Francesco Benozzo,
In'tla Piöla
(Sain, 2000)

When we hear the term "world music" we usually think of a bouncy, extroverted style, blending Latin and African sounds with other themes from around the world, often with a distinct rock influence. This isn't that kind of world music. On In'tla Piöla, poet Francesco Benozzo and his collaborators combine Celtic and Italian poetry and sounds into a stunning and unique album that is like nothing I've ever heard before.

This is a quiet and introverted album, and its sheer beauty overwhelmed me. Truly, some of them brought tears to my eyes -- and that doesn't happen often. It's not the lyrics, though they are beautiful in sound and meaning, when read in translation -- the lovely music alone touches my heart. To me it sounds like early winter, with the leaves fallen, the birds flown south, and a mist preparing the way for a gentle snowfall.

Most of the twelve songs combine Benozzo's vocals, in Italian and Welsh, with Celtic harp, guitar and keyboard. The vocals and the harp are featured, with the harp carrying most of the album, the other instruments supporting it, and the vocals adding balance and context.

The title track, "In'tla Piöla," has the most modern sound, with a heartbeat-like drum underlining the risks faced by the poor brigands in the Italian mountains, and the Manx sailors who contributed the last verse.

"Salvatagg" refers to winter dreaming, in the lyrics that are loosely translated from a Seamus Heaney poem. It follows "tri laghi (e sant)," with its nostalgia for a winter landscape associated, in legend, with sadness and loss. "Valeda fonda" uses some of the Book of Taliesin, blended with descriptions of a valley in a way that melds the land with the spirit. It may be my favorite of all the songs here.

While many of the songs, such as "In'tla Piöla," have Italian elements, "un dé a Canvar" is explicitly from the Apennines, with the harp mimicking the traditional accordion of the area. It's a bit surprising, but lovely.

The liner is excellent, with monochromatic photography that shows some of the landscapes the music evokes, notes on the album and the songs, including complete lyrics, and all in Welsh, Italian and English. It's as beautiful and complete as the music.

This is a breathtaking album. I recommend it wholeheartedly, but particularly to those who love harp music and would like to hear it in a different context. It will also appeal to Loreena McKennitt fans, I think, especially the blending of Italian with Celtic sounds, and its evocative nature. Finding this album may be difficult, but it's definitely worth the effort.

[ by Amanda Fisher ]
Rambles: 27 October 2001