Nando Citarella - Vaffaticą / Voce 'e Mare
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Nando Citarella & Tamburi del Vesuvio
Vaffaticą
Alfamusic (www.alfamusic.com)

Nando Citarella e "la Paranza"
Voce 'e Mare
CNI (www.cnimusic.it)

cd cover These two records by Nando Citarella were made within a year of each other but they couldn't be more different. Although there are certain common links between them (Citarella's bigger-than-life voice, the intricate orchestrations, the use of many worthy collaborators) there is also a fundamental difference in the way they are perceived.

Vaffaticą suffers from constant changes of pace and musical direction and the multitude of collaborators, (Lucilla Galeazzi and Riccardo Tesi are stand out contributors), although a few songs still shine. "Nigra me" is a vocal tour-de-force delivery of Neapolitan virtuosity, making good use of the interplay between the learned and the vernacular musical traditions of that great city, while the "Suite costiera 'all' Avvocata'" follows the expected cultured etiquette before being bisected by a profane dance. "Ninnata" transforms a lullaby into a simple yet elegantly modern song through the good if unexpected use of a didgeridoo and Maria Giovanna Manente's vocals. Finally, Lucilla Galeazzi's vocals and Maria Rosaria Omaggio's recitative on "La Taranta" are beautifully juxtaposed while "Naninellananiną" makes the best use of the Tamburi del Vesuvio (who use a bewildering number of instruments in this record and seemingly all together on this one track).

Songs like "Va a faticą" and "Sciurillo/Stornellata Guappesca" which use Citarella's endearingly theatrical vocal pyrotechnics to make a spectacle out of simple Southern Italian songs are with their merits, as is the novelty remake of "Pasqualino marają," the story of a Neopolitan in India, and "A tutt' e Viecchie," its spoken word delivery riding on the Ensemble Mediterraneo string quartet. The rest of the tracks suffer from the wrong track sequence, a rather ill conceived multiculturalism (which can be appreciated only on an intellectual level) or too polemic an approach with regards to the rest of the songs featured. You reach the end of the record after about an hour feeling exhausted, that you can indeed have too much of a good thing. This could have been fixed by a stricter selection of songs.

cd cover It is therefore a pleasure to note that Citarella, on delivering his collection of rarities and reworkings called Voce 'e Mare, has put right everything that was wrong about Vaffaticą, while keeping everything that was good about that record in place.

Voce 'e Mare starts off with an old, traditional "Invocazione" (which was also covered by Savina Yannatou as "Madonna della Grazia" on her Virgin Maries of the World). Songs like "Moresca," an instrumental described as in a North African style but Medieval enough to me, and "Sta Vecchia Canaruta," a 16th century villanella in the Neapolitan style, with an airy and tender, mostly a cappella delivery, are examples of the older songs featured in this record. "Cala Nave" is Provenēal in provenance although Citarella notes in the booklet (only in Italian) that it is 'of clear Turkish importation' and a straightforward instrumental in the style of its times.

The record continues with a number of traditional songs. "Ay Como Cotula" is greatly enhanced by the collaboration in this live version of the mighty Le Percussion Du Burkina Faso that sounds both exotic and sympathetic.

After "Canzone Pe 'Na Stella," both a tearjerker and a heartwarming experience recounting the story of a damsel about to be killed by her soldier lover, and the Sardinian tenors-inspired "Canto Su Mari" where Citarella sings his heart out raising the song above the level of mere pastiche, more traditional songs follow.

"Alla Muntanara" uses a xylophone, a vibraphone and maracas among other instruments to create an ambient soundscape on which a zampogna (Italian bagpipes) suddenly rides in another outstanding live track. The "Tarantella Segreta," originally by Raffaele Viviani, gains again from Citarella's winning gist for theatricality. "Canto alla Carpinese" and the penultimate "Tarantella di San Michele" are similar in both being from Puglia and utilizing to great effect Daniela Pierson's violin and his voice.

Those are followed by what can be described as an Arab-Iberian inspired trilogy. "Noubah (A Mare)" based on an Arab-Andalusian original and written for the theatre juxtaposes beautifully the meditative first part with the second one that carried echoes of Zap Mama's "Take Me Coco" along with another thrilling Citarella vocal. "Voce 'e Mare" is a serenade with a strong flamenco element, while the "Suite Ispano-Napolitana" uses the ancient forms of Canto a Figgliola and Tammurriata to good effect. Following the tarantella, "Malmantile" closes the record on something of a fanfare with ensemble singing and all-around bonhomie.

Voce 'e Mare works far better on the level of the more airy orchestration and the more cohesive selection of the tracks, while still delivering Citarella's signature vocals and is certainly a more balanced introduction to him. If you are interested in collaborations with better-known artists, however, Vaffaticą may also be worth pursuing, if just for the outstanding tracks mentioned. - Nondas Kitsos

Available from cdRoots
Vaffatica
Voce 'e Mare


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