Prom 62: Canzionere Grecanico Salentino

“The sunny and scintillating sounds of southern Italy come to the Proms, courtesy of the music/dance group Canzioniere Grecanico Salentino, joined by guitarist Justin Adams and kora player Ballaké Sissoko.” [BBC Proms website]

Canzioniere Grecanico Salentino

Reviewed by: Elizabeth Jones

Reviewed: 4 September, 2019
Venue: Royal Albert Hall, London

BBC Proms 2019's Prom 62Canzionere Grecanico SalentinoPhotograph: Chris Christodoulou / BBCItaly’s own medievalist folk-rock band Canzioniere Grecanico Salentino was founded during the great era of Steeleye Span, Trader Home and Fairpoint Convention adding Mediterranean heat and resonance to an oft-ethereal genre.

The set opened with the mixing desk pounding out a transient bass beat with guitar, male vocals and Mauro Durante’s tabla in tow. The drum notes were visually shifted by the presence of the eternal female embodied by Silvia Perrone’s bare-foot dervish dance in a traditional red frock with voluminous spinning skirt whilst red rope twisted around her waist.

Alessia Tondo draped in a white off-the-shoulder Grecian robe sang and moved centre-stage for the second song accompanied by fiddle. Mauro Durante addressed the audience giving thanks for a dream come true performing at the Proms whilst introducing his amazing musical friend guitarist Justin Adams. A ballad followed with Alessia’s vocals, violin, bouzouki and recorder bathed in a sombre blue light.

The mood lightened with the rousing rustic folksong ‘Rirollalla’, and then Mauro introduced Mali-born kora-player Ballaké Sissoko, bedecked in powder-blue tunic and trousers, and yielding sophisticated harp-like arpeggios whilst Silvia spun on her bare feet.

Again Mauro spoke to us this time to introduce the band’s key piece Taranta, explaining that community dancing was the cure for a tarantula bite. The beat calmed as a waterfall of harmonies fell from Ballaké’s kora gearing up for a finale of fiddles, guitars and song. The pace was breathless and ninety-five minutes slipped away as quickly and as sensually as Silvia’s skirts.

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