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World Music CD Reviews Europe

Arakne Mediterranea

By ALLAN EVANS
Published April 7, 2006

THE LEGEND OF THE ITALIAN TARANTELLA
ARC Music

Long ago, Southern Italians suffering from tarantula bites hadn’t access to medicines as effective as modern-day anti-venoms. Local musicians would be called and arrive to perform a “tarantella,” the dance whose rhythm would exhort the afflicted to shake and be possessed, achieving a cure through a musical exorcism. While groups and adaptations abound, the basic impulse of the dance, when played by those who are within the tradition, make for a profound experience. In Italy, several regions have local groups maintaining this tradition, using adapted guitars, organettos (button accordions), tambourines, violins, whistles, accompanied by song. Eugenio Bennato has produced a CD in Italy that is hard to find even there, selecting the most stunning regional ensembles. Arakne Mediterranea reminds one of the standardized folklore presentations whose members are capable of handling all styles equally well, yet which fail to cross the point of local color into becoming a gripping experience, similar to the groups on television which offer an idea rather than the realization. One awaits Bennato’s discs to arrive on our shores for the real thing.