By Mara Di Fuccia
The Mediterranean evokes the fluidity of constantly changing histories, people and cultures. The sea is a historical place ready to challenge modernity and progress, where sounds escape the constraints of hegemony, sail without belonging and mix with each other. If it is true that every musical style is linked to a specific geographical area, it is also true that, as a result of the interactions between different cultures, each genre has influenced and was influenced by others and the Mediterranean is an example of this.
Around the Mediterranean, music is reworked and played according to different needs. Today, for example, rebellions and uprisings in North Africa and the Middle East – from Casablanca to Cairo, from Tunis to Tehran – speak through sound, not just imitating their Euro-American inspiration, but introducing their own cultural arrangements, thus expanding the multiple trajectories of musical origins. It could be argued that the differences highlighted by official history are denied by the musical equalities that have always sailed the Mediterranean: some contributions from the Near East have been transplanted in Southern and Northern Europe.
Looking specifically at Italian groups, in 1996 the group Dounia was born: a mix of Italian and Palestinian musicians who combine acoustic sounds with sounds of popular tradition, which are expressed in a language that blends Arabic and Sicilian. The group has successfully participated in numerous national and international festivals, such as Womad 2001 in Reading in England, the 2nd World Music Festival in Belo Horizonte in Brazil and Womad 2000 in Palermo.
On the other hand, in 1997, from the artistic union between Michele Lobaccaro and the Italian-Palestinian Nabil Salamah, Radiodervish was born in Bari, alongside in their production Italian, Arabic and English with tones and rhythms of both Eastern and Western traditions. Very famous is their version of “Tu si na cosa grande” by Domenico Modugno, in which Arabic joins Neapolitan dialect.
When it comes to Italian music that blends with Arabic, one cannot fail to refer to the collaboration between Zucchero and Algerian singer Cheb Mami for the single “Così Celeste” in which the Arabic vocalizations do justice to the sweet melody of this global hit.
In a world where “this” is opposed to “that”, writing is a way of leaving a trace of equality. Music points elsewhere, beyond the margins of its presumed cultural position and constitutes one of the languages that records our stories: exploring it involves questioning our culture and our identity. Musical traditions that bond different cultures make it clear that the Mediterranean of the “other” is not that far from “ours”.