Sounds True

Music has strong powers, ranging from an uplifting of the spirit to real physical interactions in states of trance. The latter is not only an attribute of African or Haitian music. Even in parts of the old world, musical trance has been used to cure and heal. In the south of Italy, a mystical and erotic trance dance called tarantella is performed to cure people bitten by a mythical spider. This bite is not a real bite but a term used for mostly women who are called tarantate - depressed, hysterical, anguished or plain schizophrenic. These symptoms are believed to originate with a repression of sexual feelings at a young age, actual sexual abuse or simply unrequited love. The victims feel trapped as in a spider web.

One cure for these ailments is the dance, especially the trance-inducing tarantella. Mostly female musicians play the tambourine for days at a time, causing not only the dancers to enter into trance but the players as well. This tradition is continued by actress, singer, dancer, drummer and teacher Alessandra Belloni. Born in Italy and now living and working in the US, she recorded Tarantata Dance of the Ancient Spider as a result of visiting Salento in the Puglia region. There she joined an annual festival she discovered as part of a research project into the origins of the dance. At the festival, it appears she was the only female player. What's more, she managed to play all through the night, a challenge none of the men could fulfill. Upon questioned by one of the other players if there were still tarantate in the area, she was told "Why? Don't you know you are one?"

From that point forward, a now reformed Alessandra Belloni became the living advocate of curing by dance. The present CD offers 16 songs in the rich culture of the Tarantella. The main instrument is the tamburello, a tambourine of Egyptian origins. Women used to play this frame drum during rituals honoring the Moon goddess. Due to the strong beats, the lyrics should be presented by a strong voice with quite some vibrato. Belloni has such a strong voice and the powerful influences of neighbouring Islamic cultures suit her well.

What's remarkable is that voice and tambourine are recorded live while the rest of the music is added later. The lyrics are all about the woman as the mother, the madonna, the sister and other metaphors full of symbolism where men want to enter the garden, climb the mountain and the like. The singer is accompanied by John la Barbera on flamenco guitar, Steve Gorn on various flutes, Joe Deninzon on violin and Charlie Giordano on accordion. As expected with dance music, the songs are all uptempo and vary from Celtic folk styles with flutes to more Eastern-influenced styles. Thirteen songs relate to Italy while the last song is a Brazilian-inspired Indian chant. All songs give praise to the Goddess and take the listener -- or perhaps dancer? -- along a healing path into the depths of ancient trance music.