About this Recording
76049-2 - ITALY Alessandra Belloni: Tarantelle e Canti d'Amore

Pizzica Tarantata

Pizzica Tarantata

Traditional tarantella from Puglia. Arrangement by Alessandra Belloni and John La Barbera.

The tarantella originated as a healing trance dance to cure the mythical bite of the tarantula. This fast 6/8 rhythm, played mainly by women on medium size tambourines during this wild, erotic dance, was performed as a healing ritual to cure a mental disease called tarantismo, which mainly afflicted women (tarantate).

The women (rarely men) suffered from depression, hysteria, schizophrenia, and anguish, which was caused by repression of their sexuality, abuse, unrequited love, and exploitation at their jobs. The tarantate fell into an hypnotic state of mind, and in a trance they frantically danced for days during the Summer Solstice. The women hallucinated and saw spiders coming towards them and said they were bitten. The musicians gathered around them like shamans to play the Pizzica for three days and three nights until they were healed in a vision by St. Paul. This ritual dates back to the ancient Greek orgiastic rites in honor of Dionysus led by women dancing and playing the tambourine, and was absorbed by the Catholic Church who transformed Dionysus into St. Paul.

This dance of liberation has an amazing healing effect, releasing stress and blockage of sexual energy, according to the movements. The first part is performed on the floor, actually moving like a spider. The second part consists of fast steps, stomping of the feet, and fast spinning, as if coming out of an imaginary spider web.

Fronni d’Alia

Traditional women’s work chant from Basilicata. Arrangement by Alessandra Belloni.

Women working in the fields chant in rhythm the story of a young girl who was forced by her father to marry a very rich count, whom she did not love. The girl swore to her father that on the first night of the wedding she would run away with the man that she really loved.

"Fronni d’Alia: make your braids, your father wants to marry you off."

"Ah father, who do you want to give me to?"

"The Count of Maggio you shall marry."

"The first night I will run away with the man that I love and betray him."

Tarantella di Ogliastro

Traditional tarantella from the town Ogliastro, province of Salerno. Arrangement by Alessandra Belloni and John La Barbera.

Musical exorcism used to cure the evil eye and people possessed by evil spirits. Originating in the Renaissance during the time of the plague, people believed that the tambourine, the rhythm of the tarantella, and the frenetic dance had the power to expel evil, and to cleanse the person believed to be possessed by an evil spirit.

Nia Nia

Traditional ancient lullaby sung in Gricanico. Arrangement by Alessandra Belloni and John La Barbera.

Gricanico is a very rare language which is a mixture of ancient Greek with dialect from Puglia, spoken in the region of Salento (Puglia). This is a lullaby sung by a lonely woman in despair in the dark night.

Tarantella Infuocata

Traditional tarantella from Calabria; learned from Vittorio de Paola, great teacher of South Italian Folk Music. Arrangement by John La Barbera.

The title literally means fiery tarantella. Its rhythm represents the fiery and hot blooded people of the magical land of Calabria. This is a healing trance dance, originally choreographed as a spinning dance by Alessandra Belloni, and was inspired by the traditional trance dance in honor of San Rocco, in Gioiosa Jonica in Calabria.

Every year, in August, the whole town participates in a collective trance ritual, with hundreds of drummers, in honor of Saint Roche, who healed people from the plague in the Middle Ages. People believe that the fast 6/8 rhythm and the drummers had the power to heal the plague and to expel the fear of death caused by the plague.

Dedicated to my friends in Calabria, Vittorio De Paola and Massimo Cusato.

Lu Rusciu di lu Mari (The Sound of the Sea)

Traditional love song from Puglia. Arrangement by Alessandra Belloni and John La Barbera.

This beautiful and sad love song speaks about impossible love, the unrequited love that causes young lovers to be tarantati.

"One night I went by Padule, and I heard the frogs sing.

They seemed to be the sound of the sea,

the waves are so strong, that my beloved is going kill herself.

She will kill herself and I will live…"

La Notte delle Stelle Cadenti (The Night of the Shooting Stars)

Original song written by Alessandra Belloni.

I wrote it after a magical night on the shores in Calabria, the night of August eleventh, known as the night of the shooting stars. One of the most beautiful nights of my life, I went swimming in the clear waters under the full moon. As I floated in the warm water, I stared at the sky for a long time, and saw twelve shooting stars and made twelve wishes, many of which came true. I was very happy, but sensed that one day I would be longing for this night. This is dedicated to the end of a great love.

"This is the night of the shooting stars, the night of San Lorenzo,

the night when we make wishes, the night that I want to love you, under the moon, the full moon.

Every time I see the moon, the stars and the sea I feel so sad…

I often hear a melody that reminds me of you.

Like a swallow I would like to fly to be in your arms,

and remember the night of the shooting stars..."

Occhi Turchini (Turquoise Eyes)

Traditional love lament from Calabria, learned from the group Re Niliu. Arrangement by John La Barbera.

This is a very sad love lament, usually sung by a man, about unrequited love. He is in love with a woman with turquoise eyes who is rich, and she is a land owner. He knows she can never love him back, but he says to her that she is not guilty of that and he thanks her for being so good to him.

Jesce Sole

Arrangement by Alessandra Belloni.

The first part is an ancient Neapolitan chant. This is used as invocation to the sun, to ask for his healing energy (symbolizing male energy).

The second part is a drumming ritual by Alessandra Belloni and traditional poem. The poem is recited as an enchantment or spell to make the sun rise and bring good energy.

Sulillo Mio (My Little Sunshine)

Traditional chant from Montemarano province of Avellino, learned from Giovannina, Generoso and Mariano d’Agnese. Arrangement by Alessandra Belloni and John La Barbera.

Love chant sung at sunset by women working in the fields, asking the sun to go down and greet their love who is far away. The last line says "Without the heart, you cannot make love."

Tarantella del Gargano

Traditional tarantella from Puglia. Arrangement by John La Barbera.

This song has very erotic lyrics about a man madly in love with a woman who does not return his love. It is connected to the tarantella which cures the mythical bite of love.

Oh Venne Sonno

Traditional old lullaby from the mountains of Calabria. Arrangement by Alessandra Belloni and John La Barbera.

Sung by women in despair and loneliness when their husbands are away and they are left alone and scared with their babies. The women sang this ancient and haunting melody in a self-healing trance, to calm the babies and to calm themselves from the fear of loneliness.

Palomma d’Ammore (Canto per Daniele)

Original love song by Alessandra Belloni. Arrangement by Alessandra Belloni.

This was written on the beautiful shores of Hawaii, and is a love song about flying as a bird over the sea, finally free, finding a loved one, singing to him as a bird a beautiful love song, and swimming together in the ocean of love.

"I would like to become a dove, to fly over my flower,

to make love when the sun sets in the sea, the sea of love.

I would like to become a goldfinch, to fly and sing a love song to my beloved,

who makes my heart rest when we make love.

I would like to become a golden fish, to throw myself into the sea,

and there find my love, to be together without being afraid of a great love."

Leva Leva

Traditional fishermen’s chant from Sicily. Arrangement by Alessandra Belloni.

Sung as the fishermen go out to the sea to catch the tuna fish (canto di tonnara), and asking for protection from the Madonna against tempests and to bring back lots of fish.

Canto a Figliola

Improvisation by Alessandra Belloni and John La Barbera on a traditional healing chant for the Black Madonna near Naples. Arrangement by Alessandra Belloni and John La Barbera.

This is a prayer to the Madonna, a healing chant to accompany us in our travels. Dedicated to mamma el Vira Belloni.


Alessandra Belloni: mezzo-soprano, vocals, tambourines, bodhran, ocean drum, and castanets

South Italian Remo: percussion

John La Barbera: music director, acoustic guitar, classical guitar, chitarra battente, saz, mandolin, and mandola

Steve Gorn: special guest on bansuri flutes, saxophone and clarinet, appearing courtesy of Dharma Moon Records

Joe Deninzon: violin and harmonica

Mauro Refosco: percussion, rebolo, pandeiro, berimbao, timbal, dumbeck, ballaphone, frame drums, and bells

Olivier Marcaud: tenor, backing vocals and percussion

Emmanuel Mann: bass guitar

Original arrangements by Alessandra Belloni and John La Barbera.

All songs published by I Giullardi Di Piazza, Inc. (ASCAP).

Recorded at Tom Tedesco Studios, New Jersey, July 2002.

Engineered by Tom Tedesco and Ronnie Thomas.

Produced by Tom Tedesco, Alessandra Belloni and John La Barbera.

Special thanks to Alecia Cohen and Rhythm Magazine, Doug Deutch, Dolores Canavan, Mario Riggio, Rosario Bonaccorso, photographer Flavio Franzoni, and Perc Fest. Thanks to the Cathedral of St. John the Divine and the staff.

For information please visit www.alessandrabelloni.com or write:

Alessandra Belloni

Cathedral of St. John the Divine

1047 Amsterdam Avenue

New York, NY 10025

For booking information contact Percussion Events at perc@ont.com

or write to Silvia St. John at diamond@netstep.net

In Europe contact Marco Ceriotti at marco.ceriotti1@libero.it


In every CD, as in performance, I feel there is a story to be told through the music and the lyrics — a story that is both ancient and contemporary, as the songs and the arrangements. Some of the songs are about the power of the tarantella as a healing trance dance and exorcism. They have at times a fast rhythm, and at others a slow haunting melody. These songs are actually a cure for the "bite of love" which is referred to as the mythical bite of the tarantula in Italy. It is this unrequited love, the longing for lost love and the sting of erotic desires that makes people sing, play and dance the tarantella. In both ancient times and today, the people of Italy dance this wild erotic dance in ecstasy, wishing to cut their way out of the imaginary spider web which makes them feel trapped. They sing and play to heal a broken heart. Through the dancing, singing and playing of the tambourine, they are able to express their sexuality, their desires, and to heal themselves from the madness known as tarantismo.

Mainly this CD is dedicated to the pain of the women that become tarantate and suffer from this anguish and mental disorder. I believe that everyone, men and women, have known the feeling of being stuck in a spider web, sometimes even weaving it ourselves. In my own experience, it has been a long journey to free myself from a web that caused immense pain and sadness in my life. My cure has truly been playing the tambourine, singing and dancing the tarantella, feeling true joy and lightness after many hours of spinning, sweating, stamping and of course, drumming.

I also received strong healing from the powerful ceremonies in honor of the Black Madonna in Southern Italy, and from singing the ancient chants with the old women. These women, with their faces like the Earth herself, filled with an ancient wisdom, looked at me and seemed to know everything about my pain and my quest.

I actually learned the song Sulillo Mio from one of these amazing strong women, Giovannina from Montemarano (province of Avellino) who will always be one of my mentors.

The songs on the CD also deal with the magic of nature in the south of Italy and with the cycles of nature and the earth. That’s why we have the chant to make the sun rise, to make the sun go down, the lullabies sung at night by the women out of loneliness and desperation, sung to the moon, the stars, the birds, and the beautiful chants to the sea. In writing songs with these same themes, I honor this tradition.

With this CD, I wish to bring good energy to the listeners, especially with the power of the tarantella. I do hope that these powerful rhythms will heal their hearts, minds and souls, and that the passionate melodies that I have captured here can transport them to the magical land of Southern Italy. And of course, I hope to make people dance with the same passion that we have, creating that feeling of joy and lightness as being in ecstasy.

I also want to thank deeply with all my heart the musicians who are on the CD and have collaborated on making the magic happen in the studio with their talents and souls and great sense of humor. I feel very blessed for having them as my collaborators: the sweet and haunting sound of master flutist Steve Gorn, the passion of Joe Deninzon’s violin, the beautiful voice of tenor Olivier Marcaud, and the groove of Emanuel Mann on bass.

Especially John La Barbera, co-founder with me of my company I Guillari di Piazza, with whom we are Artists-in-Residence at the Cathedral of St. John the Divine, the largest Gothic cathedral in the world. John and I have been playing this music together since 1976, and I believe we have gone a long way since the day we met at Caffe Dante in Greenwich Village. John joined a great group from Puglia in Florence at that time, called Pupi e Fresedde, and with them performed in the US together with Bread & Puppet Theater. They were the first ones to find, arrange and record the Pizzica, and without them right now we would not have the knowledge of this amazing trance dance. John La Barbera is not only a gifted musician and guitarist, but a wonderful composer and arranger, as well as a scholar in this tradition.

I personally spent over 20 years researching this music and dances, and learning the drumming in the remote areas of Southern Italy, participating in all night rituals, entering a trance state of mind, bleeding on the tambourine without feeling the pain. Dancing barefoot on cement, rocks, fields, sand, by the shores, in the mountains, on the street outside the churches, and never feeling tired. My vow to the Madonna (the Great mother) and the Saints was to go on all night, asking for miracles and purification, receiving also great inspiration. I studied all the myths and the history in many books, spent long hours in libraries, but I must say that none of the books will ever teach me what I have learned from the wisdom of the old people of Southern Italy and from my friends in Calabria. A special warm thank you goes to all of them, especially Vittorio de Paola and his family, Raffaele Inserra in Naples, Nando Citarella, Generoso e Mariano D’Agnese and Giovannina in Montemarano.

Another special thanks goes to my friends in Brazil who have helped me open my mind and understand how we are connected, South Italy and Northeast Brazil, through history and our common African roots. Thank you Siba, Helder Vasconcellos and Mestre Ambrosio, Renata Rosa, Seo Louis and Bill Roque and thank you Mauro Refosco for making it all happen in New York.

— Alessandra Belloni

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