E Prite Tottu Custu
Dunya Records fy8118
There comes a time when, having loved a particular type of foreign singing for many years, having heard all the best recordings, even having travelled to where it's sung and heard it 'in the wild' so to speak - you have the idea that you know all about it and can make an accurate judgement about the quality of any new example you may get to hear. Then you are presented with a CD which seems to be even better than anything you've heard before - even better than the 'benchmark' traditional recordings from the 1970s - and you are just about to tell the world ... when you pause, with your fingers poised above the keyboard, and wonder just how much you really know about this 'other people's music'.
This has just happened to me - and I have ruefully remembered just how long it took me to even begin to realise what was so wonderful about English traditional singing! So what value can you, dear reader, place on my opinion of this CD of Sardinian a tenores singing? Moreover, this group from the village of Oniferi seem to be almost friends - I have heard almost all of their recordings, reviewed them and heaped praise upon them in these very pages, sold their last CD on the MT Records website, heard them sing in Sardinia - in concerts and informally. How can I possibly make an objective judgement?
So I decided to ask my old friend and fellow Sardophile, Beppe Greppi (and also the publisher of thisCD), whether I was being over-enthusiastic. He replied 'I absolutely adore the Oniferi style, I adore their cohesion, I love their true passion for singing. I love Francesco, that crazy shepherd who has in his mind millions of verses and who is able to change them or improvise 'out of the blue'. I love their pure and uncontaminated style, and I appriciate them as people too. I don't know if this is the best cantu a tenores album of all time but I'm really happy, enthusiastic and proud to have released it. For me, it's their very best. It's a gem, and very very few can come close to it.'
So, subjective though our opinions may be, we've probably heard more cantu a tenores than you have, and I can promise you that you really cannot fail to enjoy - and be astounded by - this superb CD from Tenore de Oniferi. Its title, by the way, is in Sard, and means because of all this or after all this. I have probably said all that needs to be said about the group: Francesco Pirisi - boche, Carmelo Pirisi - mesu 'oche, Giovanni Pirisi - contra, Raimondo Pidia - bassu, in my three other reviews (check out our Italian Reviews Index to read them), so I won't repeat all that here. Suffice it to say that they display a musical inventiveness here which is unsurpassed by anything I've ever heard before ... from anywhere! Here's a little of track 1 (sound clip - A voche moida)
There is no booklet as such with this CD, just three pages of text (half in Italian, half in English) on the double-fold-out case, so it's not surprising that it tells us very little about the group or its music which we didn't already know. However, it is interesting to learn that the Pirisi brothers' father and grandfather were also singers. Rather more importantly, we learn that the present selection of texts are much the same as those used on their very first cassette recording, made almost 20 years ago, and probably heard by no one outside Sardinia. Also that the present selection represents the entire traditional repertoire of the village of Oniferi. There's a certain satisfaction in that.
What is definitely not traditional is their decision to invite the splendid Sardinian singer, Elena Ledda, to join them in the muttos on track 3 (sound clip - Muttos de Oniferi). Since I don't understand Sard I have no idea whether her swapping sets of verses with Francesco Pirisi is appropriate to the text or not but, aurally, it works very well - her style suits the music and makes an interesting contrast to his. Indeed, I'd be very pleased to hear her singing more in this harder traditional style than in the smother 'world music' approach I've encountered on most of her records.
To sum up - this is the best, most interesting and exciting CD of cantu a tenores I have ever heard - you cannot fail to be thrilled by it. Accordingly, I've ordered 10 copies for the MT Records website (www.mtrecords.co.uk), where can buy it by credit card for just £12 + p&p. My Italian record of the year, without any hesitation!
Rod Stradling - 19.7.06