April 2005

Alessandra Belloni
April 28, 2005Lula LoungeToronto

She could be Carmen, or Esmeralda. She could be a maiden with a tambourine dancing on the hard packed earth of India, Egypt, Sicily, Spain, New Mexico or Brazil. She is Alessandra Belloni of Southern Italy, more crone now than maid, devotee of the Black Madonna, performing songs of love and ritual purification.

Sra. Belloni chants in a strong contralto with good vibrato, while with fingers and palm she beats out on one of her five tambourines a rhythm that sounds a lot like it could be coming from a local aboriginal drum circle. One of her tambourines is so huge she sits like a goddess with the moon on her lap while she sings a lovely song from Calabria. There is a number in honour of mother earth from Sicily which Sra. Belloni plays to the accompaniment of an accordion drone; a woman’s song from Sardinia about teaching children, which she sings in two voices, one high (the child’s part), and one low (the mother’s); a chant from Uruguay about making love on the shore, a chant to the Black Madonna of Portugal.

Two of her numbers stand out. The first, a slow chant of healing power from medieval Sardinia which she sings in a high-pitched voice accompanied by her own accordion drone and the extraordinary sounds of percussionist Antonio Miranda, whose manipulations of skins, cymbals, and bells sparkled like stars in the dark night out of which her solitary voice is calling.

This was followed closely by an invocation of the Black Madonna of Montserrat which she drums to a kind of marching beat, then takes off her headband to let her hair fly as she dances. While Sr. Miranda keeps a highly detailed beat, Sra. Belloni hops and flaps her arms like a bird in a simple ritual dance, spinning clockwise and counterclockwise till she sinks to her knees in a trance, from which the drummer gently awakens her and she rises saying, ”Are we in Toronto?”

The performance was earthy and tough as old rope, impressive as the real thing, if not always amusing. Alessandra Belloni is a world-class figure in the arts. There is a lot about the scope of her activities on her site at www.alessandrabelloni.com. Kudos to Small World Music for arranging this performance.

We welcome your comments and feedback
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Report by Stanley Fefferman
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Photograph by Roger Humbert

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