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The Puglia region of southern Italy is home to a number of roots traditions including bagpipe music and the tarantolati, a healing music centered on the figure of Saint Paul. Both these traditions as well as others are found in the music of Uaragniaun, a first class Italian roots band. The group is anchored by the vocals of Maria Moramarco, who sounds more than a little like Marta Sebestyen. Key band members also include guitarist Luigi Bolognese and darbouka player Silvio Teot. These three founded the band 18 years ago.

Like many of the European roots musicians, they have also done field research and recorded old songs that are still alive in rural areas. Some of Uaragniaun's most inventive works are modern arrangements of roots music. For example, their version of "Cantos", a worker's song from the Murgia area, is sung in a traditional monostrophic style, the way it would be song in the fields. Uaragniaun adds a haunting saxophone line by guest musician Daniele Sepe to the arrangement creating a stunning work. On another work song, "Nenia", Moramarco's vocal is recorded with a heavy reverb and colored by Silveo Teot's ominous percussion accompaniment giving the track a particularly plaintiff tone. Violin and cello lines are added to a traditional ballad "Uccelloz", the story of a young girl who is obliged to marry a wealthy old man when she is in love with a young lover.

But Uaragniaun is also comfortable performing punched up versions of traditional village songs. Whether it's a fairy tale emphasized by diatonic accordions ("Putresenella") or the killer bagpipe-led tune "Ballo di Maestro Gerardo," Uaragniaun plays all their material with an astonishing ease and skill. - Aaron Howard

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