I come from Sicily. After having graduated in "Foreign Languages and Literatures" at the University of Palermo, I moved to Vienna, where I’ve been living and working as a performer, actress and singer since 1997. For a while, on a professional and personal level, I wasn’t very much involved with my origins. Slowly I started to be more and more committed to my roots, my memories and the music and dialect of Sicily. A couple of experiences are milestones in this process. The first, and most important, is having met and done a workshop on Sicilian songs with the Fratelli Mancuso. They are pioneer in having collected, studied and made Sicilian music known on an international level. Their passion and devotion inspired me. Here I want to open a parenthesis and say it’s probably not a chance that I, like the Fratelli Mancuso, had to go and live abroad to (re) discover and develop a strong connection to my roots and to Sicilian music.
The other one is having seen a concert dedicated to Rosa Balistreri (THE Sicilian voice), in the church of “Santa Maria dello Spasimo” in Palermo. The music, together with this incredible and magical coulisse touched me and inspired me, there I felt even strongly that I wanted to go on researching about Sicilian music.
I didn’t know much about Sicilian music. Most of people of my generation (and the previous and the following…) especially if they are not familiar with a rural context, don’t know any Sicilian song apart from the two or three which belong to the Sicilian folklore. The rich treasure of Sicilian music, much of it purely oral tradition, was partly lost in the destruction wreaked by the progressive establishment of “high culture” in the post-war and by mainstream Italian culture, and survive only in written corpuses (Favara, Pitrè) or recorded ethnologic collections. When I started this project it was not so easy to get to the sources, although lately more and more material has become available, since the new generations are rediscovering and appreciating the value of Sicilian folk song.
I started to research and for a while I was obsessed, singing some of these chants on my own and reading the lyrics. I don’t know why, since at that time I was not a mother yet, I started to collect and sing lullabies, and I made a couple of projects with different musicians or by myself. Then I began to work on labour chants of some of which I just had field recordings. I understood that what interested me was to explore and enhance some elements like the Arab and Mediterranean influences. I realized that some songs have elements or modes that somehow remind of flamenco (I say somehow, since those songs are field recording and are sung without even an accompaniment).
Everything came together when I met Karim Othman-Hassan and Daniel Zdrahal Serrano. Our work together produced a unique mix, drawing upon Sicilian roots and beyond, developing new interpretations. This work approach to the work continued with Marwan Abado (oud) and Mahan Mirarab (guitar), and with the actual band members, Toti Denaro (frame drums, mandolin) and Mickykee (guitar) with new and exciting inputs.