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Taken
Peskan
CNI Music, Italy (www.cnimusic.it)

cd cover Imagine the sound of hot streets, outrage, and a burning desire to party: then you've got some approximation of Taken, an incredibly talented eight-piece band from the Northern Italian region of Piedmont. Taken originally began as a group that combined their Italian roots with the loose recklessness of Irish and Scots folk/punk bands -- but on Peskan, Taken have left those origins behind and there is nary an Irish influence in the mix. Instead, Peskan trades on constant surprise: a sweet horn section; a gypsy flair to rival the best of the early Les Negresses Vertes; and plenty of dub bass, accordion, and punk fervor. Taken have settled into a very assured, Mediterranean/continental sound: their style is novel, and every track on Peskan is perfectly paced, with a rhythm section tight enough to hold this joyriding world music band to the road.

Franco Zanello sings in the Vercelli dialect of Piedmont, and the band's lyrics are often cryptic. A peskan is a small fish, and this provides the lyrical theme of the whole CD: the songs are mostly a collection against oppression, fascism, and globalization around the world. We are the small fish against the larger forces. On "Bambini Diversi" (Various Children), Taken address the September 1993 killing of an eleven year old Yugoslavian Romanian, Tarzan Sulic, who was shot at point blank range while being held in a police prison cell in Padua. When Zanello sings about Sulic's assassination, he sounds jaw-droppingly urgent; in fact, throughout Peskan, one can imagine Zanello's face as he intensely speaks his mind, perhaps squirming, perhaps his eyes bulging. Elsewhere, the band decries the Israeli occupation of Palestine, addresses the connections between Moscow and Red China, and illustrates the difficulties of immigration.

This is revolution roots-rock with messages, and the music to match. "Immigrescianson" moves through giddy funk, to ska and reggae; while on "La Masca," Taken match reggae-rock to medieval chant and punk screaming. If one needs a point of reference here, perhaps a parallel between Taken and the 'rock en espagnol' movement can be made; the artwork within the CD is (perhaps consciously) reminiscent of Mano Negra and Manu Chao. Ironically, while Taken proclaim on their website a "NO! To globalization...," their approach to music is wholeheartedly global and their influences wide-ranging. The difference is in Taken's intent; on Peskan, they arrive as a band with something to prove: like a firing squad. - Lee Blackstone

CD available by special order from orders@cdroots.com


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