Milagro Acustico - Sicilia Araba & Rosa del Sud

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Milagro Acustico
Sicilia Araba
Rosa del Sud

Cultural Bridge (

Milagro Acustico is a marvelous southern Italian band that, under the direction of Bob Salmieri (a ney and saxophone player), has released many programs of thematically-linked music. These two – Sicilia Araba, Arabic Poets of Sicily 827-1091 (2013), and Rosa del Sud (2015) – are very different in focus. Southern Italy has an ancient heritage of being a crossroads in the Mediterranean, with the Italian population being exposed to Greek, Middle Eastern, and African influences. On Sicilia Araba, the ensemble explores the Islamic influence upon Sicily. Rosa del Sud revisits the music of Sicilian singer Rosa Balistreri in an extraordinary fashion, by using recordings of Balistreri's voice in their own new musical settings. What both albums have in common are chords of memory and history that resonate today.

These two recordings give us Milagro Acustico at their best. The sound is positively luscious, and the band has updated it by simply allowing the instruments breathing room; both albums sound primarily acoustic, with little or no electronic backing. They have mined Arabic poetry before, and on Sicilia Araba the band sounds both sinuous and deeply funky. Maurizio Catania, drummer for the fusion project Unnaddarè, adds a deep pulse and lightness of touch to the combined efforts of the group. The Arabic influence in Sicily runs deep, from times of conquest in the 700 to 800s, up through the Norman Conquest from 1075 to 1087. Muslim civilization contributed greatly to expanding Sicilian agriculture and trade. And, of course, there was poetry. The texts themselves – comprised of fragrant poetry -- are sung in a keening, passionate mode; these are songs of both arrival in Sicily, experiencing Sicilian life, and of mourning Sicily from afar.

Listen "Favara" (full song)


Rosa del Sud exhumes Rosa Balistreri's voice itself. The album, just shy of thirty-one minutes, is an experimental EP. Balistreri was born in 1927 in Sicily, and died in 1990 in Palermo. She experienced her share of poverty and sadness over her lifetime. A daughter of the south, like many others she moved away from Sicily to seek a better economic livelihood. Balistreri worked as a maid, as well as at other laboring jobs. With men, she found herself exploited; Balistreri attempted to kill her first husband, and later, as a maid with a wealthy family, she was impregnated by a son of the family and ended up on the streets. Nonetheless, Rosa Balistreri found herself in close connection with artists, and she also sang: Dario Fo recognized her talent, and her recording output bloomed.

Listen "Testa di Morto" (full song)

"Sognu omu un cunigliu" (excerpt)

Rosa del Sud situates Balistreri's strong voice, redolent of a life of struggle, in sonic environments that quite often dip into reggae; the songs swoon and sway with sympathetic dance vibes. The connection, of course, between Balistreri and reggae lies in suffering and the resilience born out of bearing the sorrows of life: whether Jamaican or a poor southern Italian, the sentiment is heartfelt. Milagro Acustico carries off this daring project with grace. – Lee Blackstone

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