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Album Review

The blurb on the back cover of Faraualla's self-titled debut album claims that "Faraualla are Southern Italy's Zap Mama." Be that as it may, the band does blend a beguiling cocktail of melody, rhythm, and harmony (though not one familiar to most Western ears). The name of this group of four women is the moniker for a physical place in Southern Italy, the deepest grotto of the Murgia in the high plains of the Apulia country. The liner notes refer to it as "a chasm that opens up between wheat fields, pastures, and farms, a silent island that inspires popular beliefs."

The polyphonic chant created by Faraualla is one from antiquity. Stories, poems, songs, and communal chants are brought together in a mesmerizing weave of sonorities that offer expansive harmonics and rhythmic possibilities not usually encountered in folk music. The overtones and microphonics occurring at regular intervals coincide with a rhythmic invention that suggests Nigeria more than it does Italy. As one singer creates the thread, the second, third, and fourth voices join in harmonic counterpoint that is formally structured to the breath. As one singer asks a question, the next singer answers it while either asking a third question or revealing what that answer might be. Mellifluous harmony is exchanged for Bulgarian-style overtone singing and both dramatic and dynamic reaches that are so intense they are frightening in their beauty and tension — especially when combined with the explosive percussion elements that accompany them.

Simply put, there is no reference point solid enough to tack Faraualla onto. They are their own signpost, albeit a remote one. Their land, a crossing territory for everyone from military brigades to thieves, merchants, and saints and sinners of every type, has absorbed them all, and from their detritus and traces of passage they have created a sound that is unmistakable once it has been encountered. This album is a genuine treasure trove of emotional and physical longing, sorrow, sacred yearning, and worldly, sensual joy.


Genre: World

Years Active: '00s

Formed in 1995, Faraualla is a female a cappella vocal ensemble from Southern Italy (a town called Apulia). The quartet (which consists of members Cristina Palmiotta, Gabriella and Maristella Schiavone, and Teresa Vallarella) got its big break in 1998 by opening a tour for Italian musical artist Mango. This led to their own recording contract (with the Amiata label) and the release of their self-titled debut in 2001. In addition to...
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Faraualla, Faraualla
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