FolkWorld #74 03/2021
© Pío Fernández

Cultural Anthropologist

Matilde Politi

Artist Video Matilde Politi @ FROG

Matilde Politi is the singer—songwriter from Sicily, the cultural anthropologist who has matured her experience on theater and music since 1992, and she has researched in vocal folk music from North American, Spain, Sicily, and the Mediterranean in the broad sense. She is considered one of the most representative female performers of Sicilian folk music.

Born in Palermo, Matilde Politi graduated in Cultural Antropology at La Sapienza University in Roma, and got a diploma in Performing Arts in C.S.R.T of Pontedera, Pisa. Her work in the folklore of her native island aims to recover traditional sounds and praxis; it is also important to give new life to an expiring musical landscape, by creating new compositions, always linking Sicilian roots with Mediterranean ones, in order to map out the historical connections and influences, but mostly to draw in music the mixture of cultures that springs from nowadays multi-ethnic Sicilian society.

Matilde Politi

Matilde Politi "Viva Santa Liberata", Felmay, 2019

She worked in the Theatre as actress, singer, musician, musical trainer, musical consultant. Voice is her best and favorite performing instrument, but she also plays instruments like guitar, accordion and drums to accompany the emotional and concrete power of singing. The musical research is always alive, especially through travels in Africa and across Mediterranean area in search of others culture’s musical skills. Since 2000 she focused on Sicilian traditional music, bringing forth the research on popular music and Mediterranean roots.

In this last album ‘Viva Santa Liberata’, Matilde compiles sixteen songs from the Sicilian tradition, or inspired by it, like the first one, ‘La Cuda Qualchi Vota Si Fa Testa’, a protest song written in 1967 by Francesco Ciccio Giuffrida & Giovanni Famoso. Others come back from centuries ago to tell us stories about war in central Europe, like ‘Di Ginuveffa e li so’ Patimenti’, or ‘Nta Viddi e Vaddi’, a traditional Sicilian story about a love in search of his beloved Agatuzza, kidnapped by Turkish pirates in the seventeenth century.

The traditional songs referring to Ginuveffa, Genevieve of Brabant, are recurrent in the album and in the Sicilian tradition apparently. In fact, this legendary character was based on Marie of Brabant (13th century), wife of Louis II, Duke of Bavaria and Count Palatine of the Rhine. Genovefa of Brabant was said to be the wife of the palatine Siegfried of Treves, and was falsely accused by the majordomo Golo. The tune ‘Mi Nni Vaju, Ginuveffa, Addiu Me’ Ciatu’, talks about her troubles when Prince Sigfried goes to war, and she is left alone with his superintendent Golo. ‘Ginuveffa Accupata a Chidd’ura’, is a narrative song about Genoveffas’s reading Siffrido’s letter about the sufferings of war. There are three more songs on this character.

Other tunes belong to the repertoire of traditional sulfur mining workers: ‘Gruttisa#1 & #2’, or are love songs like ‘Lidia’. ‘Viva la Libirta’ is a tune from the Risorgimento, urging to war and singing the praises of freedom. In all sixteen songs, Matilde's powerful and melismatic voice laid the foundations for all these stories that are in the collective memory of local traditions and their Sicilian owners. The artists in ‘Viva Santa Liberata’ are: Matilde Politi (vocals, guitar, tambourine), Simona Di Gregorio (vocals, accordion, tambourine), Alessandro Puglia (violin, mandola), Sebastian Torres (guitar), Gabriele Politi (mandolin), Martino Passani (Jew’s harp).

Photo Credits: (1)-(2) Matilde Politi (unknown/website).

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