La Notti Triunfanti

Michela Musolino has been internationally lauded for her unique ability to reimagine Sicilian folk and roots music, alchemized with renowned American musical genres, to mirror the history and movement of people and their musical traditions from the Old World to the New. Michela brings this perspective to the celebration of Christmas with an album of Christmas music. The Italian South meets the American South in the retelling of a timeless universal story on the album, La Notti Triunfanti, as Michela Musolino packs up her most beloved Sicilian and Southern Italian Christmas songs and relocates them to Memphis, Tennessee.

Internationally recognized Sicilian-American singer, Michela Musolino, the grand-daughter of Sicilians immigrated to America, explores her cultural roots through the study and reinterpretation of the folk songs of Sicily and Southern Italy. Having grown up listening to music from the two worlds of Italy and the USA, Michela has crisscrossed the Atlantic, returning again and again to Sicily to study, research, collect, and perform Sicilian folk music. Musolino now creates and sings melodies to bring the ancient into the modern, and allures with a voice that veers between sweetly intimate, to bold and vivacious, and at times to almost operatic. Musolino has sung in medieval castles and ancient Sicilian temples, NYC landmarks, honkey tonks and national folk festivals connecting audiences in a brotherhood of shared emotions and experiences, conveyed in the songs of her repertoire.

Michela talks about her Christmas album:

“Christmas time was filled with traditions that brought family and friends together from early December until January 6th. I have such happy memories of those times and I wanted this album to give that feeling. I recorded it not only to celebrate the culture of two worlds, but to keep rooted in the beauty and hope that Christmas brings. The message has not changed for two thousand years: there is such wonder and joy in the celebration of the birth of Christ! A lot of these songs have roots in antiquity, predating the birth of Christ, but they all revolve around that one night, the First Christmas, a night which changed the course of humanity forever.”

From traditional Sicilian Christmas sonnets infused with Beal Street swing to Neapolitan yuletide lullabies with rockabilly edge, traditions from Sicily and Southern Italy come crashing into the rich musical culture of Memphis as Musolino’s voice floats freely between the ages, interweaving both ancient and modern melodies.

“The fun part about these Christmas songs, for me, is that they all approach that night from different aspects,” reflects Musolino. “Some of the songs are from the perspective of Mary. Some are from the aspect of what would happen to St. Joseph, or what happens when the shepherds come, or when the three kings come. So they provide a kind of multi-aspect examination of that moment of Christ’s birth on that triumphant night.”

“Li Tri Re Di L’Orienti” tells the story of the three kings who came to witness Christ’s birth, with each king having a verse detailing the gifts that they brought. This song is a tradition all over Sicily, with many regions having their own unique versions of it. And “Quanno Nascette Ninno,” a beloved song from the region of Campania, relates the story from the perspective of the shepherds. This song dates back centuries and it is from the tradition when shepherds throughout Southern Italy would descend from the mountains just before Christmas every year to play music in celebration.

The Madonna is the focal point of many of the songs about the birth of Christ, a fact represented here by songs like “Canzuna Di Natali,” a Nativity song about the night of Christ’s birth that relates how, when the shepherds brought gifts to the manger, Mary gave them her blessing and told them to be of good cheer because her Son is all love. Likewise, “Diu Vi Manna L’Ambasciata” is a Sicilian song in tribute to the Blessed Virgin, focusing on Mary and the importance of her role in Jesus’ birth. The song begins with the story of the Annunciation when an angel of God appears and tells of the coming birth of her child, Christ. Says Musolino “You can trace a line from Mary back to the ancient goddesses of the region. It’s just the natural evolution of how this process of synchronization of culture worked from antiquity when you had mother-goddess traditions. Especially in Sicily with Demeter, who was the earth’s mother. And then, along comes Mary, and she fits in beautifully, especially because there’s so much respect for the mother in general in Sicilian and Italian culture.”

The songs on La Notti Triunfanti, in many ways, represent the oral transmission of these stories from a time when many people couldn’t read the Bible — yet through music, they could pass these traditions down. Along the way, the songs picked up the unique characteristics and sounds of the people and cultures that passed through the ancient hub of multi-cultural exchange that is Sicily. That mutable nature of music as it passes from culture to culture over time is something Musolino is fascinated with — and it is an element she wanted to recreate in taking these Old World Christmas songs with her to Memphis, where they were recorded and mixed at Electraphonic Recording and Sam Phillips Recording Studio.

“In recreating the songs, we tried to keep as close to the original melodies as we could while also adding in the unique rhythms and sounds that make up Memphis traditions. This is really what folk music does. It keeps evolving with everybody that sings or plays that song adding something of themselves and their unique experience to it.”

You can find out more about Michela Musolino and her music at her website, michelamusolino.com. The album, La Notti Triunfanti, is available on her website. La Notti Triunfanti and Michela’s other albums are published by Comusì, Coesione Musicale Siciliana: https://comusi.it/

Watch the official video for La Notti Triunfanti:

Andrew and Suzanne Edwards
Andrew and Suzanne Edwardshttps://www.lettersfromthemed.co.uk
In addition to freelance writing, Andy and Suzanne both work in education. Andy is also a translator who gets most enjoyment from translating literary works and Suzanne is a lecturer and linguistics graduate. They are frequent visitors to Sicily and have spent a great deal of time exploring its back roads in search of the landscapes that inspired the imaginations of many writers, both Sicilian and from overseas. Literature, art, food and society are their focus and their passion. Sicily has it all. They are the authors of the books - Sicily: A Literary Guide for Travellers, Andalucia: A Literary Guide for Travellers, His Master's Reflection: Travels with John Polidori, Lord Byron's Doctor, Ghosts of the Belle Epoque: The History of the Grand Hotel et des Palmes, Palermo and Down to the Sunless Sea: A Troubled Samuel Taylor Coleridge in the Mediterranean. Andy is the translator of Borges in Sicily and Federico De Roberto's Agony.

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