Sonate Calabresi,
I Suoni del Pollino
(Radici, 2008)

Italian bagpipes. That phrase only begins to describe how unusual this music is.

This project presents the music of Calabria, the foot of the boot of Italy, just north of the island of Sicily -- or, more exactly, the northeastern portion of Calabria.

The originator of this recording project, Walter Astorino, plays a type of guitar called the chitarra battente, while Francesco Rusciano and Pietro Adduci play many types of bagpipes and occasionally sing. All three also handle percussion.

The first track sounds African, with vocals and a cup-cup, an instrument with a repetitive bass sound made by a piece of cane rubbed across a drumskin. The second tune features a simple "whistle of olelander," which sounds like a pennywhistle.

The remainder of the 13 tracks use bagpipes and guitar, including two with vocals. Seven are tarantellas, music for an Italian dance. The bagpipes, by the way, do not sound Irish or Scottish. These pipes are smaller, retaining a nasal tone but not overly loud. They make an early, medieval music sound.

There is an accompanying booklet in English included with the CD that is an excellent guide. The packaging is handmade, using high-quality paper.

These 13 tracks are hard to get used to, but they become more accessible after repeated listenings. It is a wonderful recording for those who are willing to embrace the offbeat but entrancing music.

[ visit the artist's website ]

review by
Dave Howell

30 August 2008

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