Simona Barbera - Mirto
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Simona Barbera
Mirto
Heaven and Earth (www.albakultur.de)

Genoa-born Simona Barbera brings together a number of disparate threads to weave a story of Sicily, the land her parents came from.

cd cover Her own compositions, snippets of recordings from the street and traditional Sicilian songs all come together to create the musical subtext of this record (whose title is either about a city or about myrtle, used to ease emotional and bodily pain). Stories of seafarers and their wives, lovers separated and united, everyday life, lullabies and laments, pagan influences, Arab influences, Greek influences, Catholic tradition, strong-minded lustful women and passionate heartbroken men come together in a powerful confluence of the Sicilian soul.

Listen!
The record is woven around Barbera's clear, emotive voice with the added (very low-key) help of the piano, played by Irene Vannucci. The songs are titled for actual places: a litany of cities and towns that interact with the essence of the songs, creating a mixture that eases the senses on their way towards this mythological Sicily.

This is a serious, demanding work, far from the usual playfulness associated with the Italian south. The listener is greatly rewarded for that effort by a strong musical work, a song-cycle rather than just a collection of songs and tunes. Barbera cajoles emotions out of us, out of the songs and out of the protagonists in them and then brings them all together to materialize her vision of Sicily as a place at the crossroads of traditions, time, and strong but good-hearted people. She pulls this off without succumbing to the easy option of connecting the dots. Her reworked repertoire has a power and sensuality all its own, of the tradition but also quite detached from it, in part due to the physical detachment of Barbera from her ancestral land of Sicily.

If you are only familiar with the traditional music of Sicily, I suggest you proceed with care to this record, as it is closer to the tradition of a cappella singing or the classical tradition. If you have the courage to take that next step, however, and you are prepared to leave your presuppositions at the door, this is a record that will offer rewards for a long time. - Nondas Kitsos

CD available from cdRoots


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