Stefano Saletti & Piccola Banda Ikona
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Stefano Saletti & Piccola Banda Ikona


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"FOLKROOTS (Nov 2012)"


Folkpolitik Finisterre FT57

As the title suggests, this album contains folk
music that is ti ed up with politics, in particular
music that is connected with popular
uprisings against autocratic governments in
the Mediterranean area.
The opening track, Piazza Tahrir, ingeniously
blends street sounds from a documentary
about Tahrir Square with the sound of an
oud from an Oum Kalthoum track to conjure
up the atmosphere of the popular uprising
that was Egypt's part of the Arab Spring. The
album goes on to draw together music from
different locations and time periods: from the
expulsion of the Jews and Arabs from Catholic
Spain in 1492; the rebelling of Sardinian peopie
during the French Revolution; Catalan and
Republican opposition to Francoism during
the Spanish Civil War; the Portuguese and
Greek opposition to their respective military
dictatorships; the exiled Palestinian diaspora
and a few songs from the band's home country
of Italy. Much ofthe material is drawn
from sources dose to the events, but some are
songs composed by Stefano Saletti and sung
in Sabir, a lingua franca used by pirates,
sailors, merchants and ship-owners.
Some of the songs are directly about the
conflicts and some have become associated
with events by a quirk of history, but none
are hectoring polemie. The songs have pretty
melodies and are beautifully arranged by Stefano
Saletti and his band with the help of a
few guest vocalists and instrumentalists. The
album is a reminder of the power that ordinary
people can have against an oppressive
government and the role of music in motivation,
but equally important is that it is a cohesive
body of work that is carefully constructed
and beautifully performed. - Michael Hingston


Stefano Saletti & Piccola Banda Ikona "Folkpolitik"
Finisterre, 2012
Wenn man den Mittelmeerraum als Wiege der Demokratie bezeichnet, so kommt man in der Rückschau nicht umhin zu fragen, wie diese Demokratien entstanden, verteidigt oder nach grausamen Diktaturen wiedergewonnen wurden. Meist spielten Aufstände und Proteste eine wesentliche Rolle. Eine noch wesentlichere Rolle spielt die Tatsache, dass der Mut der Menschen, die Aufstände und Proteste tragen gestärkt wird. Musik als Mittel einzusetzen, Menschen im gemeinsamen Aufbegehren zu verbinden war schon immer sehr erfolgreich. Das Protestlied lässt die Herzen der Menschen mutig werden. Stefano Saletti hat sich rund um das Mittelmeer nach Protestsongs und politischen Liedern umgesehen. "Folkpolitik" ist eine Sammlung, die am Tahrir-Platz in Kairo beginnt, dort wo der arabische Frühling ein mächtiges, aber unvollendetes Symbol gebildet hat. Saletti wandert weiter, findet überall dort Protestsongs, wo es Unrecht gibt. Damit dürfte es rund um das Mittelmeer wohl kaum eine Musikrichtung geben, die über einen größeren Fundus verfügt, auch wenn es nur spezielle Lieder sind, die die Massen anstimmen. Wie das Lied von José Afonso "Cantigas do Mayo". Das stammt zwar aus Portugal, aber man möchte dieses kleine Land am Atlantik gern als mediterran bezeichnen. Die Nelkenrevolution gehörte nicht nur wegen seiner gewaltarmen Durchführung, sondern auch wegen seiner Musik zu den besonderen Momenten in der Geschichte der Demokratie. Wesentlich unerfreulicher ging es im Spanischen Bürgerkrieg zu. Auch aus dieser Zeit hat Saletti Musik gefunden. Über die Zeit der Militärjunta in Griechenland redet man kaum noch. Heute haben sie in Griechenland andere Sorgen. Doch Saletti erinnert sich an das Massaker während des Studentenprotests vom 17. November 1974 in Athen, über das der Lyraspieler Mihalis Tsagarakis schrieb. Palästina, Sardinien und nahezu alle Regionen Italiens besitzen mitreißende Protestlieder, doch oft ist es erst die Trauer, die die Menschen verbindet. So gehören traurige Lieder ebenfalls zum großen Songpool des Protestliedes, wie man auf der CD hören kann. "Folkpolitik" von Stefano Saletti & Piccola Banda Ikona klingt wie ein musiziertes Kompendium der mediterranen Empörung. - Karsten Rube


Old seadogs keep their promises

Sabir is a seafaring lingua franca once spoken in Mediterranean ports. On this release, the follow up to Piccola Banda Ikona's stunning debut album from 2005, it becomes a metaphor for encounters and intermingling between peoples and cultures. Composer and multiinstrumentalist Stefano Saletti (on bouzouki, oud, baglama, guitars, piano, percussions and programming) is the main man behind the project, bringing in such prominent names of Italy's world music scene on bassist Mario Rivera, wind instrunet player Gabriele Coen, violinist Carlo Cossu, plus vocalist Barbara Eramo and Ramya. The CD's title is derived from a Romanian saying that traslates as "to promise the sea with the salt" - that is, to make a promise you can't keep. Here, however, the promise of an album that blends diverse Mediterranean traditional melodies, modes and timbres into a syncretic whole is kept.
The opener "Elee", sung in Aramaic, and the title-track set the tone with mesmeric texture of assorted strings, contemporary electronics, and warm, impassioned female voices. Present-day tragedies are narrated in "Anpalagan" a song about voyaging migrants drowned off the coast of Sicily in 1996, while both "Fuori di me" and "Opsada" recall the Bosnian civil war. "Famu chiovere sali" adapts a Sicilian traditional poem, the silky atmospheres of "Sabir" are built up along a Jewish-Yemenite melody and "Benda Benda" is based on a 16th century Spanish villancico written in sabir. The standard "My favorite things" is charmingly proffered with a Middle Estern tinge. A further cover follows - Domenico Modugno's classic "Amara terra mia" - but is invested with Eramo's and Ramya's vocal finesse. A trancelike reshuffling of the title-track by Dj Ominostanco ends this work. It's great accomplishment. - Ciro De Rosa


Musician and composer Stefano Saletti has been involved with some diverse musical projects. He has composed for film soundtracks, Tv and film; written a suite based on Le Bateau Ivre by Arthur Rimbaud and collaborated with numerous musicians and ensembles. His latest project, Marea cu Sarea, is performing by his ensemble Piccola Banda Ikona, although with eight members and a few guest musicians it is not that small.
The material is mostly composed by Saletti, but the lyrics area largely in the seafaring lingua franca named Sabir, which is a mixture of Spanish, Italian, French and Arabic and was used by sailors, pirates, fishermen, merchants and ship owners. Marea cu sarea is a Romanian proverb that literally traslates as "to promise the sea with its salt" (i.e. to pledge the impossible).
One exception to the Sabir lyrics is the opening song Elee, where the words ara in Aramaic. This track is seven minutes of intense pleasure. It open with Saletti's oud over a slowly pulsing drone and is then joined by Carlo Cossu's undulating fiddle and then by the glorious melismatic singing of Barbara Eramo and Ramya. The song gradually builds with Gabriele Coen's soprano saxophone and Leo Cesari's percussion in a richtextured arrangement.
The album continues with beautifully detailed settings, combining influences from Southern Italy, Arabic, Balkan, Greek and Sephardic cultures; occasionally introducing some more contemporary rhythms and styles. Ther is even an Arabic-flavoured instrumental version of Rodgers and Hammerstein's My Favorite Things. There is equal variety to the mood of the piece. Fuori di me is a spacious jazz-tinged reflective song, Sabir combines reggae flavour with Arabic melody and Famu Chiovere Sali is an intense, slow-tempo song with lots of instrumental detail and inventive bass lines from Mario Rivera.
This in an wonderful album where all the diverse styles all integrate wonderfully.
- Michael Hingston


If you weren't aware that Stefano Saletti was the founder of Novalia, whose celebrated, anthemic Ebla we fatured back on fRoots 8 and remains a classic, you ears would hear it not far into Stari Most. Track 2, the glorious Tagama, with bouzouki, sophisticated programming and the lovely vocals of Nuklearte's Ramya, comes absolutely out of the same mould. Piccola Banda Ikona is a prime collection of people from Italy's world music scene, also including musicians from Agricantus, Klezroym, Nando Citarella and other outfits. Again, the theme is pan-Mediterranean and the bouzouki or oud are central textures, but here it's much more a big, deep studio creation, a project bringing together diverse cultures, musical roots, and languages from Serbo-Croat to Arabic into epic soundscapes.
This kind of thing can easily drift into the sort of synthetic fusion that routinely get trashed in our And the Rest columns, but when handled by writers, musicians and singers with this much talent, sympathy and vision, it can be pure magic.
And fot some reason, the Italians often hit it on the nail better than most - possibly because they really are the cultural crossroads, historically and geographically, out there surrounded by the Mediterranean. - Ian Anderson


Lo storico leader dei Novalia Stefano Saletti si riaffaccia sul mercato discografico dopo il pluriapprezzato, soprattutto oltreconfine, Stari Most. Il nuovo album per Finisterre parte dal concetto delle promesse non mantenute (da cui il titolo, modo di dire a tema rumeno) per scivolare sul più ampio tema del Mediterraneo e della sua unicità. La lingia in cui è cantato il concept album, infatti, è il sabir, esperanto del secolo passato parlato nei porti del grande mare europeo. La promessa di Saletti, a differenza del titolo, è decisamente mantenuta: il suo Mediterraneo in musica richiama gli arrabgiamenti migliori di Pagani, su cui si stagliano melodie portate dall'intensa voce di Barbara Eramo. le corde edel leader (che dà il meglio di sé al bouzouki) sono ben sorrette dal basso portante di Mario Rivera, fondatore degli Agricantus. Se il brano di apertura, la lunga e densa Elee, ha la ricchezza compiuta di una sfera, il remix finale della title track a firma Ominostranco diverte con gusto. - Daniele Bergesio


Argonauti del mare nostrum Piccola Banda Ikona. Non più sulle tracce del mitico vello d'oro, ma esploratori alla ricerca di culture, suoni e rumori. bacino infinito il mediterraneo, ispiorazione costante per chi sa cosa cercare. Inebriante peregrinaggio quello della banda, da costa a costa, paese a paese, attraverso il comune denominatore del Sabir, la lingua franca di chi andava per mare. "Marea cu sarea" è il nuovo viaggio di un gruppo che riunisce alcuni dei più importanti musicisti della world italiana, un affascinante approdo che come tale rappresenta contemporaneamente meta e punto di partenza.
- Andrea Scaccia


Stefano Saletti & Piccola Banda Ikona "Stari Most" (CNI - 2005)

Piccola Banda Ikona "Marea cu sarea" (Finisterre - 2008)

Stefano Saletti & Piccola Banda Ikona "Folkpolitik" (Finisterre - 2012)



A multi-instrumentalist, expert in Mediterranean music and director of international ensembles, Stefano Saletti is the founder of the Piccola Banda Ikona, comprised of such famous musicians such as the vocalist Barbara Eramo, the flautist Gabriele Coen, the violinist Carlo Cossu, the bassist Mario Rivera and the drummer Leo Cesari.

Their new Cd called "Folkpolitik" (published by Finisterre and distributed by Felmay) contains Saletti’s original compositions and arrangements of tunes by the Mediterranean authors who, through their music, have described the struggle against power, suffering, persecution, arrests and violence.

The CD in October 2012 has reached the top ten of World Music Charts Europe and remained on the charts for three months.

"Folkpolitik" is a journey back in time to rediscover the different types of music that tell the stories about the suffering and passion of the Mediterranean people. From the expulsion of the Sephardic Jews from Spain, to the Palestinian diaspora, from the Sardinian anthem (fruit of the French Revolution against the excessive power of barons) to those authors who wrote music and often very sweet ballads and who were subjected to persecution, arrest and violence by the political establishment.

The former Cd, called “Marea cu sarea” was written and sung in Sabir (that means “to know”), an ancient Mediterranean language.
Saletti and the Piccola Banda Ikona have rediscovered that sea-faring "Esperanto" which developed little by little incorporating terms from Spanish, Italian, French and Arabic, and they have brought it back to life, writing ten intense tunes that encompass the sounds and cultures of the Mediterranean, mixing the popular traditions of Southern Italy with Balkan, Arabic, Greek and Sephardic melodies.

“Marea cu sarea” has been included among the ten best new issues in the Folk Roots chart, the prestigious English world music magazine. The CD had been listed as one of the best releases of 2008 by the World Music Charts Europe and received the “Coups de coeur du jury” award at Babel Med 2009.

During last years Stefano Saletti and the Piccola Banda Ikona toured extensively in some of major international festival in Italy, Portugal, Spain, France, Bosnia-Erzegovina, Maroc, Hungary, Greece, Egypt and Germany.