In the folk culture of southern Italy, music and dance are thought to be a cure for for various types of ailments, not just the now legendary spider bite, but also the torments of love. Love – both the uplifitng and tender kind and desperate and sick one – is what Maria Mazzotta, one of the most characteristic southern Italian artists, achingly sings about. Amoreamaro, which means ”bitter-sweet love”, is her latest solo album and programme she is on a successful European concert tour with.
Mazzotta has become known to the Italian and international audience as one of the leading voices of Canzioniere Grecanico Salentino, a famous band performing contemporary pizzica. During her 15-year long career with the band, she has recorded six albums and performed at the most important world music festivals in the world. Concurrently, she has been broadening her artistic fascinations eastwards by exploring different realms of Balkan and Romani music along with the musicians she has met on her tours. In order to develop her vocal techniques, she drew from both Indian dhrupad and Bobby McFerrin’s experience. For many years she and an Albanian cellist Redi Hasa made a unique artistic duo, perfectly combining Southern European musical themes.
Maria Mazzotta’s vocal and scenic expression is inimitable and her voice has a power of evoking extreme emotions – from exalted joy, through deep sadness, to insanity. In Amoreamaro she boldly leads the listener through nearly all emotions accompanying love, in which the song is the source of consolation, katharsis, strength and healing. They include traditional Southern Italian melodies, new lyrics, but also milestones of Italian music, such as Domenico Montugno’s ”Lu pisci spada” and „Rosa canta e cunta” by a famous Italian artist Rosa Balistreri. However, the heart of the album are two new songs sung in a dialect of Salento region: ”Nu me lassare”, a heartbreaking ballad about love for those who passed away and the eponymous piece ”Amoreamaro” – the famous pizzica, once a remedy for the madness induced by a spiderbite, now a vent to emotions and perhaps a cure for the sick world.
Vivid and lively melodies, trance-like dance rhythms, epic songs and dirges – a lyre virtuoso with his quartet proudly present musical traditions of their home island through original melodies and their own compositions in the Cretan music style.
A cretan lyre, a small three-string instrument is a symbol of pride and national identity for the Cretans – to this day it can be heard during traditional holidays, but also on the radio, TV and at concerts. Just like laouto, they are instruments belonging to the man’s world, where adeptness and technical skills in playing and improvisation were pushed to the limits – physical as well, as faster and faster music fuelled acrobatic stunts of the dancers. People also used to listen to eposes, including still popular Erotokritos, a story of love, honour and courage, sung in the rhythm of mantinades, famous Cretan couplets, which to this day are improvised and epress the emotions of the inhabitants of the island.
Such a world, still lively, yet moving with the times, is shown in the work of Stelio Petrakis, one of the most outstanding current Cretan musicians, a lyre and laouto virtuoso, an instrument maker. Petrakis was born in 1975 in Sitia and this is where he, as an eight-year-old boy, became acquainted with the art of playing the lyre under the tutelage of Giannis Dandolos. However, it was meeting Ross Daly, who later became his master and mentor, that opened up the window to the music world and encouraged him to look for his own findings and draw inspiration from the music of the east of the The Mediterranean Sea. He has
a history of cooperating with an impressive number of artists, who creatively explore Mediterranean musical traditions, he has also remained an active member of Labirynth, the band founded by Daly. His love to Cretan music has led him to founding Cretan Quartet,
a group of virtuosic musicians respectfully celebrating and developing the vibrant music heritage of the island…
The accordion in the hands of Yegor Zabelov is an instrument with remarkable abilities, soundscapes and a wide field for nearly mystical experiments, which absorb him completely on the stage. A Belarusian musician comes from Minsk, where he started playing the accordion at the age of seven and later studied the instrument at the Music Academy. Very soon, though, he got involved with alternative scene and started creating his own compositions. He owes his popularity to the bands he himself founded - Gurzuf and Yegor Zabelov Trio, with which he gave concerts across Europe. A significant part of his body of work is linked to Poland – he cooperated with Włodzimierz ”Kinior” Kiniorski and Lao Che, to name a few, he created music for stage plays and silent films, including famous The Golem from 1920 as commissioned for the Contemporary Art Days in Białystok.
A significant part of Yegor Zabelov’s body of work is theatre music – he has provided music for theatre plays in Germany, Poland, the Netherlands, Slovenia and his homeland, Belarus. He mainly finds the inspiration for his compositions in the music of minimalism classics: Philip Glass, Steve Reich, Michael Nyman, Arvo Pärt. Yegor Zabelov’s music may be described as a combination of accordion neoclassical, avant-garde, jazz, noise and minimal music – it is a hypnotic combination enriched with electronics that resonates in a powerful and vivid way. Zabelov’s concerts are a sort of musical rituals, electric and dramatic shows, to which the artist is completely devoted, not leaving anyone indifferent. A year ago he decided to leave Belarus – now he is living and working in Gdańsk and he is a scholarship holder of the the Polish Minister of Culture and National Heritage under the Gaude Polonia programme.
A guest singer performing with Yegor will be Daria Kosiek – one of the most interesting revelations of the Polish folk scene in the recent years, a singer of an award-winning trio Wernyhora from Sanok. Daria comes from a Boyko family, she was raised in Biały Bór, a large Ukrainian diaspora in the Western Pomerania. She has long associated with traditional music, Carpathian songs have always accompanied her because of her family roots originating from Dołżyca near Cisna. In 2011 she joined the band Widymo from Sanok and in 2019 she co-founded a Wernyhora trio. Daria’s singing was recognized, among others, by the jury of the Polish Radio Folk Festival New Tradition, where she was unanimously given the Czesław Niemen Award for outstanding artistic personality. Together with Wernyhora she released two albums: Bojkowski głos Bieszczadu (2021) and Toloka (2022), they gave concerts in countries including Poland, Germany, Georgia and Slovakia.
A one of a kind cabaret of music and experiment, a freak show at the intersection of theatre and music, a French salon atmosphere, where Mireille Mathieu befriends Marilyn Manson while singing Ukrainian melodies and The Tiger Lillies meet CocoRosie. Intellectual and creative entertainment, where love, freedom and beauty come first. Dakh Daughters play with the audience and they mastered the art of manipulating the audience’s emotions.
Dakh Daughters is a band formed in 2012 by seven actresses who had met at a Dakh Contemporary Arts Center in Kyiv. As they say, they were connected by the stage and brought together by Vlad Troitsky, the founder of Dakha Brakha band and the theatre director. The versatile artists play over a dozen instruments, sing in several languages and Ukrainian dialects, often reaching for traditional melodies, they draw inspiration from a variety of texts, from Shakespeare and Shevchenko to Bukowski and Shaggy. Their trademark is white-painted faces, dark eyes and blood red lips, reminding of silent films’ characters. They have performed in many Ukrainian cities, as well as Poland, France, Russia, the United States and Brazil. They happened to operate in a very delicate time for Ukraine, when their work took on a fierce and bittersweet dimensions while poetically commenting on the war, love and everyday matters. Their concerts on the Kyiv’s Maidan became famous and their revolutionary overtone has become a peculiar tool to exercise the people’s right to freedom in Kyev.
Dakh Daughters’ work includes several acclaimed studio albums (If, Air and the latest Make Up); however, the band is definitely worth seeing live – as suggested by the name they are ”daughters of the theatre”, professional actresses who turn each musical piece into a phantasmagoric mini show.
A creative force connecting international and intergenerational female voices – the African Amazones unite to stand up to fight for womens’ and girls’ rights through music. The music and warrior project based on a marriage of traditional and West African cultures and contemporary sounds of dub, blues, funk or pop. And even though the lyrics are indisputably important, the Amazons’ music expression wields enormous power as well!
The project was started in 2014 in Bamako by three Malian music stars and social activists - Mamani Keïta, Oumou Sangaré and Mariam Doumbia, the first album, République Amazone was recorded featuring also Angélique Kidjo and Nneka. The band’s name is a homage both to legendary female warriors and one of the first African women’s groups symbolizing emancipation – the military orchestra Les Amazones de Guinée which has been operating since the ‘60s. Since then, the original trio have grown bigger, changed and drawn non-African female singers, including – the latest album ”Amazones Power” features as many as seventeen artists from Algeria, Cameroon, African diaspores in Colombia and French Guiana and other countries. The message, however, has remained the same – violence and discrimination towards women need to end. The musical piece ”I Play The Kora” from the Amazons’ first album is very symbolic in this regard, as it refers to the instrument which used to be (and in some places still is) only allowed to be played by men.
Les Amazones d’Afrique is one of the new faces of Africa – a dialogue between the past and present above the generation, gender and tradition divisions. It is also an exciting music experience and energy flowing from the stage in the words about important matters.
Męcina Mała is a picturesque village in the Low Beskids, which used to be on the verge of the Polish and Ruthenian settlements. A few years ago, one of the most well-known Polish folk bands was formed there and it took the domestic and foreign music scenes by storm.
Kapela Maliszów was founded by a multi-instrumentalist and instrument maker Jan Malisz along with his family, and the band was finally crystallised to Jan and his children – a violinist Kacper and a singer and drummer Zuzanna. Violin and taraban, the family instruments, were inherited from Jan’s father, Józef, who taught him the fundamentals of playing many instruments present in their family home. The musicians also play the instruments hand made by Jan in his workshop, where not only violins and drums but also hurdy-gurdies, nyckelharpas and moraharpas are made.
Initially Kapela Maliszów made music of their home regions, but an important impulse for their work became central Poland’s mazourkas. Kacper Malisz, a teenager at that time, was fascinated by them - at first he masterfully performed the mazourkas and with time he started composing them on his own. Along with his yonger sister Zuzanna, who has a perfect sense of rhythm and under the watchful eye of Jan ensuring the whole of musical expression, they were admired by the audience because of their remarkable chemistry, improvisation and combination of youthful energy with maturity in creating music. As Jan Malisz said in one of the interviews: ”There is a middle ground between us, where the old and the new generation meet and try to accomplish something new and creative.” This is how the signature style of the band evolved, combining the very archaic style of playing with a great deal of freedom and dialogue with contemporariness.
The fruits of their labour are two albums Mazurki niepojęte (2014) and Wiejski dżez (2017), which was awarded the title of the Folk Phonogram of the Year 2017 in the Polish Radio competition. The band have performed at the most important world music festivals in Europe and in the world, including: WOMAD and on the BBC3 radio (Great Britain), Rainforest (Malaysia), Rudolstadt and on the WDR3 radio (Germany), Viljandi Folk Festival (Estonia), Budapest Ritmo (Hungary), they also inaugurated worldwide music expo WOMEX 2017 in Katowice. In 2016 Kapela Maliszów was nominated for Songlines Music Award in the best music band category by the most important opinion-forming world music magazine – the British Songlines and in 2020 the album Mazurki niepojęte was placed in the ranking of 50 best albums of the last five years by the editors of the magazine.
An intimate aural journey through the Baltic forests and – Mari Kalkun, one of the most prominent characters of the contemporary Estonian folk stage, combines music of the roots, her personal message and innovative song writing. Her lyrics in Estonian and Võro delve into relations between a man, life and nature.
Mari Kalkun’s music, though sung by the artist in a language few people understand, creates a meditative and intriguing atmosphere affecting many emotions. Her spare musical arrangements are mostly based on the sound of kannel – a traditional Estonian zither. In that, what remains in the foreground is Kalkun’s voice, which is melancholic and joyful, delicate and composed at the same time. Mari admits that it is crucial for her who and what she sings about – many of her songs are dedicated to people close to her or life milestones such as birth, death or wedding. They also celebrate a pure beauty of everyday life, that is why she frequently uses the texts of local poets describing rural life, stories and landscapes. These stories mesh with contemporary times, as it was done in the song ”Mõtsavele mäng” describing the importance of the forest in the history of Estonia: it was used as a hiding place during the war but it was also a bolthole for many people during the pandemic.
Mari Kalkun has performed in most of the European countries and in the United States, she has also had several concert tours in Japan. She has released seven albums, of which the most acknowledged one was her solo album Ilmamõtsan (2018), recorded at the artist’s studio on her family farm in Võro. It was included in the list of 10 best world music albums of the year 2018 by „The Guardian”. Her latest album contains theatrical music for the play Petserimaa igatsus (2022), which refers to the difficult history of Pechory, a region divided between Russia and Estonia. Mari Kalkun was awarded a number of prizes and accolades for her work, including Music Award of Cultural Endowment of Estonia – a prestigious award, the highest distinction in Estonia in the field of music.
”Sinawi” is the oldest Korean musical term, which nowadays includes both tradional music repertoire and newly composed contemporary music. Sinawi also comprises improvised music accompanying the Korean shamanism rituals, many a time spreading to the secular repertoire. Gyeonggi is one of the South Korean provinces – the most densely populated, bordering on North Korea, it is also where Seoul is situated.
Gyeonggi Sinawi Orchestra (GSO) was founded in Suwon (the province’s capital) in 1996 as the Gyeonggi Provincial Traditional Music Orchestra and its purpose was to preserve, but at the same time creatively develop the music of the region and the whole Korea. In 2020 its name was changed to Gyeonggi Sinawi Orchestra in order to emphasise its shift to the new Sinawi orchestra style – it was due to the new director, a distinguished South Korean musician and composer Won Il. GSO relies on interdisciplinary art – in order to address the contemporary audience they combine traditional and modern ways of performing Korean music with other art forms of our time, frequently incorporating elements of Western music. The band uses, among others, instruments traditionally used in Sinawi music: haegeum and daegeum flutes, piri oboe, janggu and buk drums and instruments especially characteristic of Korean music - gayageum and geomungo zithers. GSO also comprises a vocal group, performing, above all, minyo – folk songs. To put it simply, the whole Korean traditional music is called gugak, it is a term reserved for ethnically Korean repertoire.
Recently, the Orchestra has combined Sinawi with electronic music, they have organized meditation concerts and in 2021 they made a musical called Geumak (Forbidden music), inspired by the royal institute of music and dance in the Joseon Dynasty (1392-1910). The project which was particularly consistent with our times was Meta Performance: Future Theatre (2020) performance – the online and offline viewers were able to choose songs and dances they wanted to see and they could decide on their order via streaming platftorm Twitch.