Nostalgia,the Italian way

When you think about the history of your own country or town,what kind of images rush into your mind?

We’ve seen documentaries that present us with a representation of the lives of people who lived a long time ago,but Sonos ‘e Memoria is unique in that it’s not merely a documentary,but one whose form has been altered with a touch of ingenuity by its creator Gianfranco Cabiddu. I had the pleasure of sitting in the third row of its Asian Premiere last night at the Drama Centre,part of the Singapore Arts Festival 2008.

‘The uniqueness of Sonos ‘e memoria resides in its form; images of the past are reinforced and become emotionally charged by the presence of stage musicians and a performance sensitively constructed around the same images.’ Such is the allure of this very special performance. It started with four male singers each taking the parts of contrabass,bass, and contralto,and the melodious and powerful voices allowed the audience to drift away into the Sardinia of 1920-50s. The voice of the famous singer Elena Ledda supports the conveyance of emotions behind the entire film. Her strong yet gentle voice is very enchanting,and very apt for bringing out the magical element pervasive throughout the entire performance.

By using this explosive combination of Italian folk music and black-white footage of life in Sardinia in the early days of last century,Cabiddu created a visually and sensually appealing piece–where the audience was confronted with a clash of contemporary Sardinian folk and traditional music with images of daily living they might find alien. This feels like a very strange encounter where you can feel the soul of the music more closely to you,then followed by your cognitive acknowledgement of how it brings out the nature of the images that represent a rather faraway era.

Cabiddu had this to say:”The sound and emotional soul of the movie had to be invented. I tried several musical compositions and traditional Sardinian music an avoiding spoken commentary, the movie was given a folkloristic feel. The soundtrack was conceived with traditional Sardinian music, using a procedure similar to when I was editing the images. The soundtrack, performed ‘live’, strongly enhanced these images.”

I considered this when I was watching the performance: We’re all here because of history,and without it,a lot of the things we believe in and we live by today would not have come to pass. As a subject of history,how are we preserving the bits and pieces of what made up our past? How can we remember the past in such a way that it is viewed in a meaningful and reflective manner,such that we can take away something beautiful from it? Nostalgia is a very powerful emotion,and in art,one of the most pervasive themes. Cabiddu has created something that is not only artistically ingenious,but is also a remembrance of the past and most certainly a historical gift for all Italians,especially Sardinians.

I guess I was most wowed over by the beauty of Elena Ledda’s voice,without which the whole film would lose its spirit. Of course,the celebrated Italian trumpeter Paolo Fresu was very awesome. I wish more people could be exposed to world music in this amazing way, and snap out of being victimised by popular culture and being just like everyone else. For an Asian Premiere,and for such an amazing and artisitically powerful performance,it was a shame that the theatre was not filled up.

The musicians:
Paolo Fresu (trumpet & fluegelhorn)
Furio di Castri (bass, multieffects )
Elena Ledda (vocals)
Luigi Lai (launeddas)
Mauro Palmas (mandola)
Antonello Salis (accordion)
Federico Sanesi (percussion)
Carlo Cabiddu (violoncello)
Coro “Su Concordu ‘e su Rosariu” di Santulussurgiu (Voices): Mario Corona (contra), Giovanni Ardu (bassu), Antonio Migheli (‘oghe), Roberto Iriu (contraltu)


1. Pregadoria ( Ledda-Palmas-Lobina)
2. Freentry (Fresu-Salis-Di Castri-Sanesi)
3. Ballu (Lai)
4. Sa Pastorina (Traditional)
5. Salisolo (Salis)
6. Wanderlust (Fresu)
7. Mi E La (Ledda-Palmas)
8. Ite Bella (Traditional)
9. Filugnana (Ledda-Palmas)
10. Bass’n’drum (Sanesi-Di Castri)
11. Sonos ‘E Memoria (Fresu-Ledda-Salis-Palmas -Cabiddu-Lai-Di Castri-Sanesi)  



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