Newpoli is a group of skilled musicians who specialize in southern Italian folk music, primarily from the regions of Campania and Puglia. Their music crosses through time culture and musical styles. The South of Italy has a multicolored past with influences from northern Africa, the Middle East and ancient Greece. These influences can still be heard in the traditional melodies and rhythms of the pizzica, tarantella and other musical genres of the South.
The group was founded in 2003 by directors Carmen Marsico, Angela Rossi and Björn Wennås. Newpoli is an eight-piece ensemble that has performed throughout the United States. In 2008 Newpoli made its European debut at Diacetum Festival in Tuscany, Italy.
Newpoli released its self-titled debut album Newpoli in 2008. In 2012 the band issued Musica di Natale, a recording of traditional Italian Christmas music. Its third album Tempo Antico came out in 2013. Nun te vutà came out in 2015.
Carmen Marsico – lead vocals Angela Rossi – lead vocals Björn Wennås – chitarra battente, mandola & classical guitar Fabio Pirozzolo – tamburello & vocals Jussi Reijonen – oud, mandola & classical guitar Daniel Meyers – zampogna, ciaramella & recorders Karen Burciaga – violin Jeff McAuliffe – bass
Newpoli is one of the few American acts performing music based on Italian tradition. In this case, Newpoli specializes in music from southern Italy, creating a fascinating ardent sound that mixes traditional folk music with contemporary arrangements and new compositions. Nun te Vutà (Don’t Look Back) is the group’s latest recording, dedicated to migration.
Southern Italy has some of the poorest regions in the country so for the past two centuries, southern Italians migrated to northern Italy and overseas to the United States, Argentina and Australia. As the Italian economy improved in the 20th century, migration decreased. But the economic crash of 2008 has led to a new wave of migration.
“In the last couple of years we’ve seen so many more young people emigrate from the south of Europe,” says Newpoli’s guitarist and mandola player, Björn Wennås. “They’re highly educated, and very skilled but there are no jobs for them at home. They want to work, to have a chance.”
Vocalist Carmen Marsico adds: “The verses on “Nun te Vutà” lay out their situation. It’s a very sympathetic song, and of course there’s sadness, but in the chorus there’s more energy, happiness – that sense of hope for the life ahead.”
Nun te Vutà’s six traditional songs include one from Apuglia and six from Basilicata (also known as Lucania), where Marsico comes from. “The music is so rich there, yet not well known” Marsico explains. “It’s really inspiring, and there are things unique to Basilicata, like the stop-and-go between the rhythm and voices in some pieces that exists in, for example, Stigliano, and the way the voices drop suddenly at the end of a line.”
Southern Italy has been a crossroads area for centuries so the music reflects those influences, coming from the eastern and southern Mediterranean. There are Greek and Turkish influences in some of the pieces. In addition to traditional Italian instruments like chitarra battente, mandola, tamburello and zampogna, Newpoli adds Turkish dumbek and Arabic oud.
The lineup on Nun te Vutà includes Angela Rossion on lead vocals and castanets; Carmen Marsico on lead vocals and castanets; Björn Wennås on chitarra battente, classical guitar, mandola, background vocals, and tamburello; Roberto Cassan on accordion and tamburo a cornice; Fabio Pirozzolo on tamburello, tamburo a cornice, dumbek, lead and background vocals; Daniel Meyers on recorders, ocarina, ciaramella, cupa cupa, and zampogna, dumbek, castagnette, background vocals, and tamburello; Karen Burciaga on violin, lira, Renaissance guitar; and Sean Farias on electric and acoustic bass.
Guests featured include Jussi Reijonen on oud; Beth Bahia Cohen on violin; and Pasquale Iocola on background vocals.
Nun te Vutà showcases the impassioned vocals, stirring melodies and trance-like rhythms of the ecstatic traditions from southern Italy.
Newpoli, a group formed by Italian musicians who studied jazz at Berklee College of Music, has a new album titled Tempo Antico. Over the last years, the eight members of Newpoli have researched the tarantella-pizzicas, tammuriatas, villanellas and canzones of the Campania, Calabria and Puglia regions of Italy.
“Rediscovering folk music was a shock, no one expected it,” acknowledges vocalist Carmen Marsico, one of the musicians who started Newpoli in 2003. “Sometimes you have to go to another country to discover your culture.”
“We focused on older songs for Tempo Antico,” music director Bjorn Wennas clarifies. “Some of the material here is from the 1500s and it’s often done by early music groups. We wanted to give it more of a folk spin; that’s how we picture they’d have played it back then.”
“Some of the pizzicas, they don’t even know how old they are. Some could be traced back to when the Greeks were in that part of Italy,” Wennas says.
Two of the ballads on Tempo Antico were written in the early 1900s, in the classic Neapolitan style made so popular by the great tenor, Enrico Caruso. “He actually made the Neapolitan Canzone famous in the United States, using many of them as encores after his performances at the Met,” Wennas adds.
Tempo Antico was recorded live in a church, with only “a couple of percussion overdubs – we wanted a lot of percussion – and some backing vocals. Live there’s so much energy, not like in the studio, and we wanted to capture that. And what we’ve tried to do is show all of this as folk music. So often, the ways it’s been presented in the past, it’s like having gospel performed by an opera singer.”
Newpoli released its self-titled debut album, Newpoli, five years ago. Last year the band put out Musica di Natale, an album of traditional Italian Christmas music.
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