The Taranta & Pizzica dance

The "pizzica tarantata" is the music that marked the ancient healing ritual against the bite of tarantula, the dangerous poisonous spider.
According to tradition in order to drive out the demon thought to have taken possession of the victim, generally a woman, tambourines should be beaten incessantly.

The dizzily rhythmic sound of the tambourine combined with a frenzied hypnotic dance healed of the poison. 

The ritual exorcism could happen at the church, in the public square of the town or at home and often other women and men danced with the bitten girl. It was said, at the end of the exorcism,that the girl had been pardoned by St.Paul

The Taranta dance: (Spider dance) usually consisted of three phases: first the woman crawled and clapped her hands and feet following the tambourines' rhythm, then she have herself up and while jumping and dancing she drawned wide figures in the air with a coloured foulard she had in her hands; at last she began to reel till she collapsed.
Pizzicarella dance - The Pizzica do' Core (pinch from the heart) or courtship dance expresses the feelings of love, eroticism and passion in the courtship between a man and a woman: a woman dancing to the frenzied rhythm of tambourines and violins, waving a red scarf, the color of passion, and doing so inviting the man she likes the most to dance with her.

Tired of this new dancing partner, she invites another and yet another at her will. A the end of the dance she will give the red scarf to the man who steals her heart.

Now days behind the taranta's possession it sees the effect of a very strong will of redemption and deliverance and, possibly, even of an exhibition of the subordinate role of the women.


Another type of “pizzica” is the “dance of the swords” also called “pizzica a scherma”. A man-to-man dance.
First of all a circular space for the dance is marked, a symbolic evocation of a tribal territory, which was to be conquered and defended. 

The dancing steps follow a ritual. The pair formed under the command of the master start dancing for the possession of the circle.
The contestants are arranged around the circumference and, looking at each other, try to imitate steps.

The purpose is to push the 
opponent to the center of the circle.The movements of the upper and lower body, ideally divided into two at the waist, the legs frantically increase speed, while the trunk is mostly static, just swaying.

Sometimes a finger is 
pointed upwards in defiance. Other times dancers try to impress and confuse the partner with a "soprapasso" (overstep), a difficult dance step made crossing feet and hitting the ground with one foot outside the other alternately.

When one of the contenders wins the rim, he begins the "passo 'ill'adornu", that is an imitation of a falcon's flight over its prey: the dancer follows a spiraling route driving the opponent toward the center. If the latter is defeated he goes to the center, slowing the pace of steps and lowering the arms, and is replaced. 

...But sometimes he is not yet ready to surrender and tries to stop the adversary with a "tagghiapassu" (cutting the way-cut him out). 
At this point the "schermiata" (the dance of the sword, duel) begins, with the right hand fingers mimicking a knife and the left hand lower, to block any blows. 
In the past this dance could become dangerous for the use of sticks by the dancers. (This was a ritual very dear to local organized criminal  groups  and was usually choreographed to "send a message" to opponents, and more then often "things" did happen right during the dance...)
Officina Zoe was formed in the early 1990s by Lamberto Probo, Donatello Pisanello and Cinzia Marzo helping fueling the revival of the Pizzica-Pizzica.
Today Officina Zoe is one of the most popular expression of the Pizzica and Taranta  also thanks  to  the film director  Edoardo Winspeare's successful movies "Sangue Vivo"(Fresh blood) and "Il Miracolo"(The miracle ") featuring Probo as an actor as well as Pisanello and Marzo as soundtracks writers.

Their soundtrack won them the prestigious award of Grolla d'Oro at the Saint Vincent Festival as well as the nomination at Nastro Argento. 
Two different places in the world both located in the South, in the same vein linked by ancient traditions founded on human artistic forms, the simplest and therefore the deepest.

Klezmer band from Palermo (Sicily - Italy) performing "Opa Cupa": klezmer, balkan music, manouche, italian world music, musica balcanica.
Below: Another Italian folk group is the Gipsy Acquaragia Drom from Rome, known  for its driving rhythms, passionate melodies and entertaining performances.

Below: Domo Emigrantes Traditional Italian Folk Ethno Music Band. The group is born in Lodi, a small city near Milan, in 2009. The repertoire includes folk songs from Sicilia, Puglia, Campania, Calabria and folk dances like tarantella, pizzica, tammurriata.
Below: Ghetonia (Griko: Γειτονία, neighborhood) is a cultural group based in  Calimera, Grecìa Salentina (Puglia). It is dedicated in preserving the music, poetry, language and folklore of the Griko-speaking people of Salento.
Over the past years, Ghetonia has displayed some exceptional work in documenting the various aspects of the Grecìa Salentina traditional life, history, language and folklore, and has made numerous publications on these subject.

Below: The historic group of Tamburellisti Torrepaduli was born in 1989, thanks to the encounter with the ethnomusicologist Pierpaolo De Giorgi and teacher of tambourine (who died a few years ago) Amedeo De Rosa.
The group has contributed significantly to the revival of the oldest form of tarantella, namely the "Pizzica Pizzica". Due to their constant commitment to this ancient music is experiencing a second youth.
Their performance is not limited to only Salento, they also have performed in North America and Asia and wherever there is the desire to dance.


Below : The group Mattanza (Slaughter) was born in 1997 from project  by Mimmo Martino and some old friends with the aim of giving new life to the musical tradition of Calabria.
It is no coincidence, in fact, that their concerts are closed forever with the phrase: "A people without history is like a tree without roots: it is destined to die!"


Below: The group Tarantolati di Tricarico was founded in 1975 by Giancarlo Cesaroni.
The band promotes the study of values and disseminates musical, literary and theatrical culture from the areas of Tricarico and popular traditions from Southern Italy. 
"This music comes from our souls and our land and we continue to narrate it with irony and allegory."

Below : Daniele Sepe (born April 17, 1960 in Naples) is  known internationally for interpreting protest songs from around the world.
The Night of the Taranta - La Notte della Taranta
From the people  for the people
The process of social and cultural development in the Salento have eliminated the phenomenon of tarantismo, which has recently come back into fashion in a new form and with a new spirit, to the point that some scholars are now talking of  "neo-tarantismo".
In Melpignano, a small town in the province of Lecce, every year since 1998, in a night of August, a musical event known as La Notte della Taranta, has been held.
The event takes place in a large open space in front of the evocative architectural complex of the Church del Carmine and the Convento degli Agostiniani monastery, which dates back to the 16th century and forms the backdrop to the event.

The festival is associated with the concept of neo-tarantismo, which is also linked to a desire to get away from the boring and stultifying rhythms of everyday life in the modern world (how ironic).
"Neo-tarantismo" has quite different connotation to the music and dances of tarantismo in its traditional form, which lasted until the middle of the 20th century.

The musical event  was born from a desire to innovate and contaminate the traditional music of the Salento, experimenting with new sounds and the traditional music of other popular cultures.

The Pizzica is the sort of music you can feel in the very dirt of the place.
Like the blues of the Mississippi delta, the musical form baked under the cruel sun of this extreme southeastern limb of Italy took root in the fields. 
It was a tautly-wound, fiercely upbeat musical release valve from the inescapable pressures of a life of hard work, under a rigid social system.
La Notte della Taranta festival is drawing hundreds of thousand to the town of Melpignano, in the province of Lecce or Grecia Salentina, a meeting between order and disorder, chaos and rigidity, in an emotional vortex that travels on the rails of minimalism and repetition.

The festival starts in July with sporadic concerts thought the province and nearby ones in which perform the major bands of Salentine traditional panorama.
It starts getting momentum in August with different concerts taking place at the same time in the nearby towns and then all the musicians and public pour into the sixteenth century Piazza S. Giorgio of Melpignano for the final Night of the Taranta concert.
The event is now being 'exported' to other regions with Calabria taking the lead.
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