I'm lucky. I've got some really talented and dedicated friends in lots of different pockets of the world. And I think when you have talented friends you should support them in any way you can.
A couple of years ago a few of my friends here in the province of Lecce decided that they could band together to bring a dormant cultural tradition back to life for contemporary audiences.
It's easy to forget where we've come from and how life, even just a few decades ago was once so very different.
But before the electronic age kicked in and before music was something that we could comfortably afford to own for ourselves, music and culture was often seen as something only for the elite.
Not everybody could afford to visit the opera or travel distances and bear the expense to experience the pleasure of hearing a symphony for example. But out of that situation of disadvantage arose an awareness that the greater public too deserved the opportunity to access high culture.
So, in Southern European cities, symphonies and grand orchestral pieces were often performed by local (or traveling) orchestras in the piazzas in order to give locals the chance to stay abreast of culture and to enjoy the creative fruits of the greatest available talents.
As a result of this, in some Italian towns and cities, you will often find a casa armonica - often a small, circular stage with an embellished roof top that brings to mind a carousel.
It's here on these stages in the piazzas, particularly in southern regions of Italy (like here in Puglia), that these stages were brought to life by musicians who performed the most important operas for locals.
It was a cultural tradition that lasted for decades, but that with the dawning of the electronic age began to disappear. Some towns in fact even dismantled the casa armonica, burying its significance in the process...
Some of my friends in the town of Trepuzzi, which is just a stone's throw from the city of Lecce, decided that such an important cultural tradition, and one that effectively brought people together, was something that was worth reviving and modernising for today's audiences.
So, under the artistic direction of accomplished composer, Gioacchino Palma, they set about bringing the sounds of world music back to where they belong: to the piazza and the streets.
Their ambitious and altruistic idea has now grown from a dream into a reality. Now in its fourth edition, Bande a Sud (Bande=bands, Sud=South), is preparing to roll out again for 2015.
As with each year, the Bande a Sud team have organised a fortnight of free, public events that will take place on stages, streets and in abbots in Trepuzzi and nearby Casalabate. Each year the festival's cultural offerings have grown and have a unique local flavour whilst also inviting and incorporating neighbouring Mediterranean and Balkan currents into the spotlight.
Having been to each of the festivals, and been amongst the thousands of people who regularly turn out for the evening concerts, I can tell you that this is a living, breathing festival and well worth the ten minute drive from Lecce if you are in town in the first half of August.
These guys work unbelievably hard, not only during these exhausting summer months to stage these (non profit) events, but also throughout the year as they undertake other activities such as educational visits to local schools to support existing (and non existent) musical programs. They do it for love not for money, and in doing so, have helped put their town of 13,000 on the cultural map.
I'll do my bit to keep you posted on events and the full schedule as it comes to light; and this year's program will once again be full of surprises. The team have pulled off an amazing coup this year by securing Goran Bregovich as the year's headline act. European readers will know of Bregovich as he's not only a widely loved and respected composer, but he's also been a musical and artistic director of major festivals himself.
That said,you can do your bit to sustain this grassroots initiative simply by liking Bande A Sud's Facebook page or learning more about their work via their website (in Italian/will be updated with the full 2015 calendar shortly).
Dave Di Vito
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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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