Canzoniere Grecanico Salentino

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O2 ABC (Glasgow)

23rd Jan

The chairs were out last night on the main floor of the ABC, ready for Canzoniere Grecanico Salentino, a world-touring outfit from Italy’s heel – the Salentino Peninsular. Their music of choice is the very old & very funky folk music form known as Pizzica Tarantata, which I had the great fortune to witness in its home region three winters ago.

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The support act were a highly delightful vocal group from South Africa, known as COMPLETE, who served up a fine sample of zulu-inspired native songs. Cue amazing harmonies & synchronised foot & hand movements & a completely enthralling sound that made me feel as if I was taking a nice hot bubble-bath. Pockets of Gospel broke through into their music, but unfortunately they completely butchered Yesterday by Paul MaCartney! For the last two songs they were joined onstage by Hannah Beaton & Tom Cannister, & it was lovely to see the Gaelic & the Zulu vocal traditions forge in a seamless blend.

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Then came the Italians, an amiable bunch of polished performers, who have played across the planet, including a Burmese music festival. Formed in 1975 by the writer Rina Durante, it has changed personnel on many occasions, but never its quality interpretation of the Pizzica music that has been performed in the piazzas & tavernas across Salento for centuries.

Heralding from Lecce, the gorgeous capital of Puglia, they were led by Maura Durante through a rich ensemble of songs & dances. One of these was an exceptionaly poignant piece, & uses the poem ‘Solo Andate’ Erri De Luca for its inspiration & lyrical contect. A testimony to the fatal one-way ticket that many African immigrants buy on the flimsy rafts to Italy’s shores, Durante reminds the audience that, ‘we are all sons of immigrants.’

Some of the songs in partucular really explore the paramaters of the individual chord, with a massive tamborine & boiled-egg shaped fist-drum kicking on the single bum-bum-bum of the stomping bass, with the violin, lutes, bagpipes & accordian holding the same note in a brutal & dynamic surge of sound. The only melody comes from the enchanting singers, while in front of them a beautiful woman dances elegantly, strutting & parading her stuff with a liberty forged from the unrestrained energies of the Pizzica.

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About me, like flash-fires breaking out in the September hills above Santa Catarina, handsome couples began to shimmer in a ritual meant to cure the poison of a tarantula’s bite – hence the name, Pizzica Tarantata. It comes across as something of a mating-dance, with twirling girls, arms arching from their hips, being courted by the barefooted boys buzying about them with their own arms stretched to Heaven. By the end of the show it seemd the whole place was dancing, & joining hands they danced around the ABC to settle in front of the stage to acclaim their heroes.

Reviewer : Damo Bullen

(from Solo Andata)

It was not the sea to gather
We picked up the sea with open arms.

Dropped from the highlands burned by wars and not from the sun,
traversed the deserts of the Tropic of Cancer.

When he was in sight of the sea from a height
It was the finish line, hug the foot waves.

Africa was over the sole of ants,
caravans learn from them to trample.

Under the lash of dust in column
Only the first has an obligation to raise the eyes.

The others follow the heel above,
the journey on foot is an ice-backs.

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