Savina Yannatou
Mediterranea: Songs of the Mediterranean
Sounds True (

cd cover With Mediterranea, Savina Yannatou and the ensemble Primavera en Salonico offer a daunting essay in the recuperation of traditional musics from one of the world's enduring cultural crossroads. Drawing upon the folk repertoires of Albania, Armenia, Corsica, Cyprus, Greece, Israel, Lebanon, Provence, Sardinia, Sicily, Spain, Tunisia, Turkey and the Sephardic diaspora, Yannatou reveals herself as a singer of astounding range, superb vocal control and consummate musical scholarship. A painter, classically trained singer, and exponent of early, Renaissance and Baroque music, Sephardic song and avant-garde jazz, Yannatou sought out immigrants in her native Athens to coach her pronunciation in the 14 languages and dialects heard on the album. The exceptional instrumental work of Primavera en Salonico on nay (rim-blown flute), recorder, guitar, kanonaki (psaltery), lutes (oud, tamboura), violin, viola, double bass, and percussion (bendir, daoul, tambourine, toumbeleki) furthers the project's compelling beauty and pan-cultural depth of feeling.

"Ballo Sardo"
But to see Yannatou perform is the best way to appreciate the dynamic expressiveness of her vocal artistry. She has the capacity to deploy her voice as an instrument such that it can be difficult to distinguish from the Jew's harp amidst the instrumental tapestry, as on "Ballo Sardo," a haunting Sardinian dance. "O Onda," a Corsican lament, and "Rabbi Blonni Bemlayan/ Yati Pouli Then Kelaidhis," a Greek-Tunisian composite sung with Tunisian singer Lamia Bendioui, suggest an analogous blurring of vocal and instrumental spheres. But even when Yannatou sings it (more or less) straight, the results are riveting. Consider "Yad Anuga," a haunting Bedouin melody carried to Israel; "Lama Bada Yatathana," an Arab-Andalusian love song from Tunisia; the smoky vocal artifice and instrumental interplay of the Italian folk song "Pinguli Pinguli Giuvacchinu/ Lu Purtuni"; her wanton rendering of Armenian composer Udi Hrant's "Ge�mis G�zel G�nerli"; or the driving Asturian verve of "El Barquero." As such, Mediterranea captures, indeed celebrates, the process of cultural hybridization that has been underway in the region for two millennia. - Michael Stone

Available at cdRoots

Real Audio: "Ballo Sardo" (traditional Sardinian folk song)
(c)2000 Sounds True, used by permission

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