In May 2012, on the 20th anniversary of the assassination of the Sicilian anti-Mafia magistrate Giovanni Falcone and his wife Francesca Morvillo (also a magistrate), the band Ipercussonici took to the streets of Catania for a video shoot/flash mob to honor those who fought the Mafia, many of whom gave their lives. In the video, local people donned masks bearing the images of anti-Mafia heroes—Falcone; Paolo Borsellino, another murdered judge; Peppino Impastato, a bold anti-Mafia activist killed in 1978; Impastato’s mother, Felicia; Rita Atria, a witness against the Mafia who committed suicide after Borsellino’s murder; labor organizer Placido Rizzotto, and several others.
The song is “Quannu moru” (When I Die), by the revered leftist folk singer Rosa Balestreri. Ipercussonici, a quintet formed in Catania in 2002, freely adapted the song, performing it in their hybrid style that marries traditional Sicilian music with rock, reggae, blues and African and Arabic influences. An Ipercussonici song can juxtapose an electrified marranzano (Jew’s harp) and a blues harmonica; a didjeridoo and a West African balafon and a Sicilian tamburello (large tambourine). But with this smart and purposeful band, fusion never becomes confusion.
Ipercussonici has toured extensively outside Italy and Europe,playing WOMAD and other major festivals. In 2011, Greenpeace used their song “Mururoa” in an anti-nuclear power campaign.
In “Quannu moru”, the narrator tells friends not to say a Mass for her when she dies, but to instead “remember your friend”. “When I die, bring me a flower, big and red like the blood shed. When I die, sing my songs, don’t forget them. Sing them in the fields. When I die, think about me every now and then, I who for this earth, died on the cross without a voice.” Ipercussonici transforms Balestreri’s pained lament into something joyous and affirming.
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// Notes from the Road
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