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Culla E Tempesta
Zero Nove Nove
Review by Lisa Sahulka


Now I will do nothing but listen,
To accrue what I hear into this song, to let sounds contribute toward it.
I hear bravuras of birds, bustle of growing wheat, gossip of flames, clack of sticks cooking my meals,
I hear the sound I love, the sound of the human voice,
I hear all sounds running together, combined, fused or following.
- Walt Whitman

cd cover Acapella singing is the poetry of sound at its purest form. It is naked. It is mostly unencumbered by the accessories of instruments and the digital accouterments that are an industry necessity for modern music. And yet, this undressed music can sound like an orchestra in the right hands.

The road to acapella music can take many forms, classical, African, modern choirs - think Arvo Part, Zap Mama, Ladysmith Black Mambazo and the Le Mystère des Voix Bulgares. These groups among many others have a degree of impact precisely because they are stripped down and still have the ability to so move the listener. Sweet Honey in the Rock, who popularized West African polyphonic music in the US, brought the call and response political song to a wide audience.

cd cover Faraualla is an Italian female vocal quartet from Apulia, Italy, formed in 1995. Their music is ethereal at times but also has the vocal rat-a-tat-tat sound that creates urgency and rhythm. The current members are Gabriella Schiavone, Teresa Vallarella, Maristella Schiavone and Loredana Savino, who primarily sing a mixture of European folk, and showcasing their roots in Southern Italy, with a blend of Apulia (Puglia), Corsica and Bulgaria, all brimming with the vibrance of ancient music. They are joined on many tracks by a roster of guest percussionists.

It has been noted that their music reaches into places that make it particularly beautiful and consistently engrossing - renaissance polyphony, neo avant-garde, Ars Nova, Pop, folk and jazz. On the avant-garde side, one can hear Meridith Monk or Ursula Dudziak in their music and drops of Bobby McFerrin which make this potion alluring and difficult to satiate.

To that end, it is surprising that their music has not gained more international attention. Their first album, Faraualla was released in 1999. They recorded them in places like Bari and Pisa, Italy, but their roots in history - in Puglia, are in essence the base of a much higher mountain that is innovative and yet rooted in their heritage. Part of the secret to their depth is the layers of sound they create by using multiple vocal lines sung simultaneously, which draws the listener into this buzzing hive of voices.

They derive the name of the group in part from mysterious topography in a region of Puglia that has inspired folk tales of witches, ghosts and fairies. The Grave of Faraualla, a sinkhole and underground caves that are carved into the landscape, create a deep cavity that forms a mysterious island in Murgia. The local mythology has it that anything that falls into the grave eventually finds its way to the sea. The land expresses the depth of the music in the way that the chorus’ in MacBeth and Medea create a greater depth to these plays.

Culla and Tempesta (“Cradle and Storm”) speaks to our transgressions against nature and the impact it has on sea life and on our children who will suffer the consequences. “In Fondo Al Mar” or “At the Bottom of the Sea” begins with a warning to Ariel of Disney’s The Little Mermaid to stay at the bottom of the sea because the human world is a mess. In this version, they sing, “My neighbor's algae are no longer green, you know, you people there on earth never think about us. If you then looked around you would see that our sea of cigarette butts, bags and bottles…” It starts with a bubbly opening and bounces alone as an up tempo song listing our abuse of our oceans.


“Canto delle Sirene'' is a lovely, ethereal piece that has a liturgical quality to it. “Inno alla Desolata” by Domenico and Vitaliano lannuzzi with arrangements by Schiavone is a devotional song for the Holy Saturday in Canosa di Puglia.


The title cut, “Culla e Tempesta” is absolutely stunning. It that starts as a lullaby and continues into a full throated Yakut howl. The music comes from the Turkic ethnic group native to North Siberia in the Russian Federation. Faraualla glides through this beautiful music with a whoosh of rushing sounds over their voices. It is the album’s showstopper.

"Useppe" is based on the 1974 novel La Storia by Elsa Morante. It chronicles the aftermath of World War II and the opposition to Nazi-fascism. Faraualla creates a beat for this tune with voices that rise above it in a lovely chant.


In a different vein, “Troglos,” written by Schiavone is the closest to Ursula Dudziak and Meredith Monk’s style that takes parts of Vivaldi’s La Follia with laughter and repeated “la la” lyrics and turns it into an infectious rollicking piece.

And there are surprises, like “Hell Broke Luce” by Tom Waits. It is completely in place here.

I had a good home but I left
I had a good home but I left, right, left
That big fucking bomb made me deaf, deaf
A Humvee mechanic put his Kevlar on wrong
I guarantee you'll meet up with a suicide bomb
Hell broke luce


It is a tribute to Faraualla that this tune fits in perfectly with this album and that their sensibility is this broad, this modern and this funky.

What did you do before the war?
I was a chef, I was a chef
What was your name?
It was Geoff, Geoff
I lost my buddy and I wept, wept
I come down from the meth
So I slept, slept
I had a good home but I left, left

They also cover the Daddy Yankee tune “Gasolina,” a reggaeton hit that was an international sensation. It has a simple message which appears to be about gasoline consumption but has other more tawdry interpretations as well. The group covers this piece over vocals that mimic emergency sirens “me me me me oh ho.”

On so many levels, this album is a joy to discover.

Find the artist online.

cd cover
Culla e Tempesta is our selection for Music of the Month in May, 2024.
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