3. Images of the Italian South within and beyond World Music: Eugenio Bennato’s Taranta Power Movement
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chap ter 3 Images of the Italian South within and beyond World Music Eugenio Bennato’s Taranta Power Movement Thefestivalcontextdiscussedinthepreviouschapteroffersdirecttestimonyto the current changes in terms of dance choreographies, costumes, and festival dynamics while also confirming that many of the current debates surrounding tarantella focus on the notions of authenticity, tradition, and place. The tarantella songs’ lyrical content and musical arrangements that I discuss in this chapterconfirmtheresilienceofthesedebatesonthelevelofmusicproduction and distribution, as tarantella music is marketed as world music. In fact, this music offers an often explicit commentary on the ongoing tarantella phenomenon . In addition, since music “plays an important role in the narrativization of place” (Whiteley, Bennett, and Hawkins 2005, 2), this song production is importantespeciallybecauseitnarratesthesociopoliticalandculturalcontext in which this music and dance tradition has developed and transformed over time—particularlytheSouthernQuestiondebate—whilealsoaffectingtheway that southern Italians perceive the history of their own place. In particular, in this chapter I focus on the dynamics of resignification of the tarantella genre sincethelate1990sbylookingatproduction,distribution,andmarketingofnew tarantella songs, particularly through the work of musician Eugenio Bennato and its representation of the Italian South. As confirmed by my own personal experience as a festivalgoer in the late 1990s–early 2000s, Bennato’s albums and concert tours have touched many tarantella aficionados throughout Italy 104  •  chap ter 3 as well as the rest of Europe, Canada, and the United States, thus largely contributing to popularizing a new wave of tarantella music. This global visibility not only testifies to Bennato’s popularity within the world music scene, but also exemplifies the dynamics of global circulation of tarantella since the late 1990s. During the 1970s folk music revival, which signaled Bennato’s debut, his music featured tarantella from the Campania region and songs written in the Neapolitan language, while also discussing the Italian Southern Question; his late 1990s–early 2000s music production, instead, focuses on pizzica and other tarantella subgenres from several southern regions and makes use of various southern languages as well as Italian, English, French, and Arabic. It also reimagines the South from a pan-Mediterranean perspective by drawing on both North African sounds and cross-cultural themes. This example shows the complexity of the 1990s–2000s tarantella phenomenon: on the one hand, it provides a space for narrating the still difficult role of the Italian South today withinthelargerMediterraneancontext;ontheotherhand,itoffersmusicthat ismoreaccessibleandoftenlessplaceandculturespecific,andthereforeready to be consumed by a wider audience who speaks standard-Italian and foreign languages but probably not the southern languages of tarantella. It also opens up to foreign audiences that will likely not be familiar with, or understand, the sociopoliticalimportofBennato’ssongs.Inthissense,Bennato’soverallmusic project involving tarantella allows him to “choose[s] between the local or the particular,theglobalorthepopular,orenter[s]into,anon-localizedplacewhere mediation occurs, whether in the form of assimilation, syncretism or fusion” (Motherway2013,5).Iarguethat,asBennato’starantellaprojectadaptstothese globaldynamics,itsperspectiveontheItalianSouthchangesaccordingly,thus clearly illustrating the different roles that tarantella has taken on within the Italian folk music scene over time. While in his 1970s albums, tarantella was mostly looked at as a form of counterculture, Bennato’s post-1990s albums continue to represent it as a counterhegemonic force through the choice of a pan-Mediterranean perspective and by employing tarantella to challenge the exoticimageusuallyassociatedwiththeSouthintouristdiscourse.Atthesame time, these more recent albums often present an overly positive celebration of tarantella, and of southern identity, which leaves in the background the negative aspects connected to its troubled history and sociocultural milieu, as several scholars have already noted for the neotarantism phenomenon. To further add to the complexity of Bennato’s tarantella project, I will discuss his latest album, Questione Meridionale (Southern Question [2011]), and the ways that it announces a return to a historical perspective on tarantella, while at the same time opening up to the Italian American diaspora and thus to a transnational vision of Italian folk culture. Images of the Italian South within and beyond World Music   • 105 Musicanova Eugenio Bennato’s forty-year involvement with southern Italian folk music is indeedessentialtofullyunderstandingthegenealogyandcurrentdevelopment oftherevival.AftercofoundingNCCPin1967andworkingwiththegroupfora fewyears,in1976BennatofoundedthegroupMusicanova(Newmusic),which ensured him success on both local and national scenes. Among the factors contributing to this decision was Bennato’s encounter in 1976 with minstrel Andrea Sacco and his use of chitarra battente to “replicate the many rhythmic variationsoffolkloricdances”;sincethestart,then,Musicanova’sgoalwas“no longer only the preservation of folkloric traditions but also their recreations” (Bouchard and Ferme 2013, 110). ThisgroupfeaturedBennatoandD’Angiòasmusiciansandcomposers,NeapolitansingerandguitaristTeresaDeSio ,andpercussionistToniEsposito.The last two members have become well known in Naples’s contemporary music scene and also represent, together with Bennato, integral voices of the larger...


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