various artists,
The Music of Corsica
(ARC, 2003)

Petru Guelfucci is a Corsican patriot whose passionate vibrato, accompanied by guitar and strings, conveys a love of his mountainous Mediterranean island, often conquered by the great powers but never wholly assimilated.

The Corsican tongue appears to be a Romance language, related to Tuscan or Genoese Italian, but harder to understand. Despite the language barrier, the passion of Guelfucci for his native land is clearly available to listeners, particularly in the songs "Cum'ellu He' Tristu" and "Corsica."

Before hearing this CD, I knew little about Corsica except that it was French administered since the time of its most famous son, Napoleon Bonaparte. A recent National Geographic article that painted all Corsican nationalists as Mafia was -- uncharacteristically -- unhelpful.

The songs and musical forms of Corsica have lived on in certain mountain villages and have been revived by the artists who perform on this well-produced CD. Guelfucci, who has a large following in Quebec, shares the spotlight on this disc with groups I Amici, Madricale, A Filetta and Voce di Corsica.

While I Amici presents spirited instrumentals that sound familiar to those who know western European folk music, the other three ensembles with their polyphonic singing have a sound reminiscent of the singing of Caucasian Georgia, perhaps recalling the Byzantines and Greeks who once ruled the island. Madricale's "U Lamentu di u Pastore!" is an excellent exemplar of this singing.

While this collection provides fine explanatory notes on the artists and the kinds of music from Corsica, in several major languages, more explanation on the individual songs would help. Despite this, this expressive music is easy on the ears, engaging and passionate.

Music of Corsica reflects the numerous cultures that have made their impact on this remote but beautiful spot, and melded into one. Today Corsica is an island much loved by tourists, most of whom, regrettably, will likely never hear Guelfucci or the other very talented artists on this CD.

- Rambles
written by David Cox
published 3 April 2004

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