auccalamma (themouthofthesoul)

When Enzo, myself and another friend founded the quartet Musicāntica late in 1994 we were amused by the idea of performing traditional music from southern Italy in a strange and controversial place like Los Angeles. Besides the pure fun of making music, we wanted to present the songs of the oral tradition of our southern land as we concurred that no one really knew about them. No more songs like, “O Sole Mio” or “Funiculė Funiculā,” but just the power of the pizzica, the poetry and the love drama of the Neapolitan villanelle, the intriguing sound of the cane clarinets from Sardinia, the passion of Sicilian cart driver songs and a heavy dose of sound experimentation with the sounds of our native Mediterranean area. In short, we sought to promote the music of the unsung people of Italy to be played for the unsung people of every day America. Musicāntica’s activity does not place itself that far off from the current ideas known as contaminazione and riproposta, that is, music which is created and proposed by incorporating cultural elements alien to the original tradition, so increasingly common all over Italy since the late 1980s. We strive, however, to maintain the musical idea learned from the tradition as much as possible intact while experimenting by combining sounds from the Mediterranean that the mood and the character of the piece itself may suggest to us. Often times the song remains as is, and rightfully so.
Almost eight years later from our beginnings, as we switched from a quartet down to a duo, we still find a remarkable freshness in traditional music and more than ever we believe in its contemporary continuation. In reality, our ensemble does not break a mold. For instance, other Italian bands during the 1970s did create great music based in the tradition and also by keeping an eye toward other music coming from the Mediterranean area, largely anticipating the World Music trend of the following decade. Musicāntica does not seek to represent the music of its own culture merely as a more or less faithful rendition of the past because such activity usually implies that the music is no-longer a living entity. Rather, we believe that the music continues to live in the life experiences of the musicians who perform it with the due changes and circumstances given by the historical times in which they live. This is because each musical process in time is historical, part of a relentless process of development, productive confrontation with every day life and a continuous discourse between current innovation and past sedimentation. It is because of this discourse between the actual and the past that the repertoire in this CD has switched a bit from the strictly traditional of our beginnings to a more personal rendition of the traditional as well as original compositions. By “more personal rendition of the traditional,” we mean that we have maintained our resources and we have not resorted to easy compromises in the choices we have made in the manipulation of the musical element. Rather, we have made a conscious effort to reject such compromises and the “effect hit” by refusing to engage in any cut-and-paste type of arrangement by attaching contemporary, popular styles such as rock and roll, rap, R&B, or even jazz to our songs. Of course, this does not mean that we do not love or recognize the great power and magnificence of the above musical styles. In fact, as you can listen in this CD, when performing our original songs such as COZZE CUZZEDDHRE, we have employed the powerful socio-political means represented by hip-hop in order to create new meanings for our audiences. But you will find the music still belonging to our southern roots, the suggestion is made from the inside out rather than the outside in. Therefore, we do not fuse, attach, coat, or to use a term dear to post-modernists, we do no pastiche of any kind, just a conscious effort and commitment to continuous experimentation. Moreover, each one of us reminisces, mostly symbolically, the sounds experienced in a lifetime from each of our respective birthplaces: the Salento for Enzo and eastern Sicily for myself.
The connection between the southern Italian tradition and the individual experiences as immigrants in Los Angeles is evident in our improvisations and re-adaptations of older material. Even our respective dialects have been modified rather spontaneously at times during the process of music making. For me, it was not a difficult task to sing in Enzo’s Salentine dialect, but I inevitably ended up pronouncing or inflecting some of the words in my own Sicilian idiom. Enzo, on his part, begins the slow part of the song titled LU RUSCIU with a word that is not proper in his dialect while it is in mine. All this came naturally to both of us so we decided to keep these and other small “errors” as to underline our openness and stress the natural musical process that characterizes this recording.
AUCCALAMMA means ‘the mouth of the soul’ in my own dialect. We contracted the words into one for the purpose of the title and this is the way it is pronounced in current speech anyway. We also love its slightly Near Eastern sounds. Its meaning, however, is its most important aspect as far as we are concerned. In a broken society such as our Western one it is of utmost importance to underline and keep the basics aspects of human decency alive and well in sight through art despite all the downfalls around us. AUCCALAMMA literally refers to the upper entrance of the stomach. Sometimes we ‘feel’ with that part of our body, or as we say in English, we feel something in our guts, such as premonitions, longing, or anxieties. We can say that ‘feeling’ things in and with our stomach can be considered an aspect of communication perhaps less and less experienced at a natural level. This is true especially today as we let unnecessary technological devices or gutless men do the talking on our behalf often causing aches and pains. Through musical conversation and understanding, somehow we can reject these poisons of life, much like the tarantate would vomit the spider’s poison at the end of their dance ordeal. Well, the continuous development of sentiment and spirit lived viscerally between two friends is mostly what this recording is all about. We have chosen simply to let l’amma, our soul, do the talking.

Roberto Catalano

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