FolkWorld #74 03/2021
© Pío Fernández

From the Black Sea to the Ligurian Sea

CABIT is the musical duo Edmondo Romano & Davide Baglietto based in Liguria (NW Italy), who since the 1990s have been working in the world of folk music with a broad perspective, looking also towards the traditions in the Oriental confines of the Mediterranean sea.


Filiz Ilkay Balta - voice, tulum, choirs | Simona Fasano - voice, choirs | Edmondo Romano - clarinet, high ocarina, fluier, egiptian mizmar, choirs | Davide Baglietto - ceccola polifonica, musa pastorale, whistle, low ocarina | Matteo Merli- voice, choirs | Stefano Valla - voice, piffero, choirs | Onur Ural - zurna, mey, balaban | Alparslan Kurtoglu - voice, kemençe | Daniele Scurati - accordeon, choirs | Matteo Dorigo - hurdy-gurdy | Fahri Çelebi - darbouka, keci tirnagi, dholla, waterfall, shaker, birds | Erhan Zaza - davul | Marco Fadda - riq, bendir, darabouka, tamburello, karthal, shaker, claps | Akdeniz Erbas - agiz kopuzu (jews harp) | Gamze Çelebi – choirs


Artist Video Cabit @ FROG

Cabit "Serenin: From the BLACK SEA to the LIGURIAN SEA", Felmay Records, 2020

Davide has become an expert on European bagpipes, and Edmondo is a multi-instrumentalist specialized in traditional wind instruments from all over the world. Although their initial focus was placed on the Ligurian traditions, which inspired their previous Christmas songs album ‘Unico Figlio’,[64] they have also opened their musical influences towards Turkey, with its melodies and instruments. In their own words: “The musical language of the Greek & Turkish areas has always nurtured and fascinated us. Historically, the contacts and ties between Ligurian and Middle Eastern peoples hark back to the seafarers, peasants and highlanders, who had similar lifestyles; and to the commercial and cultural exchanges, which have taken place over time.”

Davide Baglietto & Edmondo Romano

There are also important musical and organological elements uniting the two cultures: The local bagpipes are called Tulum in Turkey and pastoral muse or piva in Liguria; the traditional folk oboe, very similar in form in in both regions, is called zurna in Turkey and piffero in the Apennines; the Turkish duduk or mey is the ancestor of our traditional folk clarinet in C; the stringed kemençe and our hurdy-gurdy…

Bearing all this in mind, the initial idea was to create an ensemble with a mix of Turkish and Ligurian musicians, to select some pieces from the respective traditions, to exchange the chosen material, and, once learnt, each to rearrange it in their own style in such a way that pieces unite the typical sounds and characteristics of the two peoples…

After the first meeting with Filiz Ilkay balta, singer and Tulum player, which took place in 2018, in Istanbul, musicians were selected from both shores… Live recordings were made using a mobile studio in Istanbul. While learning the respective repertoires, the musicians have developed a new traditional language, previously unheard, never known before: a direct encounter that gave birth to a sincere interweaving of musical languages. The lyrics are multilingual: Italian, Turkish, Genoese, and English. It is fascinating to hear Ligurian singers sing in Turkish and Turkish singers in Italian.

In the album ‘Serenin’ we find a collection of eleven tunes, most of them traditional. The first one ‘Çayelinden Öteye’ (Beyond Çayeli) is a song from the district of Çayeli, a city overlooking the Black Sea in the province of Rize. The song hangs on a short melodic composition by Matteo Merli written to accompany the original lyrics of the song. The lead voice is given to the Turkish zurna and the Ligurian piffero, both double reed instruments, similar in workmanship, but different, thus highlighting all the remoteness and the similarities of the two cultures.

‘Tri bej giuvin’ (Three fine young men), belongs to the song collection of Constantino Nigra, and it is still sung in the territory of the ‘Four Provinces’ between Genova, Alessandria, Piacenza and Pavia. It was chosen because its richness in melismas in the melodic part; a typical feature of traditional Turkish music. The marriage with the backing track, a traditional Greek / Turkish rhythm called tsifteteli, is perfect in a new arrangement created by Edmondo and Daniele in the vocal part.

The whole CD ‘Serenin’ alternates songs from both Northern Italy and Turkey, combining the traditional instruments and sounds from both places. The musicians from Liguria and its hinterland are amongst the most representative interpreters from their region. Matteo Merli, vocals, for his rich experience of the Genoese vocalism and for the freshness of hos approach; Matteo Dorigo young and purposeful ‘modern’ hurdy-gurdy performer; Simona Fasano, female vocals, who did all the translations and adaptations of the lyrics; Stefano Valla, quintessential piffero player and exponent of a secular art rooted in the so called “Four Provinces” area, who with Daniele Scurati, his trusted accordionist suggested several traditional songs, all listened, selected, interpreted and arranged for the ensemble.

The Turkish musicians are all among the important exponents of their tradition. Filiz Ilkay Balta is not only the first woman to play the Tulum, but one of the youngest; for which reason, and for her innovative approach to the instrument she became famous throughout Turkey, in a short period of time; Alp Kurtoglû is one of the best Turkish starts, from the Black Sea, as well as being an important singer—songwriter, he is one of the great virtuosos of the kemençe, the Turkish lyre; Erhan Zaza, a multi-instrumentalist, is one of the best davul (in a drum used in a pair with zurna or tulum) players in Istanbul; Fahri Çelebi is one of the most renowned of the new generation of Turkish percussionists; Onur Ural is a young zurna and duduk (Turkish & Armenian) player, and is very well known in Turkey due to the many recordings he has played on, in virtue of his extraordinary skill as a performer.

Filiz Ilkay Balta

Akdeniz Erbas

Stefano Valla & Daniele Scurati

Photo Credits: (1)-(2) Cabit, (3) Davide Baglietto & Edmondo Romano , (4) Filiz Ilkay Balta, (5) Akdeniz Erbas, (6) Stefano Valla & Daniele Scurati (unknown/website).

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