THERE are a few signs each year that I can't ignore. They tell me that Summer has well and truly arrived here in Italy's south [il sud].
Since moving down to Lecce in the southern part of Puglia [the southern tip of Puglia more commonly known as Salento] I know Summer is getting into full swing because the cicadas start singing, the news is brimming with celebrity holiday makers and everyone is suddenly at the mercy of those hot afternoons that send you scurrying into the shade or onto the amazing Mediterranean beaches we're flanked by on both sides of the peninsula.
The other sign that Summer is here is that some of my dearest friends here move into top gear, putting their year long preparation into action to bring their Bande A Sud festival to life for the Summer season of concerts and events. The August concerts - which are free to the public and run over a fortnight - are the culmination of a program of cultural offerings which are delivered throughout the year.
The program for the fifth edition of their festival, Bande a Sud: Suoni tra due mari [Sounds between two seas] has been announced, and builds on previous offerings. Under the artistic direction of Giacchino Palma, the festival - which originally sought to bring the old southern tradition of street Big Bands and performances back to life - this year focuses on brass and big bands in all their forms as well as on the social aspect the music. The fifth edition is an increasingly international affair as it continues to bridge the traditional with the contemporary.
Mostly taking place in Trepuzzi, with some events in Casalabate [both of which are just a stone's throw from Lecce], this year's events and selections tap into some of the themes that have long shaped the festival.
The big bands, the annual street band festival and the showcase of local produce (and wines!!!) are back, but along for the ride this year are headline act Renzo Arbore e L'Orchestra Italiana who've been breathing life back into traditional Neapolitan music and bringing it to the world's attention for decades.
The variety of brass and street bands is at the core of this year's offerings and covers the spectrum of Circus Swing [Camillocromo], fusion [P-Funking] and includes acts like Dubiosa Kolektiv whose Balkanic sound bears the influence of ska, punk and reggae and whose tribute to Edward Snowden, Freemp3 has already racked up over 3 million views on youtube. This year's varied program is notable for the emphasis on the social aspect behind the musical and programming choices.
The festival runs from August 4 through August 16. If you're in Puglia in the first half of August, make your way down [or up] to Trepuzzi for the concerts and events. The program is available here and you can keep up to date by popping a like on Bande A Sud's Facebook page.
There are a lot of references to music in my Vinyl Tiger novel. Some of it is mainstream music, some not. Sometimes they were just themes that needed a good name drop.
I've put together a playlist on Spotify along with some comments regarding some of the entries and music themes that appear in the first volume of my novel - the 80s, all included below.
Lovebites was the second album by the Buzzcocks. Originally formed in the mid-70s, they were pioneers in the punk music scene. The Buzzcocks line-up changed over the years, but their influence over the indie, punk and Manchester scenes has been enduring. Read more about them here
It’s the kind of music that almost everyone loves today, but just a few decades ago Blondie signalled a complete challenge to the status quo. On Parallel Lines you got the full range of rock, disco and even reggae infused pop, and the blue print for future pop albums.
The range of the disco genre was wide: artists like Donna Summer and Grace Jones, with their natural vocal flair brought some pathos [and camp] to the genre, but for every one of those divas you got more than a couple of Andrea Trues in return. No matter, it was all about the slinky grooves, and if nothing else, we can also thank disco for removing the vocal hurdle which would otherwise have stopped half of the pop/dance acts that arrived in the eighties from achieving what they did.
But before that, filmi, music from films, were by far the most popular song forms in India’s music market. There are certain regal figures in the Indian music scene, among them Manna Day and Lata Mangeshkar. In Vinyl Tiger, the title character spends some formative time in India, collecting music along the way. I imagined him as a kind of early eighties M.I.A, who I think remains without peer when it comes to cannabalizing from the subcontinent and producing something new and provocative.
Acts like Grandmaster Flash would go on to have a lasting effect on hip hop and mainstream music, but it was a handful of artists like Madonna who rode the underground sound right into the mainstream, bringing the new club sound to the masses. And we all know what that particular arrival wound up meaning to pop music.
People are really hard on the eighties. But really, they shouldn’t be. The eighties was the first decade of democratization in pop music. You no longer needed to be a killer vocalist to have a hit record, and you no longer needed to sling a guitar around to be a rock star. You could now just pound away at a keyboard (and not know more than three or four chords). Hell, you could even sling it around your front.
We’re no longer in that wonderful place where anyone has a shot, no matter what they tell you. We live in a world which, thanks to our decade long obsession with talent shows, thinks that having a great vocal range makes you a great artist. But it’s also a piecemeal world where more and more, the mainstream means something less.
I just l❤️ve Xenia Rubino's Mexican Chef.
It has a crazy kinetic energy to it along with some biting social commentary.
Bachata in the back!
Ok, I know you're devastated that the floating piers thing is over and done with but to keep you happy I've trawled the web and found the best that the Internet has to offer.
If you're not already a fan I highly recommend following the Facebook page of Adottare soluzione punk per sopravivere (adopt punk solutions to survive). It's genius.
City news doing the rounds...
When Melbourne got too hip for itself.
Fendi have got Rome and all its famous landmarks all stitched up.
Be careful where you sunbake in London. Wait, you can sunbake in London?
If you're one of the few heading to Rio for the olympics, this is the app to download first.
Oh no. When it comes to visitor numbers, Kyoto has been trumped by an American city. One that I bet you a pint you'll never guess.
Just watched a screening of an interesting documentary by Ernesto Pagano.
It's called Napolislam - and it's essentially the story of ten Neopolitans who have converted to Islam.
It's a well made film that seeks to show how integration has worked to some extent in Naples in ways that it hasn't worked in other parts of Europe.
Like any good documentary it has subjects who are riveting and others who are not, but it was a stroke of genius on Pagano's part setting the documentary in Naples.
The devastating images of Naples (a place that I just looooove nonetheless) really reinforce the sense of alienation and contempt that a lot of the subjects have with the current Italian state.
Worth checking out. If you're not good with Napoletan
OVER the weekend I hopped on a bus and headed out Taranto.
If you're not that familiar with Italy but have heard of Taranto, you probably haven't heard very nice things being said about it. A google search will even reveal one particularly nasty blog someone wrote a couple of years back, listing ten (mostly childish) reasons not to visit the place.
I'm not even going to bother linking to it. But, it is hard to find anyone that has something nice to say about the place.
The thing is Taranto should be one of Italy's absolute jewels. On paper it has all the ingredients to capture the imagination: its Magna Grecia past, its natural and stunning beauty, its bustling new town (one of the biggest in southern Italy) and its cittá vecchia located right on the port are all things that make it special.
The problem is that the city based its modern fortunes on industry, and over time, a perfect storm of poor regulation, the Italian government's neglect and regional economic challenges all contributed to its significant deterioration. The result is some of the worst air/water pollution and unemployment in the Mediterranean basin and a challenge that the Italian and EU governments have yet to properly face.
June as you might know was Pride month. And although it's now July, we're heading into the busy peak season for southern Italian tourism. Italy is hosting an increasing number of pride events each year. It's part of a new approach that has shelved the idea of a concentrated, national event in favour of what's called onda pride which translates to pride wave- a rolling series of marches taking place across the country.
This year a number of cities hosted their first Pride events and over the weekend, Taranto joined this group. It hosted the first of two scheduled Puglia Pride events - the next will take place at the end of August in another town in Puglia - Gallipoli - which is Italy's unofficial summer gay capital.
Had a great time on the realllllllly long march - and it was great running into friends who were in town for the event too. There was a feeling of elation and surprise for the thousands of us marching. Nobody could have predicted that a city that has been overlooked on so many levels - and that is slagged off as being a conservative, southern town - could've played host to a march that calls for change and that so many people would join what is effectively a regional march (numbers were estimated to be around 2000).
To top it off, the march culminated on the esplanade, and after a series of speeches and talks, a public screening of the Italy-Germany match ensued, with much of the same revelry and atmosphere that marked the parade itself. Only in Italy. :)
Dave Di Vito is a writer, teacher and former curator.He's also the author of the Vinyl Tiger series and Replace The Sky.
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