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For those readers who have heard and enjoyed the Piemontese band I Tre Martelli, this present CD will bring both pleasure and sadness.  The former, because Tsarriye contains four Tre Martelli members; the latter because this current band's rise indicates the decline of the other.  Thus we find no mention of ITM's leader Enzo Conti, singer Bernadette da Dalt or founder member and string player Renzo Ceroni.  I do know that the band has not been working as such for a year or so now because of the other members' involvement with Tsarriye - Cover pictureso it came as something of a surprise to find that the Robi Droli (now Felmay) 2000 catalogue contains notice of a new ITM release.  I await it with considerable interest.  But back to the present recording.

Tsarriye comprises the aforementioned quartet: Ciacio Marchelli, whose nickname has now reverted to its original Spanish spelling 'Chacho' (lead male voice and fruia); Lorenzo Boioli (piffero, pipes, various whistles); Simone Boglia (piffero, various whistles); Rinaldo Doro (ghironda [hurdy-gurdy], accordeon, pipes).  They have teamed up with a group of musicians from Vallée d'Aoste (the bilingual Aösta valley - running southwest from Mont Blanc) centred around the Boniface family.  I won't list everyone, but let's just say that there are a further eight of them and that they contribute - dozens of assorted whistles and percussion, one fiddle, three accordeons, two ghironde and five sets of pipes!

You doubtless have statistic-over-load by now … to put it starkly, this twelve-piece band is capable of fielding three hurdy-gurdys, four accordions, six sets of assorted bagpipes and two pifferi - pray that you're not in the same room if ever they do!  Oh - and all of them sing, as well.

Now - anyone who knows the northern Italian music scene will be aware that the merest mention of the Ciacio/Boioli combination will cause strong men to blanch and cross themselves, and invariably involves seriously dangerous behaviour and appalling hangovers - so it will be no surprise to find that this CD is something of a good-time affair.  This is an approach I heartily applaud - but there comes a point where a guiding hand (preferably a sober one) needs to be applied.  In the present instance, this point comes about 64 bars into track 1 - and that hand seems to be occupied banging an enormous great big drum!  With Tre Martelli, Enzo and Renzo were the steadying influences - very occasionally too much so, in my opinion - but here the other extreme is attained.  Track 1 (two polkas - one with a song included) is a glorious mess - I choose the two words with care!  Oh look - I do believe it's a bar!In a pub, this would be wonderful, in a concert it could be wonderful - on a CD it's a track you programme out after a couple of hearings!  A better final than opening track, one might have thought.

To be fair to them, things rarely reach this level of chaos again, and the rest of the CD is extremely enjoyable, though the element of over-the-top partying is never far below the surface.  The accompanying photo, where Ciacio is going "Oh look - I do believe it's a bar!" gives something of the flavour of the proceedings.  I think it says something about what we have come to expect of folk revival performances on record that I, of all people, still find it slightly shocking to encounter a CD like this.  Even the Dubliners toned things down a bit in the studio!  The problem is that we have come to expect an 'album' - a showcase of what a performer is capable of in the best of circumstances - rather than a 'record' of a real event, where emotion and excitement are not held in check in order to produce an optimum 'product'.

Bernadette da Dalt's place as lead female voice has been taken by Liliana Bertolo, play Sound Clipand I have to say that I like her singing enormously.  It's a great shame that she only gets to sing La Femme Gallante on her own (sound clip) - the rest of the time she's restricted to the role of harmony singer.  play Sound ClipThe twin pifferi of Boioli and Simone are as evident here as in ITM, thank God - and a bagpipe or two is usually in the mix for good measure, and perhaps a bit of accordeon too, do you think …?  It's a glorious row, as you can hear from this intro and first A music of Brunetto.

I am saddened to note that this isn't the only direct import from Tre Martelli - some eight of the 23 songs and tunes heard here are extremely familiar and (without actually checking them out, since they all have different names on this record) I'm fairly sure that most of them came with the musicians.  There would be nothing intrinsically wrong with this (though it does seem a bit silly), but I would have thought that an acknowledgement of their recent history would have been appropriate, not to say courteous.  But there is none.

But the other 15 tracks are very well worth hearing, too - and I particularly like La Femme Gallante (above), Monferina di-z-alpeun, Marche de Sixt, La valse de Cogne and Gaspardeunna.  One of these is a wonderful four-part brando which my band will be appropriating in the very near future, but I'm damned if I'm giving you a sound clip of it - go and buy the record yourself!  The Val d'Aosta dialect is not familiar to me so this is rather tentative - but I think the band's name translates as Alleyways or Lanes and the CD's title as 'street musicians with music without boundaries' - but that misses the idiomatic joke.

So, yes, I do like this record very much indeed - and hope that there are more like it …if only to remind us that revivalists are perfectly able to make music which demands the attention and participation of all those in the room at the time; which refuses to see them just as an 'audience' of onlookers.

I don't know who (if anyone) will be distributing this in the UK, but you could try to contact Sandro Boniface himself at: 44 les moulins, 11010 Aymavilles, Vallée d'Aoste, Italy. Tel: (0039) 165 902245.

Rod Stradling - 3.4.00

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