ACE in Italy - Repatriations and a Presentation

February 28, 2022 | by

Association for Cultural Equity President Anna Lomax Wood, Managing Director Kiki Smith-Archiapatti, and Research Associate Stella Silbert traveled to Italy in December 2021 to participate in a conference presented by the Fondazione Ignazio Buttitta and the Folkstudio di Palermo, celebrating the 50th anniversary of the Folkstudio. The theme of the conference was “music of oral tradition in the era of digital conversion,” and ACE was invited to present on the Global Jukebox, our interactive online database of performing arts and culture, whose data has been recently cleaned, validated, and released for public download. Prior to the conference in Palermo, the ACE team visited two sites in Calabria, accompanied by board member Robert Baron.

The first stop was Cinquefrondi, a village in Calabria where Alan Lomax collected 135 photographs and 19 recordings in August 1954, during his field trip through Italy with Diego Carpitella. ACE repatriated this documentation to the people of Cinquefrondi in April 2011, and it has been held at the Mediateca Comunale “Pasquale Creazzo” ever since. While Anna attended the original 2011 celebration via Skype, December’s trip was ACE’s first in-person visit. Calabrian musician and scholar Danilo Gatto organized an exhibition of the photos at Cinquefrondi’s town hall, accompanied by a panel discussion in which Danilo, Anna, Robert, and several representatives from Cinquefrondi spoke and played examples of the Lomax recordings, including the iconic “Ninna Nanna.” The event was well-attended, and many local people spoke passionately about the 1954 documentation. Many of the photos documented a procession from the 1954 Fête de Juillet celebration, which featured two giant puppets, a man and a woman. Municipal Councilor Salvatore Colloridi gave the ACE team a tour of the historical and archeological heritage office, where the original puppets reside. 

Following the exhibition in Cinquefrondi, the group traveled roughly 120 km north to the mountain town of Conflenti, where they were hosted by a local group of musicians and instrument-makers whom Anna had met in Vibo Valentia a few months prior. There, Anna visited an elder shepherd and traditional bagpipe-maker in Serrastretta, who had originally been recorded by Alan in 1954, while the rest of the group attended a lively party in town, where they were served wine from nearby vines and pasta e fagioli from a communal pot as local musicians sang, played and danced around a bonfire to celebrate the Festa dell'Immacolata.

The trip culminated with the three-day conference, held December 9-11 at the Museo Internazionale delle Marionette Antonio Pasqualino in Palermo. ACE opened the afternoon session of the conference’s final day with a panel entitled, “The ‘other music’ online: genesis, structure and feedback of the Global Jukebox Project.” Anna began the panel by introducing the Global Jukebox, its history, goals, and outcomes. After a tour of the website led by Kiki, Stella presented on the Global Jukebox data and led the audience through a participatory singing exercise using Bessie Jones’ song “Sometimes.” Odysseus Chairetakis then joined via Zoom to present on the Global Jukebox Journeys. The panel concluded with Kiki’s presentation on the Jukebox’s educational resources. The presentation was well-received, and video of it can be viewed on the Fondazione Ignazio Buttitta’s facebook page. Other presenters at the conference included Giorgio Adamo and Sergio Bonanzinga, founding members of the Centro Studi Alan Lomax in Palermo, and Simona d’Agostino, who presented on the Sicilian dance music recorded by Alan Lomax and Diego Carpitella. Also in attendance was Elsa Guggino, renowned Sicilian ethnomusicologist and Folkstudio founder, who offered kind words in response to ACE’s presentation.