The crypt of the Cathedral of the Martyrs of Otranto has many columns in different styles. Roman, Greek, Egyptian, Oriental. According to a suggestive thesis, the variety would be the symbol of the hydruntina reception towards the people arriving by sea. Everyone had to be able to find in that place of worship a sign of their culture, a hospitable warmth.Starting from this suggestion, we will analyze Salento immigration to understand the role of music in integration, how the meeting of different cultures can generate new artistic expressions and culturally enrich welcoming and welcomed peoples.
In fact, Italy is a multicultural system (coexist, often forcibly, more cultures that hardly tolerate each other) and little is done at institutional level to evolve it into intercultural (where cultures can interact, dialogue and become contaminated). What happens instead in music?
Let's start with Balkan immigration (especially Albanian), which generates a thought from Salento that works on the synthesis between the musical figures of the Adriatic and the Western ones, focusing on the crucial experiences in the ultra-decennial history of the phenomenon.
As soon as 80 km separate the two banks of the Otranto channel and an ancient history of migration unites our peninsula to the Shqipëria ("Land of the Eagles"). The Albanian diaspora begins in fact in the fifteenth century, when the Arbëreshë community settled in southern Italy, where it still maintains its language. According to official data (which, however, exclude irregular immigrants), Salento is among the first provinces in the South for number of Albanians: this is one of the reasons why we start from here, followed by their musical inspiration and the success achieved.
Albania in music
The communist regime of Enver Hoxha is very attentive to musical education, from the second post-war period there are music and dance schools, orchestras, choirs, professional and amateur ensembles. Great care is given to traditional music, disseminated by the media and supported by institutions with a view to communist nationalism. The economic-political isolation in which Hoxha drags Albania, however, also becomes cultural and to this is added the banishment of coeval western music (jazz, rock, pop).
Of necessity virtue: the Albanian composers draw for their works from the popular repertoire and rework it. Thus every genre is deeply steeped in tradition. A very rich tradition. The monodic and epic songs and the pastoral music of the Northern Gheghi, accompanied by lahutë (single string vella), flutes and bagpipes. The iso-polyphony of the Toschi and the Lab del Sud (choral singing, today a UNESCO heritage site), urban music which, especially in the North, has suffered Ottoman influence in melodies and rhythms, performed with llautë (lute) or çifteli (long handle lute with two strings) - replaced today by the accordion -, gërnetë (clarinet), violin and def (frame drum).
Much of Balkan music has in fact absorbed characteristics (rhythms, melodic modes, techniques, instruments) from the Arab one, due to the centuries-old domination of the Ottoman Empire, in a long process of contamination.
They come from the sea
After the fall of the regime, in the 91 the great emigrations begin and on the routes towards the Apulian coasts there are many musicians. Some leave again, others remain and determine the direct encounter between the two cultures.
One of the first is the accordionist Admir Shkurtaj , today also a well-known contemporary composer, who discovers jazz in Lecce, is struck by it, studies it, plays it and finally "betrays" it for the passion of all time: classical music and 900. From the 2002 in fact it composes for the Ico foundation "Tito Schipa" and for the Conservatory. But Shkurtaj is also a perfect channel for learning Balkan music from musicians and the Salento public.
Actually, in the first few years of the 90, other artists, this time local, are interested in sounds from across the Adriatic. Antongiulio Galeandro, accordionist from Ostuni, points the antenna of his radio on Albanian frequencies. It is thanks to him that the Lecce trumpeter Cesare Dell'Anna discovers the balkan, its stylistic variety, the odd and irregular times, the floral and microtonal melodies.
He begins to search and seduces "the sweetness of the Epirus clarinets, [...] the sensuality of the Albanian language, the poignant polyphony, the Bulgarian wind instruments, the Bosnian and Macedonian fanfares". The two friends explore that new musical world and experience the first combinations. Thus was born the original idea of a project that in the '98 will become Opa Cupa, today a successful band in the international Balkan jazz scene. The group is joined by Shkurtaj and Adnan Hozic, a Bosnian singer and guitarist who came to Italy in the '90, active mainly between Naples and Bari, a great master and key figure in this story, who today is unfortunately mourned.
Already others in Italy had been interested in the music of the Balkans, at least from the Area of July, August, September, black ('73) and Cometa rosso (' 74). But it is Hozic's arrival that stimulates more in-depth research among musicians from the South. In Naples the Bosnian musician knows Daniele Sepe, Carmine Guarracino and Lello di Fenza and with them he founds in '92 Balkanija. Together they attend the Roma camp, make friends with the Gypsies, learn their music and merge it with the Neapolitan one. A real research project and musical synthesis that will become the eponymous album in the '97, published by Il Manifesto.
At the end of the decade, interest also burst in Puglia. Galeandro and Dell'Anna bring Folkabbestia il balkan to the Bari and with them they record in the '98 the track Ju flet Tirane, included in the album' Brief philosophical essay on the meaning of life '(self-production, 1998). The following year, the Faraualla, a female vocal quartet from Bari, debuted with songs like Rumelaj, Vrlicko Kolo and Szerelem, from "Faraualla" (Amiata Records, 1999).
Meetings of civilization
Hozic himself, we said, influences the Salento through Galeandro and Dell'Anna, already sensitive to the music of the Adriatic winds. Here too, on the sunset of the century, an organic and constant design is born whose focal points are in the various Balkan traditions and in synthesis with Western elements.
Next to the Opa Cupa there are the Ghetonìa. While the first are born with the declared intent (from the name) to move around the Balkan, the group of Roberto Licci is dedicated mainly to grika music and is the entry of a musician that enriches the work: Admir Shkurtaj.
The years of the end of the century are of meetings, exchanges, dialogues and sleepless nights of ideas that are revealed among the furrows of the first records. THE
Ghetonìa publish "Mari e lune est del sud" (1999), the Opa Cupa "Live in the Tangano district" (Sottosuono / Edt, 2000).
Change millennium changes music.
The first is still a "Salento" record, embellished at times by the Albanian feeling of the accordionist, especially in Artigiana di Luma, a classic of its tradition.
The debut of the Opa Cupa is instead a lightning bolt to the clear sky. The disc, introduced by Albanian polyphonic songs (an example of iso-polyphony), is all concentrated on overseas sounds. Maybe even too much. The trio of the Anna-Hozic-Shkurtaj - Galeandro has meanwhile set back, it will move mainly in the "popular" circuit and in film music, but the balkan will remain impregnated with the bellows of its instrument -, surrounded by so many guests, conceives a parure of traditional and unpublished pieces.
Although we cannot yet speak of contamination or fusion - "fusion is a very long process at the end of which the boundary between genres is no longer distinguished", explains Shkurtaj -, Salento begins to become familiar with a new music that is moves in Artigiana and Kolo to the rhythm of rumba (typical of the Balkans and similar to the Arabic malfouf), and in Opa cupa and Poloxia on a horo (the famous "un-za un-za"). Instead, the Balkan brother and Vig Heroes introduce the odd times, which make Balkan music in the western ear as attractive as it is complex, accustomed to the more regular even time, like the 4 / 4 (four quarters) of almost all of the pop, rock repertoire and jazz.
Meanwhile, for some years now, the Balkan has spread throughout the world thanks to the success of Emir Kusturica's music and films (Underground is Golden Palm at Cannes in the '95) and the soundtracks of Goran Bregovic and Boban Markovic.
So other local artists are interested in it. The organ player Claudio Prima and his companions, after studying Salentine and Mediterranean music, also begin to search in this direction. "The first step was to rearrange the traditional pieces of Salento at odd times". In "Tracce di sud" (Finisterre, 2002), the debut of the Manigolds, Mamma la rondinella is indeed rewritten in 5 / 4, but Balkan rhythms and sounds are also present in many original tracks on the disc, particularly in Santamarò, Fellini and Fumo .
The same procedure is at the base of Aspro is to xartì, ballad grika (in a typical time of 6 / 8) that in "Terra e sale" (AnimaMundi, 2005) of Ghetonìa takes on the fascinating profile of a Balkan 7 / 8.
These are the first attempts, although still superficial, to combine two seemingly very distant musical traditions, Salento and Balkan. But times mature quickly and the two-year 2005-2006 offers excellent surprises. Shkurtaj arranges the title-track of the same "Terra e sale", another traditional Albanian, and also Panta s'agapisa undergoes a rhythmic mutation.
It is however "Hotel Albania" (11 / 8 records, 2005) of the Opa Cupa that shatters every barrier. Shkurtaj is no longer there, but another great Albanian musician, our fellow citizen, the pianist Ekland Hasa, enters.
Among the best productions of the Italian world beat, the album shows the whole evolution of the band towards a mature progressive Balkan. In the talents of Dell'Anna, the balkan blends in with jazz, band music, Maghreb melodies and rhythms.
From the irregular Karavia and Ekland 9 to the rumbe lyrics Allegria dei naufragi and Salent stars, from the waltz-horo Chiari di luna to the revisitation of Byala stala (by Ivo Papasov) and to the jam Yasko in Albania Hotel, with the Bulgarian virtuoso clarinet Yasko Argirov . Albania Hotel is the Dell'Anna factory, which in the San Cesario countryside hosts musicians and nomadic people by vocation or need. We live together, we play, we create. This is the music of the trumpeter: meetings.
A recurring keyword, the meeting is also responsible for the Talea, a balkan jazz ensemble that Shkurtaj founded in the 2002.
With him also Hozic and another Albanian from Italy, the singer Meli Hajderaj. The writing of the leader and the traditional pieces intertwine with the jazz of the other members (besides Hozic and Hajderaj, Gaetano Partipilo and Alessandro Nocco on the alto sax, Giorgio Distante on the trumpet, Giorgio Vendola on the double bass, Vincenzo Bardaro on the drums, Mario Grassi on percussion ). The creative and executive happiness of the group is testified by the excellent "Jarinà Jarinanè" (2006), an essential album of our speech, in which the compositional originality of Chain phrases and Glass walls - a succession of themes that if on one side they betray the jazz and balkan languages on the other they are concocted with Eurocolta wisdom - magically coexists with Balkan pearls such as Moj selvije, Tate du fuston, Mujo kuje, Esmere and with Balkan Brother (Hozic classic).
Meanwhile, in 2004, Claudio Prima's team joins Redi Hasa (Ekland's younger brother) who, having arrived from Tirana in the '98, is today among the most virtuous and appreciated musicians. This is how Ádria and BandAdriatica are born. Both try to merge the two cultures: the first in the form of a quintet capable of a poetic Adriatic ethno-jazz, the second with a timbric mixture halfway between the Italian band and the Balkan fanfare. BandAdriatica has produced two records and a documentary video. "Contagion" (Finisterre, 2007) is the first completed work of their "Adriatic music".
From the collaboration with Naat Veliov (Macedonian trumpet leader of the famous Kocani Orkestar, met thanks to the Night of the Taranta 2006) Pizzica estam was born, an adaptation of Salentine music to the syncopated rhythm of the estam, but the rumba of I Days of Contagion and the Beautiful Albanian Lake Populake (still with Veliov) and Erdhi dethi tallas tallas. The record closes with an illuminating verse from Prima: "We were forced to hurt ourselves to understand that we all had the same color of blood".
The second work of the Band is "Maremoto" (Finisterre, 2009), to which is attached "Rotta per Otranto": the Band turns its ear above all to the Adriatic basin (Italy, Albania, Croatia, Istria), which in May 2008 rides on a motoveliero together with some Balkan musicians to stop in Dubrovnik, Durres, Tirana and Otranto, where the crew crosses the various musical traditions (such as the klapa, a choir-like Dalmatian choir) and performs live with the local artists.
The adventure is witnessed by the DVD while the CD shows a more shrewd musical "contagion" of the past. The odd times infect the Cuban jazz (Roads to the streets), the exuberance of the horo the singer-songwriting vein of Prima (Let it be music, I don't have peace anymore), the rhythm of the pizzica the choral harmony of the prestigious Eva Quartet ( Bulgarian vocal quartet of Le mystére des voix Bulgarian guest in The Mystery of the Bulgarian Pizzica). Finally, Bullet is a significant cultural exchange: the Banda plays in Balkan style while the Albanian guitarist-singer Bojken Lako in rock.
The Ádria have instead set to music "The Salento of the poets", book-dvd of the Verri Fund of Lecce, and published the remarkable "Penelope" (Volipiano, 2010), «delicate balance between songs from the refined lyricism, but miraculously natural, and instrumental pieces with the exuberance of the Balkan rhythms, complex architectures and a research writing "[review of the writer published in The Journal of Music, July / August 2010, nda].
Meanwhile, the Ghetonìa return to the 2009 with "Riza" (Italian world music), re-proposing their classics in the cd-dvd of a live of the 2008 in Calimera (Le). The director Davide Barletti (Fluid video crew) runs in the same 2008 "Radio Egnatia" (AnimaMundi, 2009), a documentary film on the ancient road that, continuing the Appia, linked Rome to Constantinople, crossing Salento, Albania, Macedonia, Greece and Turkey . The soundtrack is curated by Raffaella Aprile and Antongiulio Galeandro, who also appears in the film with his accordion.
2010 was released in December, instead, the third Opa Cupa album, "Cpt (Temporary Stay Center)" (11 / 8 records). Even this, like the predecessor, has many guests (Ivo Iliev, Eva Salina Primack, Relù Merisan, Marian Serban, etc.), has the same ability to read the present and equal bright sound, now a trademark of 11 / 8 records. But alongside the beautiful band melodies (Vote Grillo and Neelie) it also introduces the electricity borrowed from Zina - a parallel project of the Mediterranean world beat - and the latin a là Manu Chao (Cpt), exploits the ambiguity between ska and horo (Ebb Tide) and pays homage to the history of jazz in the visionary version of My favorite things in odd time.
Therefore, more than ten years after its birth, the phenomenon does not fade as fashion, rather it revives itself in the present and designs the future.
The future will also bring us the record debut of the Admir Shkurtaj Trio, a luminous blend of contemporary music, jazz improvisation and Balkan colors, in which the leader is joined by Redi Hasa on the cello and Giorgio Distante on the trumpet.
Years pass and meetings, techniques become more refined and the synthesis becomes ever deeper: who knows that in a few decades or century scholars do not talk about contamination (or re-contamination?). But beyond the aesthetic implications, finally, the Apulian, Albanian, Bulgarian, Romanian, Croatian, Bosnian and Macedonian leaders are mending an ancient rift, the one that almost completely tore the relations between the two shores of the Adriatic at the time of the Ottoman invasion, protracted until a few years ago by the "iron curtain". We live a historical moment full of meaning for the present and the future of this - and not only - corner of the world.
And it is significant that in music the process that from multiculturalism leads to interculturality has already begun spontaneously.
- MusicAround (interviews and reviews)
- www.dunav.org.il (audio and video of Balkan dances)
- chs119.chs.harvard.edu/mpc (Collection of epic songs of the Southern Slavs)
- Report Lecce and its numbers 2008
- Albanian shipwrecks, K. Barjaba, G. Lapassade, L. Perrone, Sensitive to the leaves, Rome, 2006
- Transits and landings, L. Perrone (edited by), Franco Angeli, Milan, 2007
- World music: the basics, Richard Nidel, Routledge, New York, 2004
- The Mediterranean in music, D. Cooper, and K. Dawe, Scarecrow Press, Lanham, 2005
A sincere thanks to Admir Shkurtaj, Cesare Dell'Anna, Claudio Prima, Ghetonìa, Hari Purkh, Viviana Leo, Erica Rizzo.
By kind permission of Marco Leopizzi and MusicaAround.net. Originally published in "Palascìa_l migrant information" Year 1, n. 1 - January / April 2010. Palascìa is a four-monthly inter-company of the Metissage social coop society, registered in the 1045 number of the press register at the Court of Lecce.
di Marco LEOPIZZI