September 4, 2013 by Italians in Chicago
by Valeria Fanelli –
Hit Week – the world music festival showcasing Italy’s current scene on the global stage — returns to North America with a strong line up to date.
An expanded edition of the annual event touches down in New York, Los Angeles, Miami and Toronto between September 7 and October 30th.
Additionally, 2013 Sanremo Festival winner Marco Mengoni makes his US debut appearance and critically acclaimed singer-songwriter Erica Mou rejoins the Hit Week fold after headlining the festival’s inaugural event in Brazil earlier this year.
The core of Hit Week’s fifth tour of the North American continent is a coast to coast run of concerts taking place between October 4th – 12th.
Highlights include Canzoniere Grecanico Salentino and Nicola Conte at the Hollywood ArtsPark (Miami) on October 5th with a redux of the bill on October 8th at New York City’s Highline Ballroom. Franco Battiato takes over the Highline stage on October 9th for the first in a pair of rare Transatlantic performances with special guest Musica Nuda, before heading to Canada and Toronto’s Phoenix Concert Theatre on October 10th. Canzoniere Grecanico Salentino then offers a California concert double header on October 11th at UCLA and October 12th at Taste of Italy Los Angeles. Bookending Hit Week 2013 are a September 7th Beverly Hills gala preview event featuring Erica Mou and October 29 – 30 showcases by Marco Mengoni at Hit Week Live, part of The Billboard Hollywood Reporter Film and TV Music Conference in Hollywood (LA).
Hit Week (the H is not pronounced in Italian) was created with the goal of shattering the stereotypes most often associated with contemporary Italian music and its place in the worldwide music scene. After debuting in Los Angeles in 2010, the festival has since travelled to New York, Washington DC, Miami, Toronto and Montreal in the US and Canada, as well as the Chinese cities of Beijing and Shanghai and Rio De Janeiro in Brazil. Notable Hit Week alumni in the American market include Ludovico Einaudi, Calibro 35 and Elisa.
Hit Week 2013 Headliners:
Polyglot singer, songwriter and composer Franco Battiato is internationally regarded as one of the most original creators in Italian music from the 1970s to the present. At Hit Week the 68 year-old, Sicilian-born musician will draw from a stunning repertoire spanning four decades accompanied by a 4 piece rock group. From his seminal 1971 prog-rock release “Fetus” (re-released in 2006 with liner notes by friend and avant-rocker Jim O’Rourke) to 2008’s “Fleurs 2” which features duets with New York’s Antony Hegarty (Antony and the Johnsons) and fellow Catanian Carmen Consoli.
Battiato’s 1970s output embraced more electronic influences than his Italian prog-rock counterparts of the period such as PFM (Premiata Forneria Marconi) and found him opening European concerts for the likes of Brian Eno and Nico. Battiato’s experiments in this arena culminated in 1978’s “L’Egitto prima delle sabbie” (Egypt Before The Sands) which won a Stockhausen Prize for piano composition.
In 1984, Battiato penned and performed Italy’s entry to the Eurovision Song Contest “I treni di Tozeur” (The Trains of Tozeur). The song is widely considered to be the most sophisticated composition to compete in this song contest of somewhat dubious reputation. Sung as a duet with Italian singer Alice, the song’s unusual meter, German language “sample” from Mozart’s “The Magic Flute”, and political and historical references to France and North Africa fell refreshingly outside the usual dance-pop fare of the era.
In 1999 Franco Battiato released “Fleurs,” the first in a trilogy of cover albums. His interpretation of The Rolling Stones’ “Ruby Tuesday” was later prominently featured in director Alfonso Cuarón’s 2006 film “Children of Men”.
Franco Battiato’s recorded career continued into the 2000’s with a diverse range of collaborators including Simple Minds’ Jim Kerr, Middle Eastern-Electronica pioneer Natacha Atlas and the great Argentine diva Mercedes Sosa. His body of recorded work consists of some 40 studio and live album releases around the world with compositions in Spanish, French, English, Arabic and Sicilian languages in addition to Italian. Battiato has also composed 3 operas as well as classical works for orchestra, ballet and film soundtracks.
Franco Battiato and Carmen Consoli – “Tutto L’Universo Obbedisce All’Amore” (The Whole Universe Obeys Love):
Eurovision 1984 – Franco Battiato and Alice – “I treni di Tozeur” (The Trains of Tozeur):
Canzoniere Grecanico Salentino Italy’s new-generation masters of taranta, Canzoniere Grecanico Salentino, return to North America for a string of headline appearances at Hit Week.
A must-see band on the world music festival circuit, Canzoniere Grecanico Salentino – better known as CGS — have established themselves as the leading force in the revival of the mysterious Italian folk style known as pizzica, or more commonly “taranta.”
American media response for this spellbinding, intensely rhythmic music, whose dancer has been called Italy’s answer to the whirling dervish, has already been overwhelmingly positive, with glowing write-ups from The New York Times, Chicago Reader and The New Yorker, who called the group “utterly beguiling and trance-inducing.” Tracing its roots back to the sixth century, this hypnotic style of traditional Italian music drives dancers into a trance-like state – ostensibly to excise the poison of a tarantula spider’s bite. The propulsive rhythms were — and still can be — used to effect a psychic cure for more common maladies such as grief, depression and fear, much as American gospel music serves to lift the spirits of the downhearted.
Taranta also uniquely embodies and celebrates the cultural identity of the geographically isolated Salento region of Puglia, in Southeastern Italy (the heel of the boot of Italy).
This mesmerizing folk revival has now caught on with modern audiences on both sides of the Atlantic. Following the Irish folk revival of the 1990s, the Latin explosion of the early 2000s and Brazilian wave of the 2010s, world music fans — as well as a new generation of Italians-Americans looking to celebrate their roots — have embraced the wild, transporting sounds of CGS. Recent CGS tours have taken the band to such high profile stops as Austin’s SXSW, NYC’s GlobalFEST, Washington, DC’s Kennedy Center, Canada’s Montreal Jazz Festival, the UK’s WOMAD and the international WOMEX Festival, as well as places off the beaten track, winning fans wherever they go. Hailing from Lecce in Salento, the seven-piece band + female dancer have spearheaded the Italian taranta revival since their founding in 1975.
After starting out playing small local folk festivals, CGS now regularly perform for festival crowds in the tens of thousands. Picking up on the band’s rise, noted world music magazine fRoots placed CGS on the cover of its May, 2013 issue, joining such iconic cover artists as The Chieftains, Konono No. 1, and others.
The band is now touring in support of their latest CD on the Ponderosa label, Pizzica Indiavolata (roughly “Demonic Pizzica”), which entered the World Music Charts in Europe at #2 in December 2012 and which features guest appearances by Malian kora virtuoso Ballaké Sissoko and the critically acclaimed singer-songwriter Piers Faccini. The brainchild of writer Rina Durante, CGS was handed down in 2007 from founding musician Daniele Durante to his son Mauro, an already noted percussionist and violinist who had performed with Stewart Copeland of the Police and Ibrahim Maalouf.
CGS is now riding the crest of a new wave of interest in Southern Italy’s “Pizzica Taranta” music and dance traditions, carrying Puglia’s heady and healing music to today’s global audience.
Canzoniere Grecanico Salentino – Nu te fermare (Don’t Stop)
Italian DJ and producer Nicola Conte became internationally famous with his brand of jazz that relies extensively on bossa nova, but is also heavily influenced by the swinging soundtracks of Italian films of the ’60s and ’70s.
A classically-trained musician, Conte became the founding force behind the Bari-based ‘Fez collective’, and masterminded the Schema Records label, which cultivated a trademark, distinctly Italian approach to acid jazz as well as jazz music as a whole.
As a recording artist, Conte scored an underground hit with his first single, “Bossa Per Due,” which was featured on a variety of compilations and was licensed in the US for an Acura commercial. Conte’s first album to be released in America was also titled Bossa Per Due, a slightly reconfigured version of the Italian Jet Sounds (2000) — the critically acclaimed debut appearing on Thievery Corporation’s ESL (Eighteenth Street Lounge) label in the summer of 2001.
A remix album Jet Sounds Revisited followed in 2002 and two years later Conte made his Blue Note bow with Other Directions. Following his third studio album Rituals on Universal Conte satisfied his love for and dedication to Brazilian music compiling Viagem and Viagem 2 for the UK’s Far Out Recordings in 2008 & 2009. In 2011 Nicola released the third part of the collection Viagem 3 next to his latest studio album Love & Revolution which has been released on the legendary Impulse Label and features a number of globally known names including Jose James and Gregory Porter.
Nicola Conte – Do You Feel Like I Feel?
Acclaimed Italian “Voice ‘n’ Bass” duo Petra Magoni and Ferruccio Spinetti, who have been charming audiences in France and Italy with their series of “Musica Nuda” (Nude Music) album releases and concerts, return to New York for the first time in five years.
With their elegantly ‘naked’ combination of voice and double bass, Magoni and Spinetti’s performance pays homage to the great writers of the Italian canzone and French chanson traditions such as Lucio Battisi, Fabrizio de André, Adriano Celentano, Jacques Brel, and Jacques Higelin.
The duo also showcases songs by the new generation of Italian songwriters like Pacifico and Cristina Doná as well as their own originals.
Musica Nuda refers to the art of stripping down a piece of music, regardless of genre, while preserving its intimate essence. It’s the art of valuing the often overlooked “musical silence” and it’s also the art of using humor to confront opposing extremes as evidenced by Magoni’s ethereal voice and Spinetti’s witty anachronistic acoustic bass.
Magoni and Spinetti have recorded five studio albums in their ten years of activity, all lauded by both French and Italian critics for their ‘original formula’ and ‘eclectic interpretation’.
Musica Nuda’s self-titled 2003 debut sold over 50,000 copies in Italy alone and was followed by “Musica Nuda 2”, a 2006 double album featuring guest artists such as Stefano Bollani, Fausto Mesolella, Nicola Stilo, and Erik Truffaz.
From 2008 though 2013 the duo released a trio of albums for the legendary Blue Note label: 2008’s “55/21”, “Complici” in 2011 and their current effort, 2013’s “Banda Larga”.
Musica Nuda’s live performances deliver an exquisite, minimalist alchemy that has assured the duo a lasting celebrity for over a decade. They now return to New York for a 1-off Hit Week appearance in what promises to be a memorable concert.