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cd cover Claudia Crabuzza (vocals), Fabio Manconi (accordion, guitar), Andrea Lubino (percussion), Gianluca Gadau (guitar), Massimo Canu (bass) are Chichimeca and this is a great record on all counts: musically, it's adventurous, unique yet based on well-known musical forms; contemporary, timeless, characterized by Cabruzza's beautiful voice (formerly of the Sardinian band Tazenda). Lyrically, it's polemical, emotional, the fruit of a rare project (music written in the semi-autonomous southern Mexican state of Chiapas), bilingual (in Spanish and Italian), teeming with great ideas as seen even from the song titles ("Frida (Kahlo)'s Waltz," "Disappear for a while"). This is a technically fine recording: a full-scale alternate environment is provided on the CD, which includes the songs on MP3 format (ipod-ready!), an ingenious viewing system that allows you to read the lyrics while listening to the song itself (if you click on "Testi"), and a video. For those with no access to a computer, the booklet includes the lyrics, as well.

Chichimeca means barbarians in Olmeca and this is in many ways the way the band would like to be viewed: a motley crew of human beings at the gates of civilized society, demanding their place inside. Although this record has a clear political onus, it would be a mistake to judge it solely on those terms, as it is characterized by music and lyrics of great beauty and emotion. Musically balancing in the middle of the singer-songwriter tradition, Italian popular and traditional music, Latin American influences, waltzes and Manu Chao. Lyrically it is characterized by lines like: "I'm going to disappear for a while to breathe dust, in streets with no asphalt, where people are in no hurry," describing this road movie of sorts which has a great affinity in spirit to the music of Ry Cooder (although not in sound, except the closing track, "La Nave").

It's a record that is heaving with great songs: "Viola," "Sparire per un pò," "Que viva México," "No te enamores," "Señor Comandante" and "La Nave" may not be the most original songs ever heard but they have an energy and beauty that is quite rare. It's a record that never fails to lift my spirits whenever it comes on, never fails to transport me to the dusty back streets of San Cristóbal. It is a lively musical postcard of vigorous power, a youthful explosion of sounds and colors and humanity.

If you like contemporary Italian music (not necessarily of the roots kind) or anything to do with rock, this record is not to be missed as brings Sardinia and Chiapas together. - Nondas Kitsos

CD available from cdRoots

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