Cantodiscanto - Malmediterraneo
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Forrest Hill, Italy (

cd cover As much as I tried to escape bisecting this record, I couldn't escape the feeling: Malmediterraneo is in two parts. The one is the amazing homonymous song that starts the record, and then there is the rest; Malmediterraneo is such an exceptional song. The first time I listened to it, I started counting the influences I could feel in it: Neapolitan, Arabic, operatic, Greek, Spanish. The song feels so organic in its use of those influences that it sounds like the most natural thing in the world. It's one of those rare things, a true instant classic.

And the rest of the record is equally good. On "I' te cunzolo" singers Silvia Testoni and Guido Sodo and the Cantodiscanto rhythm section create a sound similar to "Chan Chan" from the Buena Vista Social Club, and the sax solo and the dissolve into jazz is a revelation. "Bandera" has influences from Cabo Verde and Cuba, with Faisal Taher on vocals, and the pounding "A chi v� 'sta guerra" is powerful. In between those two songs, a sound excerpt from the anti-war demonstrations make sure that you know what it's all about, in case the translated lyrics fail to make their point "(...)My land is a flag/regardless of frontiers/it is a sun flag" and "to all those who want this war". "Tu m'he lassato" (You Left Me) is so sad and full of humanity that you want to go find the girl yourself and talk her into returning to poor Guido. "4 giorni, 1 storia" is a song recalling the story of a young man during the final days of WWII who joins the Resistance and pays for it with his own life, a story told by his father. It adds a counterpoint of humanism, showing that war is never the answer. "Figlia d'a luna" is a serenade with a tango flavor. "Ma ch' � fari" is like a cross between a European rap and a Native American dance. "Faisal" and "Hamama" go together and talk against Fortress Europe and for the need for love and reconciliation in the Holy Land. "Scuorno" (Shame) weaves around the sense of shame the singer feels about living in a world of inequality between the rich North and the poor South. "Dint' e for a" (Inside and out) talks about facing inner demons and an evil world outside, and yet manages to sound optimistic.

Cantodiscanto mention again and again in the notes that this is a melancholic, sad, depressed work, influenced by their feelings against the war in Iraq and the personal relationship problems of the chief songwriter, Guido Sodo. This feeling, a combination of rage, wonder and love is certainly present in all the lyrics. I do feel, however, that they were oversensitive, because at no point does Malmediterraneo seem sad or disconsolate. Instead it is a work of great humanity and vitality, expressing a desire for change.

Malmediterraneo is highly engaging, full of different influences and sounds that transcends the borders of Napoli. It contains a number of very individual and remarkably well-crafted songs, performed with verve by expert musicians. It's one of the best Italian records that I have heard this year, when good records have been plentiful. - Nondas Kitsos

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