Canzoniere Grecanico Salentino: A Whirlwind of Mastery

Canzoniere Grecanico Salentino: A Whirlwind of Mastery

Review by Lily Allen-Duenas

Canzoniere Grecanico Salentino slowly entered the stage, one by one, adding one instrument at a time to the rising music, until it was a forceful flurry of interwoven rhythm and sound. It was completely hypnotic. The forceful striking of the hand drum, the clash on the tambourine, the quick breaths of the accordion, the excited thrum of the bass, all formed a netlike entity that wrapped itself around the packed room. And then the dancer entered the stage. Garbed entirely in white, the dancer, Silvia Perrone, whirled and twirled with pursed lips, bare feet, and bright eyes, waving a white scarf with quick hands. She, and the rest of the band, were mesmerizing.

The 7th annual Landfall Festival of World Music began with a bang at CSPS on Tuesday, September 16 with Canzoniere Grecanico Salentino, a group of six musicians plus a dancer from Southern Italy. (If you think of Italy as a boot, they are from the heel.) Canzoniere Grecanico Salentino is a multi-generational band that is celebrating its 40th year together, and was formed by the parents of some of the current band members. Canzoniere Grecanico Salentino was a part of Cedar Rapid’s Landfall Festival three years ago, so this wasn’t their first time in Iowa, Cedar Rapid’s, nor at CSPS.

Their members include: Mauro Durante on the frame drums, violin, and vocals, Giulio Bianco on the zampogna, armonica a bocca, recorders, Emanuele Licci on the guitar, bouzouki, and vocals, Maria Mazzotta on the tamburello Massimiliano Morabito, diatonic accordion, and vocals, and Giancarlo Paglialunga on the vox, tamburello, with Silvia Perrone as the dancer. Canzoniere Grecanico Salentino gives meaning to the words multi-instrumental musicians.

They all sang in Greco, also called Grecanico, a dialect from their region of Italy that linguists fear is dying. Canzoniere Grecanico Salentino plans and hopes to keep the language alive with their vast songbook. Mauro Durante briefly translated the meaning of each song before they performed it, but the underlying message in each song was clear through the rhythms and through the expressive lead singer, Maria Mazzotta, whose piercing soprano voice had an intensely spiritual tone as if every note venerated the audience. Most impressive was Giancarlo Paglialunga’s rapid-fire percussive magic on the tamburello, maintaining a fiercely fast rhythm that required his hands blur with the swift movement, was nothing short of a fantastical feat. Also, Mauro Durante played a song solo using nothing but the frame drum, which he masterfully manipulated to create almost the entire range of sound a drum-kit would create.

Canzoniere Grecanico Salentino didn’t tolerate a single moment of mediocre. They packed as much into a moment as possible, filling every second to the brim with an amalgam of masterful sounds.
If Canzoniere Grecanico Salentino’s show says anything about the Landfall Festival it is that you must go, you simply must go. Such exquisitely skillful music bursting with life and talent and passion should never be missed.