FolkWorld #77 03/2022
© Pío Fernández

Past, present and future exist at the same time, connected by an indissoluble thread. Those who aren't here anymore meet those who aren't here yet. The pain of absence results in the vital explosion of presence. Dance Nina, live!

Still Moving

Canzoniere Grecanico Salentino

Artist Video Canzoniere Grecanico
Salentino @ FROG

CGS, Canzoniere Grecanico Salentino, formed by writer Rina Durante in 1975, is a traditional music ensemble from Salento, Italy, who are no newcomers in the pages of FolkWorld. We know about them since earlier albums such as: ‘Focu d'Amore’,[45] or ‘Pizzica Indiavolata’.[50]

Canzoniere Grecanico Salentino

Canzoniere Grecanico Salentino "Meridiana", Ponderosa, 2021

The seven-piece band and dancer perform their contemporary version of Southern Italy's traditional Pizzica music & dance. Pizzica (which is part of the larger family of Italian tarantella) is a typical style from the Salento peninsula in Apulia, and later spreading throughout the rest of Apulia and the regions of Calabria and eastern Basilicata. Consequently, what characterizes noticeable part of CGS’s repertoire is the accelerated beat of these dance rhythms, traditionally performed with the tamburello frame drum (tambourine).

This aspect of speed in the percussion certainly contributes to the high energy and intensity of many of the melodies on this 12-song recording, such as: ‘Orfeo’, ‘Pizzica Bhangra’, ‘Vulía’, or ‘Ronda’. Other melodies, calm and melodic at first, at some point in their development also evolve back into the domain of furious tambourines & frame drums, as in 'Balla Nina' or 'Ninnarella'.

But the captivating beauty and intensity in CGS's music emanates from an amalgamation of resources: hypnotic melodies, vigorous instrumental & vocal arrangements, the fusion of traditional melismatic patterns and rhythms with pop-jazz styles. Slower melodies, such as the traditional 'Quannu Camini Tie' and 'Ntunnuciu', or the sweet melancholic 'Meridiana' (lyrics & music: M.Durante, arr.: E.Licci), they are also powerful examples of the enchantment that the voices, the strings and the flutes also transmit in tranquility.

CGS’s bandmembers in 2020 are: Mauro Durante (frame drums, violin, vocals), Giulio Blanco (recorders, whistles, clarinet, harmonica, zampogna), Emanuele Licci (vocals, bouzouki, guitar, battente guitar, tamburello), Massimiliano Morabito (diatonic accordion), Giancarlo Paglialunga (vocals, tamburello, calebas), Alessia Tondo (vocals, castanets, tamburello), Silvia Perrone (dance). Also featuring: RED BARA AT; Sunny Jain (dhol, effects), Lynn Ligammari (soprano saxophone), Sonny Singh (trumpet), John Altieri (sousaphone), Enzo Avitabile (voice & pentarpa). Guests: Justin Adams (electric guitar), Giacomo Greco (synth, sound design), Valerio “Combass” Bruno (electric bass), Antonio “Dema” De Marinaris (percussions).

Mauro Durante is one of the key artists behind the CGS (Canzoniere Grecanico Salentino) project, an ensemble rooted in the traditional folklore of southern Italian Puglia, with its typical style of singing, but even more so the danceable pizzica rhythms, interpreted with the local tambourine, the 'tamburello' frame drum. Nevertheless, CGS also fuses that tradition with jazz, rock or pop music.

Justin Adams & Mauro Durante

Justin Adams & Mauro Durante "Still Moving", Ponderosa, 2021

Justin Adams (another participant in CGS) is a guitarist, producer and composer, who has been chief collaborator with Robert Plant (Led Zeppelin) in his band ‘The Sensational Spaceshifters’, co-writing a series of 4 albums and touring the world. Justin’s production on landmark albums by Tinariwen & Rachid Taha highlight his feel for North African groove, while his award-winning projects with Gambian maestro Juldeh Camara linked griot tradition with raw blues spirit.

Mauro Durante

Justin Adams

‘Still Moving’, his new collaboration with CGS’s violinist/percussionist Mauro Durante, stems from a concert led by Ludovico Einaudi, the ‘Notte della Taranta’ in Puglia, where the two first played together, recognising kindred spirits in the trance rhythms of the Taranta. In 2020—2021, years in which movement was restricted by Covid like never before, the two musicians whose travels have been their lifeblood, managed to come together to create this intense and intimate record, ‘Still Moving’.

An album, where Justin & Mauro create a raw, stripped-back sound that moves and mesmerises. Justin Adams, whose post-punk approach has been enriched by a passion for Arabic & African trance/blues, and Mauro Durante, a visionary inheritor of the Taranta roots of his native Puglia recorded live in studio, without over-dubs. Together they found what was is essential in their common sound, reaching into tradition from Italy (folk songs like ‘Damme La Manu’, classics like ‘Amara Terra Mia’), and America (‘Little Moses’, the Carter Family classic).

Original songs, like ‘Dark Road Down’ find common ground between the wild pizzica rhythm of Southern Italy and trance boogie, while ‘Djinn Pulse’ goes from serene instrumental minimalism to hypnotic catharsis. The title song ‘Still Moving’ evokes Mediterranean migrations, as Odyssean trial with ancient frame drum, and raw electric guitar providing a starkly beautiful landscape.

Regardless of whether you're listening to a traditional Italian tune or predominantly American-style blues, the well-executed mix between Justin Adam's electric guitar and Mauro Durante's vocals and violin is truly impressive. The guitar is precisely matched to the pizzica rhythm, while the traditional fiddle, vocals, and percussion blend beautifully with the guitar riffs.

Justin Adams and Mauro Durante: How these two master musicians met and developed their unique sound together through friendship and shared love of international music. From different musical paths; one post-punk, rock, and blues, the other from the trance of Taranta, folk, and traditional, their music builds up a frenzy of passion and elation.

Justin Adams & Mauro Durante performing the songs from the album "Still Moving" at Real World Studios in England.

Photo Credits: (1ff) Canzoniere Grecanico Salentino / Mauro Durante, Justin Adams (unknown/website).

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