboration with the artistic production of Fabio Recupero and Mauro Andreolli. The album was presented at the Salone della Musica in Turin and won the Premio Ciampi as the best record debut of the year. In January of 1999 the Lingua contro Lingua tour began.

During this period, Radiodervish made many contacts with artists from the Middle East, like Rim Banna, Amal Morkus and Israeli singer Noa.

At the end of 1999 a new collaboration with Italian artist Lorenzo Cherubini (Jovanotti) began. For his music video Stella Cometa, Nabil was asked to translate into Arabic a part of the song and to sing it. In July 2000 a new Jovanotti’s single Dolcefareniente was published. It contained the medley version of the Stella Cometa sung by Nabil and Jovanotti and the Arabic version sung uniquely by Nabil.

The same year the friendship between Nabil and Noa became more solid and was made important by the delicate political situation in the Middle East. In July 2000 the town council of Melpignano (in the Province of Lecce) granted to both the singers the Honorary Citizenship for the common engagement for peace. In December they received from the United Nations an invitation to sing together in the Duomo of Monreale (Palermo) in front of the Heads of States. The orchestra that accompanied them was directed by Maestro Nicola Piovani (author of the R. Benigni’s soundtrack La Vita è bella).

In 2001 Radiodervish produced a new presentation in which for the first time they collected their repertoire in an “acoustic version”. The new album called In Acustico gave way to a tour linked to a particular project of raising funds for the international association Salaam Ragazzi dell’Olivo which operates for Palestinian children in the Al Fawwar refugee camp in Hebron – West Bank.

In March 2001 in the La Vallisa, an Old Church in Bari, a live concert was held. Its songs and pictures became the material for a new CD-ROM.

Radiodervish played at the Fete de la Musique in Beirut on June 21st, 2001. They were accompanied by film director Marco Preti, who prepared a documentary about their days in Lebanon, and by a journalist, Massimo Zamboni who wrote about this experience on the Diario.

On January 5th, 2002, during the annual Epiphany Concert, in the Monastero Santa Chiara in Naples, Nabil sang with Noa the Centro del mundo, composed and written by Nabil and Michele. The event was broadcast by the National Italian TV (RAI).

In May of 2002 Radiodervish took part in the traditional Labor Day concert in Brussels dedicated to Middle Eastern peace development. On the same theme, the band performed that same month at the Coloseum’s concert in Rome “Centro del mundo” once again with Noa.

To promote its 2002 album, Radiodervish started a promotional tour in July, while at the same it worked on a special project with the Arab-Israeli Orchestra of Nazareth for the Negroamaro festival in south Italy: songs from Arabic traditional music performed on the same stage together with some of the most famous songs of the band.

Discography:

Lingua contro lingua (Dischi del Mulo/PolyGram), 1998)
In acustico (2001)
Centro Del Mundo ‎(Il Manifesto, 2002)
In Search Of Simurgh (Il Manifesto, 2004)
Amara Terra Mia (Radio Fandango, 2006)
L’Immagine Di Te ‎(Radio Fandango, 2007)
Beyond The Sea (Il Manifesto, 2009)
Bandervish (Il Manifesto, 2010)
Dal Pesce Alla Luna (Sony Music, 2012)
Human ‎(Sony Music, 2013)
Café Jerusalem (Cosmasola, 2015)
Il Sangre E Il Sal ‎(Cosmasola, 2018)

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Artist Profiles: Eugenio Bennato

Eugenio Bennato

Eugenio Bennato was born on March 16, 1947 in Naples, Italy. He founded the seminal Nuova Compagnia di Canto Popolare in 1969. He later cofounded Musicanova in 1976. He is one of Italy’s most important champions of traditional music. Eugenio is the brother of Italian rock star Eduardo Bennato.

Eugenio Bennato also founded Taranta Power, a multi arts movement dedicated to pushing the boundaries of the Tarantella and other Calabrian folk traditions.

Discography

With Nuovo Canto Popolare:

Nuova Compagnia di Canto Popolare (Rare, 1971)
NCCP (EMI Italiana, 1973)
Li Sarracini adorano lu sole (EMI Italiana, 1974)
Tarantella ca nun va ‘bbona (EMI Italiana, 1975)

With Musicanova:

Garofano d’ammore (Philips, 1977)
Musicanova (Philips, 1978)
Quando turnammo a nascere (Philips, 1979)
Brigante se more (Philips, 1980)
Festa festa (Fonit Cetra, 1981)

Solo Albums:

Eugenio Bennato (CGD, 1983)
Dulcinea (CGD, 1984)
Eughenes (Bubble, 1986)
La stanza dello scirocco (1988)
Le città di mare (Bubble, 1989)
Novecento auf Wiedersehen (Lucky Planets, 1991)
Mille e una notte fa (Tring, 1997)
Taranta power (DFV, 1999)
Lezioni di tarantella (2000)
Che il Mediterraneo sia (Rai Trade, 2001)
Sponda Sud (Lucky Planets , 2007)
Grande Sud (Edel, 2008)
Questione meridionale (Artis Records, 2011)
Da Che Sud E’ Sud ‎(Fox Band, 2017)

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Artist Profiles: Furias

Furias

Fùrias has spent many years collecting the musical experiences of traditional musicians from Sardinia. The group’s intention is to research, safeguard and spread the musical culture of the island. Through its research and concerts, the group has managed to introduce many of the island’s ancient instruments to new audiences.

Although the musicians have been active for many years, Fùrias was founded in 1995, taking inspiration from one musical phrase of the repertoire of the launeddas.

For some years, the group has brought back the concept of the Sardinian dance, which had been relegated to peasant festivities.

Members: Orlando Mascia – accordion, vocals, guitar, trunfa (scacciapensieri); Paolo Zicca – Launeddas-sulitu (zufolo dei pastori); Bruno Camedda – accordion, cello; Gianni Atzori – Erbekofono; and Cosimo Lampis – drums, percussion.

Discography:

Etnomusica

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Artist Profiles: Lucilla Galeazzi

Lucilla Galeazzi

Lucilla Galeazzi is a singer, writer and researcher of folk music. She was born in Terni, in the central Italian region of Umbria. Galeazzi began singing at the age of 15 with a pop group formed together with friends, only becoming interested in folk music a little later on, when she worked alongside researcher Valentino Paparelli, an expert on the musical traditions of Umbria, and in particular the area of Valnerina.

In 1977 Giovanna Marini, impressed by her voice, asked her to be part of her up-and-coming Quartetto Vocale (vocal quartet), an ensemble which reached popularity both at home and abroad in the space of a few years. With the Quartetto Lucilla performed in some of the most important theatres of Europe; furthermore, singing the original and complex music of Marini helped Lucilla develop an impressive technique and refined musical sensitivity.

During this period she also worked with several jazz musicians and composers, with whom she made some interesting recordings (Anninnia and Per Devozione).

From 1986 onwards she sang in some of the works of the great Roberto De Simone (who inspired Neapolitan movements such as the Nuova Compagnia di Canto Popolare): for example, ?Stabat Mater?, ?Carmina Vivianee? (1987), Mistero e Processo di Giovanna D’Arco, Requiem per Pier Paolo Pasolini (1990).

In 1987 she completed a long tour of France as part of the company of Tango, memoria di Buenos Aires, which saw the participation of some of the most important Argentine musicians.

In 2002 she studied song with the soprano Michiko Hirayama and bass Gianni Socci.

She possesses a warm, beautiful voice, rich in the typical elements of Italian folk, she is without doubt one of the most interesting singers to have come out of the Italian folk music revival scene in the last few years.

Since 2002, she’s been part of Christina Pluhar’s Baroque project L’Arpeggiata, providing vocals in two award-winning albums and performing throughout the world. She’s also played with Trio Rouge with Michel Godard and Vincent Courtois.

In 2010 she founded the vocal ensemble Levocidoro, which featured other six female vocalists, focused on polyphonic Italian music.

Lucilla has collaborated with Moroccan female vocal ensemble B’net Houariyat since 2012, bringing together five singers and percussionists from Marrakesh and a quintet of Italian female artists.

In 2014, she wrote and developed two major theatrical-musical shows dedicated to the First World War: “Doppio Fronte. Oratorio per la Grande Guerra”, with the well-known actor and performer Moni Ovadia, and “Il fronte delle donne” which debuted in Rome for the Centenary of WWI War celebration, sponsored by the Italian Government.

On April 25, 2015, Lucilla released the album “Bella Ciao.” is released. The following year she wrote the show “La nave a vapore“, dedicated to the history of the great Italian migratory movements.

Discography:

Correvano coi carri (Alabianca, 1977)
La grande madre impazzita (Alabianca, 1978)
Cantate pour tous les jours 1 (Le Chant du monde, 1980)
Cantate pour tous les jours 2 (Le Chant du monde, 1982)
Pour Pier Paolo Pasolini (Le Chant du monde, 1984)
Anninnia (Nueva, 1984)
Il paese con le ali (Nord/Sud, 1986)
Per Devozione (Ismez/Polis IP, 1987)
Cantata profana (Naive, 1990)
Il Trillo (Thelonious, 1992)
Giofà il servo del re (BMG, 1993)
La vita al di sopra e al di sotto dei 1000 metri (Naive, 1994)
Invito (BMG, 1995)
Rock’s Airs de la lune (Naive, 1995)
Mammas (BMG France, 1996)
Cuore di terra (1997)
Suono e terra (Finisterre, 1997)
La Banda (Enja, 1997)
La via dei Romei (BMG, 1997)
Honig und Asche (Enja, 1998)
Ali d’oro (Enja, 1999)
Lunario (C.N.I., 2001)
Vaffatica’ (Alfa Music, 2001)
Vent’anni e più (Manifesto, 2002)
La Tarantella (Alpha, 2002)
2002 Renaissance (Naive, 2002)
… è nato l’anno de’ li du’mila (Circolo Gianni Bosio, 2003)
Siriopolis (Sirius M41, 2004)
All’improvviso (Alpha, 2004)
Trio Rouge (Intuition, 2004)
Stagioni (Buda Musique, 2005)
Passio et Resurrectio (Naxos, 2005)
Amore e Acciaio (Zonedimusica, 2006)
Sacra Concert (Fandango, 2006)
Passaggi (Fandango, 2007)
Migrare (Folkclub Etnosuoni, 2007)
Capoverde, terra d’amore (Sony, 2009)
Sopra i tetti di Firenze (Manifesto, 2010)
Ancora Bella Ciao (Helikonia, 2010)
Zahr (Taquin Records, 2011)
La Valnerina ternana (2011)
Los Pájaros Perdidos (Virgin Music, 2011)
Festa italiana (Helikonia, 2013)
Bella ciao (Visage Music, 2015)

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Artist Profiles: Tammurriata Di Scafati

Tammurriata Di Scafati

The Tammurriata is the most typical expression of Neapolitan dance and music. The voices of the two singers are raised over the beat of the main instrument: the tammorra, a frame drum with tin cymbals.

The Tammurriata di Scafati has grown around the powerful tenor voice of Nando Citarella and the very popular folk musician Antonio O Lione. It is one of the most active groups during the many traditional festivals going on in the volcano and it often goes on tour around Europe.

Discography:

O Vesuvio (Edizioni Musicali Il Pontesonoro, 1997)
Bum! (Finisterre, 2014)

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Artist Profiles: Nuova Agricola Associazione

Nuova Agricola Associazione

Nuova Agricola Associazione (NAA) is formed by a group of musicians with the idea to rearrange traditional folk music from Abruzzi, adding a modern sonority which includes the Salterello of Abruzzi combined with an explosive fusion reggae and Gypsy music.

The songs, written by Graziano Zuccarino with the collaboration of Franco Liberati, speak about stories ordinary life in a little underground world, describing characters coming from country, their culture, (and invisible) “dramas” common people. This picture is described strong irony mixed passion, love, joy.

The group’s 2004 recording, Dall’Alente a lu Serepenne, is an emotional travel through the hills betweens these two rivers, the Alento and the Serepenne. NAA rearranged the tradition of Abruzzi folk music by “contaminating” it with graftings of the Salterello of Abruzzi as well as reggae and Gypsy music

The band: Graziano Zuccarino (vocals, guitar), Franco Liberati (drums), Fabio Duronio (guitar, vocals), Maria Alessandra Piroddi (vocals) and Luca Francavilla (bass).

Discography:

‘Shta vite gne nu teatrine (Riflessi, 2002)
La Vragna e la Sulagna
Dall’Alente a lu Serepenne (Radici Musicali, 2003)
Lillylà remix, in Tiankoura (Kutmusic, 2004)
Vacri, in 1 Etno (RaiTrade, 2004)
Nuova Agricola Associazione (Radici Musicali, 2006)

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