Corou de Berra - Maschi, Femmine & Cantanti
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cd cover Corou de Berra
Maschi, Femmine & Cantanti
Forrest Hill Records (

The clear female voices break the silence, singing words of unknown origin. The whole group of male and female voices takes over, delivering a song of unmistakable Italian origin; a string ensemble intertwines. You find yourself juggling sounds you have heard: Zap Mama, Les Nubians, the Hilliard Ensemble but this is something different and you completely surrender to them. Welcome to the magical world of Maschi, Femmine & Cantanti, a world of pure joy and magic where a group of French musicians deliver in perfect Italian, where a vocal group can make you dance, where the memory of an Italian singer-songwriter is respected and augmented and where a string ensemble is not used as the easy way out of delivering a vocal performance of expressive passion.

Hailing from the Southern Alps and stationed within the confines of that modern invention called a "nation state," (France), Corou de Berra have spent a considerable time investigating and interpreting a cappella the traditions of their land. On this record, however, they have decided to tear down the walls of that invention and open their hearts and their ears to the music of Fabrizio de André, their neighbor of sorts, being himself partly of Provençal origin and born in Genova.

As Michel Bianco, the artistic director of the group notes, they tried to "conserve the musicality of the language, the originality of the poetry, the treatment and global vision characteristic of Fabrizio." He went about the job following an initial analytical study of his complete works, their inner meaning and the vision and personal feeling of de André. He paid immense attention to detail, achieving the correct pronunciation of the original dialects and then setting himself free to follow his creative impulses.

The songs were chosen for their proximity to the oeuvre of Corou de Berra, but also for their relation to their roots. "Doulcenera," from 1996, a song about the sea in Genovese and Italian, is followed by a cover version of a Georges Brassens song of an Anoine Pol poem brought into the Italian by de André, here sung in Italian and French, thereby forming a bridge between them. "La Guerra di Piero" from 1968, about the madness of war, is reminiscent of the work of polyphonic Corsican groups. "Creuza de mä" is from 1983 and in Genovese, about a female mill-owner by the sea, a sensual tour-de-force of smells and tastes, delivered with a rare combination of urgency and sweetness. "Bello Caio - mis amour" is based on a traditional Provençal song, which de André covered for a record by the Troubaires de Coumboscuro in 1995 and this is probably the closest the group comes to their origins on this record. "Canto del servo pastore" from 1982 and "Ave Maria" from 1971 are more representative of the work of de André with cryptic lyrics and sensual imagery. "Prinçesa" from 1996, is also in dialect, and finally they present "Bocca di rosa" from 1968.

Although Corou de Berra usually interpret their material a cappella, Bianco realized that a string ensemble might better serve the process here, with spare use of guitar, hurdy-gurdy and percussion to augment the emotional impact. This record remains first and foremost an expression of the power and magic of the human voice. They approached this recording as "a view by some French on the work of an Italian singer-songwriter. We have the same vision of the world, of being [defiantly] from the Mediterranean but also open to the world." - Nondas Kitsos

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