- Global Tarantella: Reinventing Southern Italian Folk Music and Dances by Incoronata Inserra
Global Tarantella provides “U.S. academic and cultural audiences with a local perspective on tarantella, one that takes into consideration the place-specific knowledge and community values embedded in this folk dance tradition” (p. 178). Incoronata Inserra examines tarantella through its history and global circulation and, in doing so, challenges the stereotypical image of Italian culture in favor of an immersive journey into “the historical, cultural, and linguistic complexity of Italy” (p. 178).
As explained in the introduction, tarantella is an umbrella term, which refers to a body of music and dance performances connected with agricultural and healing rituals that originated from various regions of Southern Italy. These region-based performances include the pizzica (spider dance from Apulia), tammurriata (Campania), tarantella siciliana (Sicily), and tarantella calabrese (Calabria), and have been used since at least the seventeenth century as a way to articulate the cycle of life of some of those regional communities. These traditions of Southern Italian folk music and dance went through two revival phases, the first during the 1970s and the most recent in the 1990s.
Focusing on the post-1990s revival, Inserra guides the reader through a multilayered analysis of the social, political, and musical dynamics involved with tarantella. By exploring the global circulation of tarantella outside of its regional and national boundaries and the changes to this Southern Italian phenomenon, Inserra is “able to locate the ways in which Southern Italian groups are constantly redefining their local culture and identity in relation to the larger context of Italy . . . as well as in relation to [the] Mediterranean, United States, and international cultural scene” (p. 20).
In chapter 1, Inserra offers a brief overview of the 1970s folk revival based on the work of Italian scholars who have studied tarantella, its subgenres, and Italian traditional culture in general. This includes the works of Ernesto De Martino, Antonio Gramsci, Franco Cassano, Roberto De Simone, Diego Carpitella, and Alan Lomax, all of whom have made valuable contributions in raising interest for the Southern Italy sonic universe and folklore. Moreover, the author explores “the scholarship surrounding the post-1990s tarantella revival” (p. 47) and how this revival addressed tarantella tradition. Inserra avoids reducing the revival to its merely entertaining aspects and instead relates it to the peculiar history of Southern Italy and its ongoing ability to inspire the cultural politics and identities of those local communities today. [End Page 116]
The political connections embedded in the 1970s revival, a time of social conflicts and trade union struggles, help Inserra prepare the ground for her analysis of the social and cultural aspects that emerged from the 1990s revival movements. Here, the author focuses on the debate about the commodification of tarantella in the festival context, raising the example of the La Notte della Taranta festival. One of the largest tarantella festivals in the region of Apulia, this festival has generated great controversy because, according to some scholars and local performers, its use of the spider dance as a regional tourist attraction has overshadowed the complexity of the ritual and performative actions connected with this tradition.
In chapter 2, the author focuses on the dynamics of the resignification of tammurriata, a folk music and dance tradition from the Campania region, which is characterized by a slower, binary tempo and a strong emphasis on connections between rural communities and their lands. One of Inserra’s main goals is to highlight the transformations that have occurred within tarantella and its subgenres once they moved outside Southern Italy—first to Northern Italy, and then the United States. To this aim, this chapter explores tammurriata festival events in Southern Italy first, and then in the Northern city of Milan. According to the author, the changes that have occurred in recent years re-framed “tammurriata’s rural and religious world-view . . . within an urbanized and globalized cultural context” (p. 60). Here, Inserra unfolds her fieldwork, showing how the new globalized hosting contexts of tammurriata events...