Alberto Balia
& Enrico Frongia,
(Felmay, 2002)

Sardinia is perhaps the least known of the big Mediterranean islands. And, other than an enclave for wealthy tourists in the Northeast, it's virtually untouched by development.

What many people don't know is that Sardinia is a hotbed of languages -- four of them not including several dialects -- and authentic music. Vocalists and intrumentalists Alberto Balia and Enrico Frongia explore some of this heritage on Argia.

This is a recording that, to be fair, does not sound overly polished. Balia and Frongia's acoustic guitars when they stand alone sound a bit raw. But the playing is first rate, as are the vocals.

These are traditional songs with new, albeit simple arrangements. The texts come from some remote spots on this remote island. There is interesting stuff here, too. "Ita dd'oi est" is a children's song, a round constructed "like a magic box." The text is traditional but Balia wrote the tune and arranged it.

"Larere Bombo" is a suite that shows off some of the polyphonies heard in this part of the world. Surprisingly, some of these sound almost South African. Other songs include dances, religious songs, songs about life's joys and tribulations, and a song about the Argia, a mythical insect.

There's some great playing on this CD, and it is enhanced by the participation of Tuscan organetto whiz Riccardo Tesi, as well as Andrea Biosa on vocals.

This CD is vital and full of energy, but the sound mix may not be rich enough for many record consumers today. Lyrics are in Sardinian (not a dialect of Italian). They're not provided in the booklet, but each song is explained in Italian and English.

by David Cox
3 March 2007

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