fROOTS – Vic Smith – 02/2017

Nisia are the combination of the Belgian Vincent Noiret and the Sicilian Emanuela Lodato.

She is the singer and percussionist, he plays double bass and the chitarra battente, the southern Italian ten-string folk adaptation of the baroque guitar. They released an excellent debut album, Eridita (well received in these pages in 2014), and this second album continues in the same vein, concentrating on the vibrant Sicilian tradition spiced with new compositions. The English translations in the booklet tell us that we are in familiar European folk song territory with songs of work, of seafaring and of love, along with some tender serenades. Fine though their debut was, this album shows considerable development.

The truly fascinating aspect of Nisia is the mesmeric voice of Emanuela, at times compelling, at others sad and pleading, at others full of vivacity. The careful programming of the tracks brings out these contrasts.

Their accompaniments are always appropriate and Emanuela’s skilled use of a variety of traditional percussion shows us that she is much more than just the singer. They use other musicians sparingly but very effectively. Two more Sicilians clearly know their way around this music and each is a considerable asset. They are accordeonist Virginia Maiorana and Antonio Putzu who plays flute and the southern Italian bagpipes, the zampogna. Tunisian singer Ghalia Benalia sings alongside Emanuela, too, a reflection of the outward-looking attitude of Sicily arising from its position at the crossroads of the Mediterranean, with a history of traders, invaders, migrants and other settlers.

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