various artists,
Italian Treasury:
Piemonte &
Valle D'Aosta

(Rounder, 2004)

The Piemonte area of Italy, near Torino (Turin) is a region particularly rich in music, both today and in the past. It's a crossroads region, significant in that for long periods it was the only "independent" area of Italy (i.e., not ruled by France, Austria, Spain).

These days it is one of the centers of an Italian folk revival led by such bands as La Ciapa Rusa, Banditalia and Torino's own La Lionetta. Piemonte sits in the hill country between the Alps and the mediterranean plain, while Valle d'Aosta is a small multilingual sub-region pushed up against the Alps, where Provencal, French and German are also heard.

These are field recordings made by Alan Lomax and Diego Carpitella in 1954. As this is one of the more modern, industrialized regions of Italy, clearly this was the last chance for some of this music to be heard and recorded.

Here we have a peasant society rapidly changing into a modern, urban one, absorbing immigrants from the economically backward south of Italy, and also reflecting this rich heritage as a European crossroads. Thus we see Jewish and Rom (Gypsy) influences in the music as well as others that we think of as Italian. Some excellent polyphonic singing shows some of the diverse elements of the region's music, as well as brass bands.

Piemonte has its own language, though much of the singing here is in Italian with local influences rather than in full Piemontese, and even in French.

The songs here are about the everyday life of the people of the region: marriage, the harvest emigration, a song to banish melancholy. In this rich wine-growing region of northern Italy, peasants sing of their enthusiasm to get away to South America because of the economic opportunities there. Although the quality of the recordings, as expected, is uneven, this is a wonderful archive of song. The accompanying booklet with notes of excellent quality and lyrics are a bonus.

by David Cox
11 February 2006

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