Sancto Ianne,
Mo Siente
(Folk Club Ethnosuoni, 2006)

It is hard to know how to define or pigeonhole this record, the third release from the rootsy Italian ensemble Sancto Ianne, but it doesn't matter. This is one of the best bands in the business and this 10-song CD is the complete package.

Too dynamic to be folk, way too rootsy to be pop, too rooted in its own locality to be anything called "world music," this CD is one of the best of many amazing records I have heard recently from Italy. And what these great records have in common is a rootedness, not just in their local autonomous region, but in a specific city and its hinterland.

Sancto Ianne is identified with the small city of Benevento in Campania, near Naples. Small but mighty, as this area has a history that goes back to and before the Romans. In fact, its people, the Samnites, fought the Romans in three ancient wars, and Benevento still has Trajan's Arch. It is this region that the CD Mo Siente (Listen Up!) celebrates.

This is a group that sings in local dialect, tells local stories and celebrates local places and their history. Lead singer Giovanni Principe brings an earthy, but also worldly quality to his vocals, emanating strength and self-assurance while the group sets down rhythms.

Featuring evocative violin playing, strong percussion, song structure borrowed from pop and rock, and an almost completely acoustic sound, this CD is certainly a reaction against processed, mass-consumption oriented contemporary music, but borrowing its best features. The Arabic influence is strong in this and other songs on the CD, as is the Greek. The level of musicianship and the quality of production are high.

On "Nuje Can Nun Stammo Vecino O Mare," the band sets out its manifesto, for recognition of those "who don't live near the sea," but rather in the forgotten small towns of the interior. Certainly, they are from near Naples, but not from Naples. "Uno Nponta, a Luna" features Antonio Pasquariello on electric guitar, one of the few nonacoustic moments on a reworking of a popular rhyme.

Another strong track is "Uocchie," the band's strongest political statement. Principe teams with Faisal Taher, a Palestinian vocalist living in Italy, telling a bilingual story about the troubles faced by Europe's newcomers, often living in the poorest regions and doing the lowest-paying jobs. The CD includes a very evocative video of this song, as well.

Other songs celebrate the history of revolutionary anarchist groups in the region ("A banda d'o Matese") or the virtues of growing up in the streets in a simpler time, just having fun, on "Pe la via," the opening song and a sure neo-roots "hit." There is one tasty instrumental, "Port Arsa."

The musicians in the band, all excellent, are Principe on vocal and castanet; Raffaele Tiseo, violin; Sergio Napolitano, piano; Ciro Maria Schettino, guitars; Massimo Amorriello, electric bass; and Alfonso Coviello, percussion.

Overall, Mo Siente is highly recommended and should appeal to those who enjoy groups such as Berroguetto, La Lionetta, Oskorri, La Bottine Souriante or similar artists. It's one of the liveliest new records I have heard in some time, highly recommended.

[ visit the artist's website ]

review by
David Cox

6 October 2007

what's new