various artists,
Italian Treasury: Liguria:
Baiardo & Imperia

Italian Treasury: Liguria:
Polyphony of Ceriana

(Rounder, 2002)

Nearly 50 years ago, Alan Lomax spent several months in Italy recording songs and music for an anthology in the Columbia World Library & Primitive Music series. Italian Treasury: Liguria: Polyphony of Ceriana and Italian Treasury: Liguria: Baiardo & Imperia both come from the recordings he made then. Both CDs have great historical and cultural significance. They are recordings of the music that was, snapshots looking back in time. The liner notes on both CDs give you the history of the music, as well as the lyrics in both Italian and English. The music, on the other hand, is not among the best in the world.

All of the songs on Polyphony of Ceriana were performed by the Campagnia Sacco. The CD is not easy to listen to as several of the songs have a rough droning edge to them. It is a part of the musical style that the CD showcases. There are times when the droning is softened by guitar but that doesn't happen often enough. There is a marked difference between "A Figlia du Capitanu," which has no accompaniment, and "La Fontanella," which does. A couple of the songs, "Donna Lombarda" and "O Come Mai, Mia Cara Ema," are interrupted by Lomax.

Baiardo & Imperia is a very different CD. There are two main reasons for this: first, the villagers perform the songs, and second, the songs are sung differently -- without the monotonous droning that marks the other CD. The difference can be heard best in "Donna Lombardo" and "La Fontanella." But, while easier on the ears, the songs still aren't that much better. Imagine the people in your neighborhood were recorded singing a bunch of folk songs and you will understand why. The heart may be there but the performance will likely be less than polished. Not everyone will be in tune and it mars the music.

The liner notes are full of information and are well worth reading. They also leave you no doubt of the historical and cultural value of the recordings. And part of me feels compelled to recommend the CDs based on that alone, their value as a collection. But then there is the music, and as important as the preservation of this tradition may be, the music is the weakness of these recordings.

- Rambles
written by Paul de Bruijn
published 26 April 2003

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