Archive for the ‘1978’ Category
“Ok, adesso facciamo un pezzo che si intitola “Two balls”. È dedicato a tutte le suore operaie, alle fabbriche incinte, ai negri tirolesi e a Raquel Welch.” (“ok, we’re about to play a song called “Two balls”. it’s dedicated to all working nuns, to pregnant factories, to tyrolese niggers, and to Raquel Welch.”). These are the only words you will hear in this record, the debut album by the multi-instrumentalist Pepe Maina, spoken as an introduction to a live performance captured at the centro sociale Leoncavallo in Milan, circa 1977.
A very short and apparently nonsense speech which yet synthesize an entire philosophy: a love for meaningful paradox, a taste for making contraries collide without obliterating them, a pleasure in conflict which mark the whole work of Maina. Someone whose intelligence and ruthless irony – and self-irony – have helped most of the time, especially from mid eighties on, to avoid petty new age drifts while pursuing an ideal of music as a spiritual guidance and as a means to reconcile with nature and the rythm of earthbeat, making a mess with sound influences from all over the world. More or less, you could argue the same about Julian Cope – all differences considered.
So that you can’t help but fall in love with the man, when he states that his first LP was no more than “just the right soundtrack for those years’ joints”. Actually, Il canto dell’arpa e del flauto (“the song of the harp and the flute”), released by Caterina Caselli’s label Ascolto, could easily find a place in that “Italian cosmic rock continuum” which lies at our Mutant Sounds friends’ heart, juggling with progressive folk (Maina himself cites mid-seventies Jade Warrior as a main influence, but you can add other usual names, such as Third Ear Band and, as for Italy, Aktuala), krautrock (such as in the Cluster-flavoured “Spring song” and “Two balls”, with a funny glancing quotation from the melody of “Frère Jacques”), acoustic psychedelic rips (the final segment of “Il canto dell’arpa e del flauto (Parte prima)”), ethnic explosions (the feverishly percussive “Africa”, which somehow anticipated the Ozric Tentacles at their best), early ambient traces.
Here is the tracklist:
01, Il canto dell’arpa (“the song of the harp”)
02, Il canto dell’arpa e del flauto (Parte prima) (“the song of the harp and the flute (first part)”)
03, Spring song
04, Two balls
06, Il canto dell’arpa e del flauto (Parte seconda) (“the song of the harp and the flute (second part)”)
07, San Nicola (“saint Nicholas”)
This startling album remains to date the sole example of collaboration with the hated record industry for Pepe Maina. He soon opted for self-production, launching the following year his recording studio/music label Nonsense Studio by releasing his second full-length effort, Scerizza (the name of the smalltown near Como where he lives). He has been putting out more than twenty fully diy records since then, meanwhile working for theatre, indipendent filmmakers, advertising.
Go and visit his official website (in english) for more info, music downloads and cd shopping.
Every revolution needs a soundtrack. Pino Masi, born in Palermo, Sicily, and grown up in Pisa, Tuscany (his father’s hometown), has supplied italian extraparlamentary leftist opposition with protest anthems – mainly acoustic ballads – from late sixties up to mid-seventies such as a local Phil Ochs, becoming a kind of an official songwriter first for Potere Operaio (“workers power”), and then for Lotta Continua (“continuous fight”), two of the biggest and most active communist organizations of those years.
Masi founded in 1966 Canzoniere pisano (“pisan songbook”), a collective of young musicians devoted to developing a new form of political folk song; in 1967 he joined Nuovo canzoniere italiano (“new italian songbook”) – a similar group which gathered singer/songwriters from all over the country, which could be somehow compared to cuban Grupo de Experimentación Sonora – playing with the likes of Giovanna Marini, Giovanna Daffini, Enzo Delre, Ivan Della Mea.
During the hot decade between 1967 and 1977 he worked, among others, with psychiatrist Franco Basaglia, jazz musician Giorgio Gaslini, Nobel prize winner Dario Fo, Julien Beck’s Living Theatre, managing festivals and happenings, co-authoring and writing the score for the documentary 12 dicembre (“december 12th”) by Pier Paolo Pasolini about the 1969 fascist bomb attack in piazza Fontana, Milan (a turning point in italian contemporary history), and releasing a bunch of songs – often instant classics – for the movement, such as La violenza (“the violence”), L’ora del fucile (“the shotgun hour”), La ballata del Pinelli (“the ballad of Pinelli”), never giving up actual militancy.
The peak of this phase came in 1976, with the transitory album Compagno sembra ieri (“comrade, it seems yesterday”) and his legendary nude performance on the main stage at the Parco Lambro alternative music festival in Milan (you can see an excerpt here). But a new level was coming. His friendship with Ornette Coleman and Steve Lacy, met at concerts in Pisa, opened him to the free jazz scene; meanwhile, he had started a personal process of discovering of the mediterranean roots of italian folk, studying south-italian, north-african and middle-eastern musical structures.
Alla ricerca della madre mediterranea (“in search of the mediterranean mother”), released on Cramps in 1978, is the result of these diverse and seemingly incompatible influences: a destructured six-movements free folk simphony echoing Moroccan and Arabian hymnodies, shattered by feverish rythm patterns and broken with experimental inserts, with Masi and his all-star backing band featuring Donald “Rafael” Garrett – formerly bass and wind player with Coltrane, Sun Ra, Pharoah Sanders, Coleman himself – experimental jazz bassist Roberto Della Grotta, and Lucio Fabbri on the violin, grappling with upset traditionals such as Su patriotu sardu a sos feudatarios (a sardinian protest song from the Eighteenth century, on which is based Procurate moderare), and Abballati abballati, an obsessive tarantella from Sicily.
It’s the dark side of the Mediterranean. Music which comes from an unknown time and space between Luciano Cilio, Area, early Claudio Rocchi and avant folksters such as Aktuala, Canzoniere del Lazio or Carnascialia. Full of mistery, rage and joy of life, just as traditional music manages to be in its highest moments.
Here is the tracklist:
01, Un giorno a Tangeri (“one day in Tangier”)
02, Festa al campo profughi (“feast at the refugee camp”)
03, Procurate moderare (“provide to moderate”)
04, Terrasini perché (“Terrasini because”)
05, Abballati abballati (“dance dance”)
06, Marrakech insieme (“Marrakech together”)
In 1986 Pino Masi moved to Sicily to work as a painter, helping his friend Mauro Rostagno with his rehab community Saman, until the latter’s murder by the hands of mafia killers in 1988. He acted as a human shield in the first Iraqi war in 1991, then working as a cooperant with UN in children’s defense and recovery. He now lives in the countryside around Pisa with his family. You can happen to meet him in the town’s taverns, where he sometimes pops up to play old songs as a busker.
His current musical project is the “transmediterranean theatrical-musical company” called Tribal Karma Ensemble. He has also played gigs and recorded with the combat folksters Folkabbestia! from Bari.