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Musical Reviews - Migala "World 'n' Folk Music" (2014 - Italy)

by Migala
Mar 25, 2014


Musical Reviews for Blogfoolk by Daniele Cestellini – Professor of Ethnomusicology


Migala’s musical project features a work of "fusion", the stylistic choices of the band aim to"represent" - with a world music attitude - some key elements of the oral traditions’ musical heritage. The group - based in Rome - has just released their first self-titled album. The front cover shows the phrase "World 'n' Folk", that is a statement of style and purpose , and the marker of a music that is and traditional and "contemporary". "Traditional" in the broadest sense of the term, because the ten tracks that make up the disc (to which are added two bonus tracks, interesting and for the style and for the performance: "Carmen de focu" and "Antidotum tarantulae - Tarantella 1600") have a very broad musical spectrum: pizzica (Salento, South-Eastern Puglia); tammurriata (Campania); some atmospheres related to a vague acoustic jazz sound; references to the narrative structures of traditional ballads; expanded Afro-Mediterranean and Balkan rhythms (world); quotations of classical music and Irish trad. All that is characterized by an original writing style, defined by the confluence of the various members of the project and by the many instruments played. The section of chordophones: guitars, oud, bouzouki , baglama saz, stands out in this CD.

On the basis of what has been said about the two items above ("fusion" and "representation"), the approach of these musicians (David Roberto, Emanuele Quaglieri, Emanuele Lituri, Mario Peperoni, Pasqualino Ubaldini) can be related to two categories used by  anthropologists, that probably take some additional nuances when applied to music. In this context, the "fusion " is linked to the process of "interpretation" which - in the context of traditional music - it refers to the interpretations that anthropologists give or have given - in the past - to the production of expressive oral tradition and their derivations commercial and internationalist. In fact, as can be read in the booklet of the album, in the note of the song "Antidotum tarantulae": "Antidotum was transcribed by Athanasius Kircher, an outstanding 16th Century scholar (one of the earliest to get involved in the study of ‘tarantismo’); and was told to be one of the melodies chosen for the therapy of the bite of the tarantula."

However, the concept of "representation" is formed by the confluence of two stages, which are - at the same time - also two actions : "contrast" and "de-contextualization". The latter seems particularly interesting , because it defines not only the distance between the "producers" (the musicians in this case) from the "matrix" that inspires them, but also because it measures the degree of consistency with the information coming from the "matrix" (pizziche performed with electric bass, guitar and bouzouki, as listened in the song " Pizzingara"). 

Speaking in more general terms, we can say that behind the interpretative connections that musicians have with the oral musical heritages, a new - and sometimes original - repertoire takes shape; this new creation remains almost indefinable to the extent that it is lost in the magma of terminology, music reviews and "critical reports". This repertoire certainly can become quite common among the musicians, especially in the approach and methodology through which different musical influences are selected and re-assembled. I believe that is turning into a useful key to understand the dynamics affecting many musical productions inspired by traditional music. Basically, in the last fifty or sixty years, the musicians feel free, despite the many and redundant attempts to explain their aims and objectives, to make public the creative process and to cite their sources by themselves. Besides, what distinguishes the world music discographies - from those of other genres that are more defined and more widespread in (not only) western contemporary societies - is the intrinsic characteristic of indeterminacy: a disk of world music can feature many different musical influences; symbolically, its only sure characteristic is the "mixing" of musical genres in a "melting pot" view. This encounter between various genres of music it is not "normalizable" and it is undetermined; there is the will to represent a language, but using only partially its grammatical and syntactic rules.I wonder if this is the way to untie the knot around the questions that arise from this kind of music: it is not to define the degree of overlap, but rather to measure the perception that the musicians have of musical heritages they confront with and that they decide to interpret. Migala may represent a good example of reflection in this sense, to the extent that the traditional elements of the Italian regions (such as the music of Salento, Puglia and Campania) are treated as other musical elements (such as jazz manouche or music from Eastern or Northern Europe), and to the extent that the same musicians analyze the pieces that offer, through a system of notes accompanying each track.

"Pizzingara" - a song very rhythmic and dynamic - is presented in the booklet through a structured note, which presents the historical references and the comparisons with other types of music (even with classical music). In the booklet, the contemporary dimension of the musical admixture and the creativity of the authors are described with an explanation, which could resemble a "manifesto” of world music: "Starting with a classic citation (the opening of the De Sarasate’s Zigeunerweisen) the first part is steeped in the music of Eastern Europe, especially in the gypsy tradition. The second part is a “pizzica”, sung this time not in the dialect of “Salento” - as usual - but in the dialect of “Andria”. In the final part there are frequent changes of structure and rhythm: a transition in reggae sound, a bit of folk-prog and “pizzica”, to end up again with Balkan music."