Spaccanapoli

Italy

Spaccanapoli are a group from Naples - historically a crossroads for the cultures of the whole Mediterranean region. Their music is rooted in traditions that go back further and deeper than Catholic rituals to the pre-Christian rites of Dionysus. This is the expression of the working people. Pulsing drums, impassioned vocals, the wild dances of the Tarantella (the ancient solo dance of possession) and Tammurriata (a dance performed in couples within a circle of people to the steady rhythm of the Tammorra, the big traditional drum) - the vibrant energy of the street carnival celebrated in the shade of the smouldering Vesuvius.

The late heavy industrialisation of this area in the 1970s has forced the people to rethink their own culture. The ancient myths and rituals, which were part of their daily life, were at risk of sublimation within modern mass-culture but have evolved afresh to express the anguish of an anonymous post-modern existence. Today it is the car workers and industrial labourers who sing the songs of protest, defiance and anger. Spaccanapoli grew out of the original 'Gruppo Operario' (Workers Group) E Zezi which was formed in 1974 and provided the channel of expression over the years for more than 100 singers, instrumentalists and dancers. Some of the songs on this album are from the repertoire created within E Zezi, the group which encouraged this new, dramatically mutating folk music.

In a final ironic comment Spaccanapoli have chosen their name from an old street of Greek origin in the centre of Naples - which, in spite of being reduced to a stop-off on the tourist trail, still retains the vital, irrepressible spark of authentic folk expression.

"One by one we die, all because of the bosses!" This defiant line isn't sung at some socialist youth rally but at an informal gathering of Alfa Sud factory workers in a beautiful old courtyard in the picturesque town of Pommigliano near Naples - these age-old gatherings where working people sing, perform street theatre, tell stories and entertain their peers. Life at the factory is tough, very tough. For the musicians and singers of Spaccanapoli, composing and performing their 'tarantella' or 'fronnes', as their bitter-sweet serious-hilarious songs are known, is a way of expressing their troubles and easing their pain. They are the inheritors of a tradition that has existed for centuries, a tradition steeped in the local rural culture of Southern Italy and yet nurtured by the hard realities of the working man's life in an industrial age. Politics is carnival for the members of Spaccanapoli. Their realism and protest is imbued with colour, humor, hedonism and legend. With his huge beaming smile and larger than life personality Marcello, Spaccanapoli's lead singer will make you laugh and cry simultaneously while Monica will break your heart.