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In Forma di Rosa
Sottosuono (

"Piccola follia"
This record, taking its title from a text by Pierpaolo Pasolini, patron saint of all things Southern Italian, is a real treat. Rosa Paeda, the lead singer of the group, has the warm vitality of a woman at a Mediterranean village who will spot you walking down her alley and invite you in for a glass of water and something sweet. "Iinviting" is indeed the word comes to mind while listening to this record.

cd cover She spent her apprenticeship heading the Reggae group Different Stylee, then embarked on her personal career that has a much more traditional aspect. Her voice is always assured and relaxed, her collaborators of the highest caliber and the band's compositions always interesting, innovative and well researched. Although she notes again and again that she is miles away from the ethnomusicologist's domain, the band's songs, tunes and original compositions have an air manifestly Mediterranean. This is the 21st Century equivalent of what Bari (her native city) has always been to Europe and the Mediterranean: a meeting place and a melting pot.

Never less than intriguing, always celebratory, Rosa Paeda's voice, with its world-weary earthiness and sheer crystalline beauty, could have been utterly captivating even if she were singing the most prosaic of material. To be supported by a tight group of excellent musicians from all over the Mediterranean (led by the wonderful Eddi Romano who deserves special mention for his excellent compositions and arrangements) that are all allowed to express their personal vision and breathe their experiences in the music, is quite wonderful. That this tight collaborative is unperplexed by rules and constraints borders on the fantastic. That the whole record has been blessed with state-of-the-art production and engineering is the icing on the cake.

Including songs sung in a variety of local dialect and music performed in a number of different traditional rhythms, this record continues from the high point reached with her previous (also highly recommended) CD, Facce. The highlight of this record is thought by the band to be their rendition of a traditional griko song, "ta travudia" (the songs) that receives the whole reggae treatment thanks to Bradford's The Rootsman. Equally revolutionary (or even sacrilegious, depending on your point of view) is the "Piccola Folia (Pizzica afro)." I would also suggest listening to the wonderful "Bari mediterranea" and "Dorme, tu Dorme." All the songs are thoughtfully explained in the bilingual (Italian and English) booklet.

Rest assured, this is not background music. Often revolutionary, this may very well be the voice of the new Italian South, awakening from its centuries-old sleep and reasserting itself, cutting off old tired traditions and leaving behind codes that have condemned it to silence and servitude. Having the courage and sense to talk in the local idioms about the real problems of the people, Rosa Paeda transcends the status of a wonderful singer, becoming a true pioneer travelling a difficult path, armed with her love of people, her immaculate soul and her desire to put wrongs right. I can already listen to the voices being raised against her and the way she decides to disregard the "traditional" form when it doesn't suit her attempts to bring forth the real vernacular spirit and character of those traditions. Mixing styles, cultures and people, speaking in languages left for dead or engulfed in their own preciousness, this is music that presents a global perspective on the local with words in the local dialects.

I cannot find a better way to conclude this piece than in Rosa Paeda's own words:
"Music for me is a terrible silence if it cannot raise an emotion in the listener..."
- Nondas Kitsos

Audio ©2001 Sottosuono, Italy, used by permission

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