Monday, November 29, 2010

Bella Ciao

Bella Ciao is a widely know partisan song of the Italian left wing resistance during World War II. The history of the song is complicated and goes back many years in many different directions. In stead of giving you a synopsis of this history I'd like to refer you to:
Tracing the history of a well known song belongs to the realm of musicology and it is my favorite branch of it. I like the intrigue and conspiracy theories that always seem to come along with it. Somehow it always turns out that the origin of a tune belongs to a universally shared consciousness dating back to origin of our species. The further a tune is traced back the more interesting it becomes for me. As a tourist I travel with the musicologists from a riff in a Hip-Hop tune, to a folk song of the 60s, to a blues song of the 30s, which then splits up into an Irish sea shanty of the 19th Century and centuries old rhythmic traditions of East Africa. The 19th Century sea shanty is then traced back to a Norwegian murder balled of the 9th Century while the East African rhythmic traditions are traced back to Assyria long before Christ was born, and then it turns out that the murder ballad's roots come from an epic poetry also from Assyrian origin. Clearly, the cavemen long before these Assyrian balladeers were humming the same tunes. The fiftieth top 10 this year revolves around Bella Ciao:

  1. Anonymous group of women from Ferroletto (South Italy) singing Alla Campagnolo. This song instigated my search into wonderful world of Bella Ciao.
  2. Mishka Ziganoff - Koilen. A Gypsy/Yiddish tune from Odessa recorded in New York City in 1919 carries the exact same melody as the famous partisan song Bella Ciao.
  3. Márta Sebestyén with the Muzikas - The Rooster is Crowing. These Hungarian folk musicians reconstructed Central European music of a much older origin  yet. This song also carries the same melodic theme as Bella Ciao's.
  4. Giovanna Daffini - Bella Ciao (Pianura Padana). I've had this record Le Canzoni di Bella Ciao for many years. Recorded in the early 60s the song clearly hints at its Italian roots well before the second World War and possibly into the 19th Century.
  5. Alfredo Durante and his wife (from Latium) - Saltarello. The record Music and Song of Italy (#1 as well) collected by Alan Lomax (the original edition, on vinyl, 1958) has been the find of the year. My only regret is that Lomax talks about keening in "South of Rome" in the liner notes but there is no audio to prove his claims. I collect recordings of keening (or wailing, or weep-singing) but they're very hard to come by. I have eleven.
  6. Stanley Buetens Lute Ensemble - In seculum artifex (anon. 13th Century). Save for the Latin language, this tune is not so much related anymore to the Bella Ciao history. I have tons of recordings of interpretations of old-old music. You can find them at thrift stores among any place that sells old records. Cheap!
  7. The Petar Krstich Choir - Oce Nas. Another thrift store purchase. It's local from Steubenville, Ohio, but the vocal orthodox tradition of this Serbian church goes back as far as the 4th Century.
  8. Xiang Yu, the Conqueror Removing His Armour. I keep finding all these Chinese records lately. The astral plane must have picked up the information that there is so much Chinese music in my Top 100 this year. This one's origin is ancient and is a Pipa Music Cycle.
  9. Lou Prohut and the Polka Rounders - Ach Du Lieber Augustine. When you see a four-record set of old timey polka music by the original artists for 75 cents (precisely one cent per song!) you should not pass it up. I didn't!
  10.  "Ninna Nanna, a lullabye song in the high lonesome style by a woman from one of the villages near Naples where strong traces of Moorish culture are still eveident."    —Alan Lomax
Images relating to Bella Ciao will follow as soon as I can produce them. For now... Bella Ciao! 

1 comment:

  1. Hungarian version of Bella Ciao: