Year: 2005 LabelPremium Records PRE 007 – 

Soulfood Music Distribution GmbH

Etta Scollo and the “Orchestra Sinfonica Siciliana” Tribute to Rosa Balistreri I first heard Rosa ‘s voice when I was about 14 years old. Someone gave me a tape with a few of her songs on it. I was in bed with flu at the time and didn’t do anything, but listen to this tape. I was impressed by the essentiality of her singing which, in its immense urgency, seemed to be so true to life. It stayed within me, perhaps on account of the fever, like an “inner scar”. When the one and only opportunity arose for me to hear Rosa in concert, I was once again in bed with fever. From this moment on I started finding out more about Rosa ‘s repertoire and devoted my attention to traditional Sicilian music. Later, even when I started finding other genres of music interesting, I always saw Rosa ‘s voice and its idiosyncrasies as a part of music as a whole. I found parallelisms of her angry songs in Billie Holiday’s interpretation of “Strange Fruit” which describes the bodies of dead slaves hanging from the trees. To me, Rosa was a singer of the same category, particularly when she performed the jail song “Nda la vicaria” in her own unique way, or sang the sulphur workers’ song of lament in ” Caltanissetta fa quattru quarteri”. These songs should not stay a treasure for a chosen few, I thought at the time. This culture, this music has to be nurtured, respected and, above all, sung, so that it can be heard by as many ears as possible. However, I felt rather alone with this idea, so I put Rosa ‘s first tape away into a drawer. Yet, after many years of experience and personal development, this “dream in a drawer” knocked on my door again. Somehow I wanted to believe that it was Rosa herself, she who had sung “When I die, keep singing my songs”. The more I thought of Rosa ‘s songs, the more pleasant things happened to me as if by chance: particularly that unforgettable January evening at the Villa Virginia, where this project was about to be born. When I was a guest at Milli and Leoluca Orlando’s house (people of exceptional sensitivity, and who believe in a cultural Sicily ), they also invited a few friends, some of whom had known Rosa Balistreri personally. I sang several of her songs and we talked about her. That evening at the Villa Virginia, I remembered the fever and the fact that I had never seen her on stage. At the same time, I felt this urge to celebrate her, a celebration with many friends. This idea turned into a concrete proposal put to the Sinfonica Siciliana Orchestra: dedicating a concert of songs to Rosa and to stage them at some of these beautiful open-air places where one would normally hear the powerful echo of a Verdi aria. During the rehearsals and concerts I had the opportunity of meeting wonderful people. They all told me about their memories of Rosa , but also about their relationship to their own culture. On the night of the premiere in Palermo, despite my years of traveling, the many stages I have seen and the many audiences I have stood before I sensed an unexpected and yet familiar feeling of goose bumps. It was ” Rosa ‘s wonderful fever” that had held me spellbound ever since. Etta Scollo Hamburg , 2004-09-20 On September 20, 1990 Rosa Balistreri, one of the most forceful and significant voices of our folklore tradition, died in Palermo . Since 1964, when Rosa Balistreri was invited to the “Festival della Canzone Popolare” in Salerno and together with Giovanna Daffini was awarded a prize, she was also one of the key figures of the folk revival which developed in Italy in the 60’s and 70’s. She soon became one of the most celebrated personalities in the rediscovery of folk music which caused a sensation at the time. She was officially acclaimed, so to speak, when she was invited by the “Nuovo Canzoniere Italiano” to take part in Dario Fo’s «Ci ragiono e canto»: a piece of great significance, a kind of “sung manifest” of this new movement. The harsh authenticity of her voice, full of dark timber, powerful and intensely dramatic, made her a symbol of these polemical and aggressive years when great interest for our own rich and varied, traditional culture was rediscovered. Her interpretations were rigorous, pure, as if chiseled in stone, and created a connection between the suspense of her songs, voice and the history and plight of a people: the Sicilian people. Her face, as if marked by age-old insuppressible grief, seemed to be the most evocative portrayal of the anguish and poverty which her songs are about, songs that come from the same traditional, rural background as she does. It is not only a social and cultural, but, moreover, a civic duty to remind people of Rosa Balistreri and all the other writers, literati, theater people, puppeteers, storytellers («cuntisti») who represent the highlights of our tradition and cultural roots, but also all the scholars (Pitrè, Salamone Marino, Cocchiara, Vigo, Uccello, Favara, Feliciotto and others) who devoted their entire life to safekeeping the heritage for the future generations. In a highly regarded effort to revive their culture heritage, the Foundation of the Sicilian Symphony Orchestra has granted permission and asked singer and author Etta Scollo, who was born in Catania (and has been living in Hamburg for many years), to do an interesting project titled «Canta Ro’!» (the words used by the writer Ignazio Buttitta to tell Rosa Balistreri to sing). The Foundation has also included it in the summer season at various «places of historical and artistic importance». The debut performance of «Canta Ro’!» (subtitle: «Rosa, the Last Sicilian Singer») was staged in the courtyard of the Regional Library in Palermo, and it was also performed in the courtyard of the archbishop in Cefalù, as well as in the gardens of the 300-year-old Villa Spedalotto in Bagheria. The piece was conducted by the renowned maestro Angelo Faja. It was an incredible success, almost surprising for a project that had hundreds of problems to deal with: they had to transfer Balistreri’s expressive world into a symphonic orchestration with the danger of falling into the trap of merely presenting a seemingly inevitable imitation. Scollo’s intelligence prevented the latter by presenting exquisite unreleased arrangements which she had worked out in collaboration with other musicians in Hamburg and she avoided imitating Balistreri’s voice and singing. The musical project (“This is the project of my life,” she said to the audience emotionally) aroused great interest with Maestro Faja and the professors of the orchestra who greatly admired the dainty musician with the wonderful voice and the pathos that is becoming increasingly rare in this day and age. Without doing injustice to the spirit with which Balistreri would sing her ballads, Etta Scollo has found a very personal way of interpreting the songs (also on account of the presence of guest musician and multi-instrumentalist Fabio Tricomi) that suits her own voice and its peculiarities. The pieces range from «Quantu basilicò», «U cunigghiu», «Lu focu di la paglia», «A Curuna» to the jail songs «Lu libbru di li nfami», «Nda la Vicaria» or Ignazio Buttitta’s manifest against control and exploitation, «Li pirati a Palermu», and end with the heartbreaking «Quannu moru», Balistreri’s real and true spiritual testament. «I wanted to remind people of her for that», said Etta Scollo. Pippo Ardini I met Rosa Balistreri in Florence about 22 years ago, at the house of a friend of mine, a painter. That evening Rosa Balistreri sang the “Lament for the Death of Turiddu Carnivali”, a short poem I wrote. I shall never forget that evening. Rosa’s voice, her suppressed singing, was dramatic, fearful, and it seemed as if it rose straight from the parched earth of Sicily . I got the impression that I had known her all my life, had been there when she was born and had watched her grow up: a child barefoot, poor a woman, a mother. Rosa Balistreri is a wonderful figure, I’m almost inclined to say drama, a novel, a film without a face. Rosa Balistreri is a figure walking on thin ice, a figure that has a heart for everyone, that loves everyone, with an old, ancient heart for the Sicily of Vittorini and Quasimodo, and a young heart for the Sicily of Guttuso and Leonardo Sciascia. 1984-10-22 Ignazio Buttitta

Etta Scollo

TRACKLIST (lyrics) QUANTU BASILICÒ (QUANTO BASILICO) (05.16) U PUMU (LA MELA) (03.24) L’ANATRA (04.19) CU TI LU DISSI (CHI TE LO HA DETTO) (03.20) U CUNIGGHIU (IL CONIGLIO) (04.36) NTRA VIDDI E VADDI (TRA VILLE E VALLI) (03.48) I PIRATI A PALERMU (I PIRATI A PALERMO) (04.29) / listen to the track ROSA CANTA E CUNTA (ROSA CANTA E RACCONTA (04.32) / listen to the track LU LIBBRU DI LI NFAMI (IL LIBRO DEGLI INFAMI) (03.51) / listen to the track NTA LA VICARIA (DENTRO LA VICARIA) (00.54) LO FOCU DI LA PAGGHIA (IL FUOCO DELLA PAGLIA) (06.51) / listen to the track A CURUNA (LA CORONA) (05.56) / listen to the track QUANNU MORU (QUANDO MUOIO) (06.26) / listen to the track