forse il mare (Maybe the Sea)
Snatch'd from Oblivion SFO 004
La stella e la luna, Serenata mare, Siscari, Adieu Adieu, Moresca nuziale. Duration 37 minutes.
Ritmia were Riccardo Tesi, Alberto Balia, Enrico Frongia and Daniele Craighead, and they recorded this brilliant LP in 1986 on the old Robi Droli label, and it was later re-released in CD format by Felmay. Having just reviewed Riccardo Tesi's latest CD, I was overjoyed to hear that Felmay have now agreed to let Snatch'd from Oblivion records do a limited UK re-release, and that MT Records will be able to let you have a copy for just £5.00.
This is very good news for me because it was one of the first Italian CDs I wanted to include in the MT catalogue - only to find that the first run of CDs has just been sold out and that Felmay didn't feel there was sufficient interest to warrant a second print run. Well, better late than never!
It was a very unusual record in many respects, which probably accounts for (a) its cult status among the few people who've heard it and (b) the fact that its sales were ridiculously low for such a splendid piece of work with undoubtedly wide appeal. But that's the way the world is .......
Firstly, the make-up of the band was unusual - a singer and guitarist from Sardinia and a melodeonist and sax player from the North. In today's world of 'crossover' and 'fusion' music it doesn't seem so bizarre, but the great Italian record-buying public wasn't really ready for it a decade and a half ago - despite hugely enthusiastic concert audiences.
Secondly, the music is folk songs and dance tunes out of the oral tradition, 're-proposed' by modern musicians for a modern audience - but there's not a hint of pop, rock, drum'n'bass, rap ... or whatever, to be heard. Unsurprising, really, since - if the music's exciting to begin with - there's no need to add stuff to it in order to make it exciting! Indeed, it's somewhat difficult to describe to you just what it was that they did to the music to make it appeal to modern ears, but appeal it does ... My son's modern pop/rock band all love it, as do their friends. The nearest thing I've heard to it, musically, was Filarfolket's last, great, Smuggel CD. But really, all Ritmia did was to meld together a number of Italian and Sardinian melodies, themes and techniques into four long pieces - and then play and sing them supremely well.
Few readers will be unfamiliar with Riccardo Tesi's playing, I would guess, and I'd hope that the Balia/Frongia duo would have gained a few admirers outside Sardinia with their excellent Argia CD, released by Robi Droli in 1993. Daniele Craighead was not a name I knew, but it appears that he and Riccardo got together out of some of the latter's work on jazz and new wave records in the '80s. It also appears that he was the main contributor in the arranging and re-writing of the material presented here. They all work together brilliantly - but I would guess that most listeners will first be struck by Alberto Balia's astonishing guitar playing. When they were over here for a short tour in the late eighties, I was told that he is able to play much of the Sard launeddas (triple-pipe) repertoire on the guitar - a feat I would not have believed, until I heard him do it!
I just spent almost half an hour trying to decide on some extracts for sound clips, but the sheer variety of what's on offer is so great that 40 seconds of any track would only do the music a disservice. I can only ask you to trust me when I say "Buy it and try it". As with the other Snatch'd from Oblivion CDs, this will not be a fiver you regret spending!
Rod Stradling - 20.7.03