Milagro Acustico
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Milagro Acustico
I Storie ò Cafè di lu Furestiero

cd cover It's a short boat trip from the Balkan coast or North Africa to southern Italy, and many desperate, mostly younger people have made the perilous voyage as a means to survive and, perhaps somehow, to assist those they leave behind. The immigrant tragedy has become a significant source of socioeconomic and political controversy in Italy, a land like any other whose entrepreneurs are only too ready to exploit their vulnerability, further impoverishing already marginalized native workers in the process. When it comes to displacement by the "invisible hand" of transnational capitalism, someone has to pay.

Too often, that payment's relentless extraction remains inaudible, but Rome-based Milagro Acustico recuperates the immigrant saga. Sicilian-born composer and multi-instrumentalist Bob Salmieri (alto sax, clarinet, flute, keyboards, percussion) leads a septet covering vocals, trumpet, flugelhorn, guitars, mandolin, bass, bongos, congas, darbuka, drums, hand percussion and electronic effects. And in the spirit of the overall project, they enlist several immigrant artists to render the message in its true international measure: Moroccans Nour Eddine (percussion, ghayta or North African shawm) and Jamal Ouassini (violin), plus Senegalese kora player Papa Kanoutè and Pape Yery Samb (djembe).

The organizing conception of I Storie ò Cafè di lu Furestiero, Milagro Acustico's second release, is that of an imaginary Sicilian café where immigrant strangers congregate to relax and share their stories in conversation, verse and song. Historically, Sicily is an ancient Mediterranean crossroads, a place of multiple and enduring cultural encounters. Hence the project, which took two years to research and record. Salmieri himself penned the compositions, save one, ranging from the Balkan-Turkish flavorings of "Tesekkur Arkadas," to the Persian insinuations of "Rubaiyyat," and the slack Andalusian allusions of "Signori, Si Chiude." The album presents a coherent narrative (a world-jazz suite, one could say) that unveils the human face of the migrant epic, conveyed in part by the principals themselves, in their own tongues, against the band's musical and spoken commentary - the latter in Sicilian dialects that signal the region's own historically subordinate status within the Italian national project.

Fittingly, the album begins with "Ricorda o Me Nomi" (Remember My Name), an Eastern-tinged lamentation voicing the anxiety that every emigrant feels, the knowledge - but hope to the contrary - that he or she may well never return home. Pape Kanoutè's kora lays out a delicate counterpoint to singer Danide's ethereal vocals, calliope-like piping and undulating percussion. Kanoutè takes a bridging kora solo with his own "Dioulo," which fades into the dark, mournful strains of "Sanghe Meu," an interlayering of alto sax, ghayta, muted trumpet, piano, percussion and wordless vocal chanting, against which a dull, gravely male voice offers a weary spoken deposition.

"Terra Umilissima" (Most Humble Land) opens with the terse commentary of a succession of immigrants from Bangladesh, Egypt, the Philippines, and Colombia, in their own voices, in flat reflection upon their experience as strangers in Italy. As a young woman murmurs in Spanish, "I cook meals that aren't destined for my own table. I don't understand what they say on the radio, nor... on the street." The same could be said of the host country's prevailing indifference toward these essential, accidental strangers. Indeed, that is one of the project's core assertions, really, along with a sure demonstration that a panoply of voices from many different lands can combine accents in an infinitely textured polyphonic statement whose penetrating effect beckons, testifies, saddens, provokes and lingers. - Michael Stone

Hear some sound samples and purchase the CD at cdRoots

Audio used with permission of the composer, Bob Salmieri, and Tinder Records, ©2002

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