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The Tammurriata

Naples, Gragnano: the view from up here reminds me Rio de Janeiro: the sea, the city, the mountains in a rapid and spectacular sequence! Instead it is the Gulf of Naples and from here you can see Ischia, Procida, Sorrento and the Vesuvius. I'm in the lab of two of the most popular and feared tammorrari of Lattari mountains and Campania in general: Raffaele Inserra and Catello Gargiulo. The atmosphere is like a far west place with cactus, cow skulls, piles of wood, in reality this so fascinating place is a recreational center for children with social problems who can be educated through the absorption of the cultural lifeblood of this area : the land, its products and tammurriata. Here children learn to build and play tammorra, cultivate the land with local products and breeding animals of various kinds. This is the social project of the two Neapolitan musicians gathered in the cultural assocition "Incanti”. VERSIONE IN ITALIANO - VERSIÓN EN ESPAÑOL

The sound impact that follows the song a 'Fronna' or more accurately 'fronn' and 'lemon' (lemon frond), together with the striking vision that was in front of my eyes, was devastating. The reiterated vibration of the drum makes this form of accompanied singing both hypnotic and enthralling.You do not feel the need of other sounds, even if often organs, putipù, gypsies trumpet (marranzano) and tricchebballacche enrich the song, but the singing and the drum are the two reigning elements, independent from the rest and indissolubly dependent one to the other. Of course not everyone is capable of such wonders, although according to Raffaele and Catello recently there are tammorra players everywhere, and you could think it is easy beating on a drum while singing, however, some impacts can be reached only with many years of experience, especially of traditional knowledge through the observation of previous generations and sharing with them. Without these elements, you are not doing Tammurriata, but one thing from the scratch, with no precise meaning, without an identity and very bad for the true tradition. "This is a thousand years tradition but the origin is always very clear," Catello said "and when you hear an old man singing it is not just that he can sing but he sings with the experience of all those that came before him, and this can be recognized in the richness of the sound in the performance ... when you create something new without respecting the past, all this is lost.

To live a tradition means to be able to interpret the sounds of the past and give them a consistent meaning in the present.This is why the middle class, who was born under different standards compared to the peasant society, can never play the tradition if they do not try to understand the codes that have created it.

All this can be also applied to the tammurriate dance that today got forms and codes certainly different than the past when it was not socially accepted a "provocative" physical contact between the dancers. Today these tabu have obviously disapperead, the risk is once again to create a new form of dance, free from the "purity" of the past. Only with wisdom and respect you can adjust a movement mainly related to traditional rural codes to a modern social dimension that admits new behavior without popularizing the value.
Raffaella Coppola and Maurizio Graziano Pollicino know it very well. They are the dancers I met in the past days in Campania (see photo and video below). Raffaella told me that during a party an old lady dancer of the village has proclaimed her the worthy successor.
So if you will have the opportunity to spend some time in these areas and attend a country event where they dance and play until late at night, enjoy the feast and be carried from the energy of tammurriata and the hospitality of the players , dancers, singers, but try also to understand between them who is celebrating a tradition or just venting some personal repressions through the imitation of something that did not belong to him at all. You don’t need to be ethnomusicology experts or Napolitain ... this feeling is clearly felt and comes straight to the heart, it is not explainable in words, it is simply in the vibration of the drum that is accorded to the voice and translated into movement.
text Andrea Zuin - subtitles by Anna Finotti
Thanks to: Raffaele Inserra, Catello Gargiulo, Raffaella Coppola, Maurizio Graziano Pollicino, Pietro Pisano, Marco Limato, Zi’ Giannino, Zi’ Rocco, Peppino di Febbraio, Raffaele’s wife, Iram, Fabrizio, Zeus, Dario Mogavero, Marilù Toledro, Alessandra Dell’aglio, Enzo, Domenico, Carmine Carbone and family, Giovanni Vacca.
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