Giovanni Avantaggiato - M'Oli tin Passiuna
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Giovanni Avantaggiato
M'Oli tin Passiuna - contutta la passione
Taranta Ethnica (www.taranta.it)

There used to be a time when the music, the tradition and the language of Grecía Salentina were really difficult to come by and the few available records and books were a true find. In recent years, as the Italian state officially began to recognize the existence of the Grecano community, there has been a steady offering of music from the region. Bands, established and new, local or from outside the community, soon discovered the amazing wealth of the local musical tradition and started an ongoing dialogue with it. Sometimes the results have been unsatisfactory or the motives behind the covers of the long-standing "hits" shadowy, but there are now more than twenty or thirty records available that cover almost all aspects of the tradition.

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On the ethnological part of the spectrum, M'Oli tin Passiuna is a welcome addition from one of the old masters, the 80 year old Giovanni Avantaggiato, with his diatonic accordion and his beautiful voice. Although at times the versions of these songs from their more tradtional sources may sound rough to our conditioned ears, this kind of recording is a treasure trove and offers a borderline voyeuristic insight into the psyche of those close-knit communities that, after centuries of exploitation by outsiders, open up with difficulty. Every time a recording like this comes along, it is cause for celebration, and this is one of the best, combining traditional methods of playing with modern day realities and sensibilities.

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One of the things about the music of this region is that whatever had to be said, was said fast. There are 30 tracks on the CD and the duration of the record is an hour and twelve minutes. The repertoire covered includes the famous pizzica, European dances of the 19th century (polkas, waltzes, Mazurkas, quadrilles, Scottish dances and marches), work songs, love songs and songs in the local Romano Salentino language. Particularly interesting are the polyphonic songs (a paravoce). Old and really melodic, they are probably the most interesting works in this collection.

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These recordings perform the important duty of bridging the old with the new. Avantaggiato has been around a long time and has collaborated on a number of different musical groups since the late Seventies, so he is now almost as much a teacher and facilitator as a musician and singer. He was also born in 1925, which means that he was fifteen in 1940, so he knows how pre-war Italy was and has experienced all the different sides of Twentieth Century Salento: the pre-war close-knit agricultural society, the post-war period when immigration and external influences almost decimated the culture, the heroic early renaissance of the seventies and the eighties, and now the more organized period of progress of the Nineties to the present. We are fortunate to have these people around still, people aware of the old times but adaptive enough and secure enough to work within the new realities of the new millennium.

It is the history of his life that is most audible in this record, where the old, spare way of playing and singing meets the modern recording technologies (so no disquieting scratching) while Giovanni's voice still sounds lovely, providing us with a true time capsule.

For those passionate about the tradition, this is a true reference recording. Kudos are due to Taranta for tracking down Avantaggiato and recording him for posterity. - Nondas Kitsos

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