“The origin is the Mother, land of the geese. Maggiu cu giugnu sta fannu all’amore “. The text of the passage from Antonio Castrignanò start like this. We are at Palazzo Grimaldi, in principality of monacohe plays at the wedding reception of Beatrice Borromeo and Pierre Casiraghi. It’s summer 2015 and the bride and groom are dancing this it squeezes with all the guests: she in a long white Armani dress, he in an elegant gray suit. It would be better to take off your shoes, but this is not Salento. It’s a royal wedding. From the fields of Salento where olives are harvested for a few coins to the Monegasque court, from the kingdom of the “sun, sea and wind” to that of today’s princes and princesses, Antonio Castrignanò’s story is incredible. And it’s all male. He is the king of pizza, the magic wand is his music force: an enchantment that overcomes cultural and belonging barriers. Which comes from the barren land under his feet and from the sun that burns his face. Today the artist publishes “Babylon”, A new choral journey where the traditions of Salento intertwine melodies and rhythms from sub-Saharan Africa, Turkey and India. However, in 2017, Princess Carolina has put Ballet Montecarlo at your disposal to create, in its musical repertoire, the new creation of the choreographer Jean-Christophe Maillot “my core”. About ten replicas just in the Grimaldi Forum in Montecarlo. And even at Dubai Expo.
Tell us about the new album”Babylon“?
‘Babylon’ is the name of a new musical geography on universal themes: man’s relationship with nature, love, work, the feminine. It is made with artists of the highest level: Sona Jobarteh, Enzo Avitabile, Don Rico and Badara Seck, Mercan Dede. The title does not refer to chaos, but to Babylonian wealth: an encounter of the world’s languages, starting with dialect.
Is it also a complaint record?
It is born from the sharing of musical experiences and visions, but it is also a work of denunciation. Topics like illegal hiring and exploitation of labor in the fields are aspects present in the record, linked to my origins and unfortunately still present in the South. The actors change, but the logic remains the same. Working the land for someone else for pennies.
An album that takes you back to your Salento origins?
I never let go of my origins. That’s why I have something to say in art. My popular culture is knowledge to be shared. My mother and aunts worked in the olive harvest. My father was a worker. A few years ago, the blue bacteria, a pandemic of olive trees, desiccated the plants in Salento and many workers stayed at home. This is news, but it is also the cultural history of a territory. Full of stimuli.
Is it the taranta music that speaks to everyone?
Tarantism is a cultural tradition that must be renewed, otherwise it risks becoming material for a museum window. The traditional music of Salento in my work is always enriched with new stories and challenged. It is the sharing of knowledge that comes from other parts of the world. A magic born of differences. In my case, it’s being on the side of the minimum. It’s the dignity of the poor, shouted through the music. This is tarantism, a tradition that speaks of marginalized people finding dignity in the community through a ritual of purification.
How did you become a musician and singer?
From self-taught. I certainly didn’t study at the conservatory. My grandfather played accordion and mandolin. I started playing tambourine and from there I met key figures of the Salento culture. Starting with Luigi Stifani, the last tarant violinist.
Two singles, before ‘Babylon’they made it popular….
‘Taranta World’ is an electric reverie in pizzica, between ritual flames and contemporary sounds, ‘Masseria Boncuri’, symbolic place of the fight against illegal contracting, is a powerful string groove intertwined with percussion that draws on the sounds of the Mediterranean. To tell the reality and exploration in the fields of Salento, Puglia, the whole world. with the participation of Enzo Avitabile and international artists. Gambian singer Sona Jobarteh is the only musician to play kora, the African harp, made from pumpkin.
Instead, the sounds of “Babylon“?
They run on a common thread: Salento, African, Turkish, Balkan. They largely embrace the Mediterranean in a shuffle of cards. Mine is not a folkloric work, but one of cultural contamination. I didn’t even expect the previous album, ‘promoteswere successful in France.
Speaking of France, “Fomenta” even conquered Carolina de Monaco…
Princess Carolina, after the release of my album in France’To encourage‘, played in sounds that vary between Salento and Turkish, in short, Mediterranean cultures, she was fascinated. One day I got a call from the Principality of Monaco: ‘Would you like to play here?’
How did you react to Princess Caroline’s invitation?
I immediately thought it was the obvious result of the demolition of all borders. I accepted with enthusiasm. But I remained me. With my feet firmly planted in my Salento. I was asked to play in public and in private and in this spirit I met my musicians at Palazzo Grimaldi, at the wedding reception of Pierre Casiraghi and Beatrice Borromeo.
What’s it like to play at the Munich Fortress for royalty?
The setting is luxurious. With attention to every detail. But I noticed that the reaction to my music is the same as that of my people. In the square as in the great Monegasque hall, guests dance inspired by the visceral notes of pizzica and taranta. Princess Carolina knows the lyrics by heart and sings them. I must admit that he has a particular sensitivity to art.
I was introduced to the resident choreographer Jean-Crhistophe Maillot, with whom I worked very well. The princess made the Montecarlo company available to me with 60 wonderful elements. Watching them dance to my song to create the show ‘Core my‘ it was fantastic. We even had a dance party in 2017 at the Casino de Monte Carlo square on a mega stage. And then eleven reruns at the Grimaldi Forum that were tremendously successful. The last one is from 2021. Then, in the pavilion of the Principality of Monaco, at Dubai Expo.
Did you feel comfortable in this Monegasque experience?
I’ve never been more comfortable, pampered. Not with white gloves, but with golden gloves, I would say. The princess watched all the reruns. All the royals came to the concert in Piazza del Casino, and after the concert, Prince Albert took me aside to thank me and take a picture together. A crazy encounter. Many delicacies and a great tact. I was treated like a prince. At dinner with them after the show, I spoke proudly of my peasant origins. Nobody pointed out the differences to me. This aspect is not part of the sensibility of Carolina and the Principality. They are beyond. It’s a very bourgeois aspect in my experience.