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Cinema, History & Politics, Music, Theater & Dance

Giulio Bianco

Di Zampogne, Partenze e Poesia

January 28, 2019
6:30 pm

A solo performance by poli-instrumentalist Giulio Bianco (Canzoniere Grecanico Salentino) presenting his latest project Di Zampogne, Partenze e Poesia, a collection of musical tales.

The “narrator” is the Italian zampogna, an ancient instrument historically used by shepherds during livestock migrations, with a sound that evokes rural myths and legends. The music combines traditional southern Italian genres to electronic music and orchestral composition. Through these works, Bianco uses the past to comment on the present. The project is also the result of a new approach to the musical tradition of the Salento area of Apulia, reflecting on how it has lately been influenced and altered by new technologies. Since the traditional language has always been tied to the instruments that musicians had at their disposal, and to changes in social structures at any given historical period, it is natural that it continue to evolve. Bianco’s research is focused on the use of electronic loops to construct traditional sounding pieces.

This live concert is intended as an intense evocative tridimensional experience in which the music flows alongside projected images.

One minute Giulio Bianco was generating intricate lines on a recorder, the next he was working away at bagpipes, followed by a fretless electric bass.

Clive Davis, The Times

As fans of Canzoniere Grecanico Salentino well know, multi-instrumentalist Giulio Bianco is an essential element of the band’s sound and success. He began his career when he was in his early teens, first joining the Salentine band Aioresis and going on to play with the folk ensemble Modena City Ramblers and touring with the Orchestra della Notte della Taranta, the house band for the La Notte della Taranta annual festival held throughout Salento. He joined CGS in 2008 and has played on every album the band has made since 2010’s Focu d’amore. All the members of CGS are stars, accomplished players with distinct musical personalities and charisma: leader Mauro Durante, the earnest and intense violin and percussion virtuoso; Giancarlo Paglialunga, a vocal powerhouse, topnotch percussionist, and, with his leonine looks, a visual cynosure; Massimiliano Morabito, who looks like a scholar (which he is, of Salentine culture) but onstage becomes a wizard of the diatonic accordion; sultry vocalist and percussionist Alessia Tondo, the band’s newest member; and Emanuele Licci, a singer, guitarist, and bouzouki player steeped in Salento’s ancient Griko language and music.
 Giulio Bianco is no less an eminence; he supplies so many of the colors and textures that make CGS unique, in the studio and in concert. Onstage, the darkly handsome Bianco toggles among zampogne (double-chantered southern Italian bagpipes), recorders and flutes, harmonica and fretless electric bass. His dazzling harmonica solo on one of the band’s showpieces, “Pizzica Indiavolata,” always brings down the house. On his first album, Di zampogne, partenze e poesia (Of bagpipes, departures and poetry), he’s accompanied by all of his CGS bandmates, along with accordionists Rocco Nigro and Giuseppe Anglano. (Alessia Tondo doesn’t sing on the mostly instrumental album; she and Giancarlo Paglialunga play tamburelli on all but two tracks.) Bianco plays two types of zampogne (“zoppa” and “a chiave”), guitar, and electronics. Like CGS, he is faithful to traditional Salentine and other Southern Italian music but brings a modern sensibility to it.
 “Trainieri” (Cart drivers) features the sampled voices of the late, beloved Salentine singers Uccio Aloisi and Uccio Bandello set against a wash of electronics, Mauro Durante’s percussion, and a string section, but it’s Bianco’s zampogna, cutting and plaintive, that is the main narrative voice, and a captivating one. “Cirano,” composed by Bianco, features superb work by Nigro on accordion that at times reminded me of Astor Piazolla, the Argentine tango composer and bandoneonist. “Tarantella di San Filippo,” based on a traditional Sicilian theme, would have fit nicely on CGS’ 2013 album, Pizzica Indiavolata. “Ronda,” a fast and lively pizzica, closes out Bianco’s beautifully and lovingly crafted debut recording. I just wish it had been twice as long.

George de Stefano, RootsWorld