Various Artists, ITALY Tarantelle e Canti d’Amore

John Schaefer

By John Schaefer

on 04.22.11 in Reviews

Most Westerners think of trance as an exotic custom from far-off eastern and southern lands. But trance music and dance traditions were common in medieval Europe, and especially in Italy, where the tarantella developed as a sort of Christian veneer over an earlier, pagan exorcism rite. The tarantella was supposedly used to drive out evil — specifically, the poison of a tarantula's bite. In fact, though, it was an acceptable way for a woman to exorcise emotional demons and express erotic longing. The Italian singer/percussionist Alessandra Belloni (based for many years in the New York area) has found echoes of the tarantella and the chants of the medieval Black Madonna ringing among the hills of southern Italy, where old women continue to sing ancient songs whose words they barely understand, and play the traditional tambourine-like framedrums. Belloni blows the dust off these old songs and reveals the deep trance tradition within.