reviewed by Michael Lohr
Alessandra Belloni is an Italian singer, percussionist, dancer, and once upon a time, an actress (she had a part in the Francis Ford Coppola movie The Godfather Part II). Her CD “Tarantata: Dance of the Ancient Spider” is a collection of traditional Mediterranean folk music, called Tarantella, which is still popular in the south of Italy, and has been since Roman times. This collection is full of mystical, erotic hypnotic melodies performed in aural seduction and precision. But this music is not just song; it also represents traditional prayers, much in the same regard as Gregorian Chant, to the Black Madonna and the ancient Greco-Roman goddesses that once were worshipped in the region. “Tarantata” also includes several compositions written by Alessandra for her theatre production, “I Giullari di Piazza”.
This CD is simply breathtaking and very unique. With Alessandra’s soaring mezzo-soprano voice and mesmerizing tambourine rhythms, she casts a spellbinding web of sensuality. With songs like the stunning Brazilian Bahia-tinged “Canto di Sant’Irene”, as well as “Sola Sola”, “Agur Iziarko” and the moving “Canto della Madonna di Montserrato”, she has captured the heart of the southern Italian folk song and of this ancient form of world music as well. In addition, there is a medieval prayer sung in Latin, a traditional Renaissance-period Sardinian folk dance and three traditional folk songs from Italy’s Puglia region. She is a master at playing the tambourine, which is a traditional instrument associated with women in Mediterranean culture as well as with the Romany of Eastern Europe, and on “Tarantata” she has recorded some of the best tambourine playing you will ever hear.
The origin of these songs can be found in the folk traditions of tarantella or pizzica tarantata, the ecstatic rites used to cure young women of a mysterious affliction known as “the bite of the ancient spider” also known as “the bite of love. These fabled traditions can be found all over the Mediterranean, from Greece, Italy and Sardinia to the shores of Malta, Northern Africa Spain and Portugal. These rites are directly related to the once popular Dionysus festival rites of the ancient world. Overall this record is a joy to listen to. It whisks you away to another time and place, and I know there are times when we all need such an escape.
~ Michael Lohr