Words by Ciro De Rosa
There’s no question that this spirited, acclaimed seven-piece acoustic ensemble is the vanguard of the effervescent present-day musical scene in Salento, the south-eastern tip of Italy’s heel. An offspring of the mid-70s Puglia folk revival, Canzoniere Grecanico Salentino’s renewed line-up is currently under the guidance of fiddler and percussionist Mauro Durante, to whom his father Daniele passed on the direction. Featuring some of the most gifted local musicians, they present mostly new-penned songs and dances with contemporary resonance but deeply drawing from Salento tradition.
Starting with the catchy ‘Nu te Fermare,’ a stunning, up-to-date work song commenting on today’s hardship in job seeking. On the hypnotic, sweet Griko-language lullaby ‘Aremu an me ‘Gapa,’’ Maria Mazzotta’s passionate singing conjures up diverse emotions that perfectly mesh with Ballaké Sissoko’s crystalline kora (harp-lute). The dexterous melodicism of the Malian guest takes up the dynamic instrumental ‘E Chora’ tu Anemu.’ The band are in their element when playing pizzica dances such as ‘Tamburrieddhu Mia’ and ‘Pizzica a Marino,’ both tunes driven by the wild beating of tamburello and highlighting Massimiliano Morabito’s propelling organetto (squeezebox). Another standout is ‘Questa Mattina,’ formerly a poly-vocal stonebreakers’ song, here delivered with Giancarlo Paglialunga and Mazzotta’s chant complementing it perfectly, sung over oud, zampogna (bagpipes) and organetto. The atmospheric carter’s song ‘Tira Cavallu’ showcases Mazzotta’s superlative singing, bolstered by delicious diatonic accordion phrasing.
The title-track, saved until last, is a pizzica tarantata – an irresistible, scorching homage to the historic fiddler Luigi Stifani, whose small folk ‘orchestra’ used to accompany the choreo-musical ritual drama of tarantism.
TRACK TO TRY: Nu te Fermare