Carlo Muratori / e i Cilliri / Sicily
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Carlo Muratori

Carlo Muratori e i Cilliri
Carlo Muratori e i Cilliri
both titles from Folkstudio (

Carlo Muratori has released a number of records since the early eighties, of both traditional music and new compositions. Sicily was released at almost the same time as his equally fascinating and enjoyable Carlo Muratori e i Cilliri came out (his collection of traditional songs featured on two of his early LPs from 1980 and 1981), and while that is highly recommended as well, it is Sicily that really delivers a surprising collection of songs.

cd cover Sergio Bonanzinga, professor of cultural anthropology, relates in the booklet how he met Carmine Coppola (Francis Ford's father) in 1989, at the time of The Godfather III. Coppola Sr., a noted classical musician himself, was responsible for the music in the trilogy and he was in the lookout for traditional music to include in the soundtrack. Bonanzinga told him that most of the so-called traditional tracks he had utilized were never heard in the fields of Sicily. The reason was that most of those ersatz traditional songs were actually written by composers working in the early twentieth century and catering to the tastes of, and within the confines of, the bourgeois society both of Sicily and Italians in America, delivered through the radio or spectacles. These people were sincerely interested in the music of their land but were not ready for warts and all: the music had to be adapted to their newly-acquired refined taste and their love of the exotic and so while the lyrics were in Sicilian, the sound was quasi-operatic, following on the well-established Neapolitan tradition.

It is these songs that Muratori has decided to "cleanse" and bring to our attention in this record, together with some strategically-placed real traditional ones. By cleansing I mean that the instrumentation has been pared down: out with the harmonicas and the tambourines, in with guitars, mandoloncello, mandolin, cavachino, quarto, bouzouki and a voice full of beauty but with a barely-noticeable touch of irony. This juxtaposition makes for a fascinating collection, where bucolic Arcadian images of an idealized Sicily are followed by cruel tales of child labor, grudges against the boss where not even Jesus is ready to lend a helping hand, a Rosa Balistreri song ("Rosa canta e cunta") and more syrupy stuff, and then a song from the Second World War.

It is a real achievement that when listening to the record it is difficult to differentiate between the songs of the learned and the popular traditions. The former syrupy ones have been transformed into something which is still easy listening but not facile, more of a reinterpretation than a reinvention.

cd cover In contrast to this, the e i Cilliri recording has tambourines, mandolins and less ironic vocals. It is wonderful, especially considering when the original recordings were made, but it doesn't have the resourceful undercurrent of Sicily.

Carlo Muratori has opened a road for other artists to follow, as similar situations exist in other repertoires as well. The traditional music of Greece, recorded on 78rpm records in turn-of-the-century USA is an example that easily springs to mind, and I am sure that there are more stories like that to be told. That he achieved this basically ethnomusicological accomplishment with such expert musicality is a testament to his talent, as well as to that of the other people who have made this record possible: Marco Carnemolla on bass, Francesco Bazzano on percussion, Paolo Denaro and Danila Severino on backing vocals and Nuccio Cottone on jew's harp.

Carlo Muratori reinterprets the songs of the learned tradition without giving in to excessive sentimentality, a welcome for addition to those who are interested in this particular repertoire or the sociological implications of the interpretation of a raw tradition. - Nondas Kitsos

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CD available from cdRoots

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