English is the dominant language in the European music market - also in the folk scene. Unfortunately, many people don't know too much about folk and roots music in other languages. There are loads of superb bands to be discovered in all over Europe, playing music in their own Native language. FolkWorld tries to introduce some of the unknown, but highly recommendable bands from all the European countries.
This time, we have 'talked virtually' (by e-mail) with a roots rock band from Italy, Ned Ludd. Their impressive debut CD (Win it in FolkWorld!) made us curious to find out more.
Ned Ludd started in 1987 as a rock trio singing in English. The group split up in 1991; and Gianluca Spirito decided to have a big break, to completely change Ned Ludd's music style towards folk music. He wanted to play in a band with more instruments ("a sort of little orchestra") and sing in Italian. Finally in 1995 the new Ned Ludd project started, with six other people; and after a demo of 4 songs produced in 1996 their debut CD was recorded this summer.
"The music of Ned Ludd", Gianluca describes, "is an attempt to create new folk music; the use of acoustic instruments and rhythms of this genre faces with our background of rock and jazz musicians and audiences. The singing style is different from the usual Italian melodic one. We want to create original folk music, so we don't have clear influences. We do not try to be similar to the folk rock groups we like (Pogues, Waterboys, Levellers)."
Gianluca explains that it is very hard to have a group in Italy and in Rome. "Rare are the places where you can play your music (usually only cover bands play). We are not a professional band, so every 7 or 8 months we change members in the band." At the moment, there are 5 musicians in the band: Franco (mandolin), Gianni (acoustic guitar) and Mauro (bass) come from the Jazz scene, Gianni (accordion) from "liscio" (an Italian folk music style "to support a particular way of dancing") and Gianluca himself from rock. "So as you can see no one of us has ever played folk music before being in this group." Tonino (drums) was the original drummer of Ned Ludd already in 1987; after joining the band in its new adventure he has just left the group.
Ned Ludd's songs are all in Italian and written by Gianluca; the texts seem to be often very political (as the Non-Italian can find out in the English translations of the songs in the booklet). Is for Gianluca the music more a vehicle to carry his political/social message; or is the music itself the most important thing?
"The texts of the song are very important because they reflect my mood and my reactions against what happens around me. I like to write about situations that will make people think about it. It's not important to agree with the text, but to think about it. Some of my friends don't agree with me, but they couldn't deny the fact that the stories I write really happen."
"Music has the same importance as the text. First of all we are musicians and not writers. Music can reach people where words can't - for example also foreign audiences, or children who dance to the music etc. We try to carry the same ideas in our music as we do in our texts. In fact we have some instrumental songs and others with very few words. Music has the task to explain songs with title but no words (Se lavora pe' vive, Tiranaria, mimmo e Walter)."
With the English translations of the songs, does he want to reach also a foreign audience? "I discovered in the internet a lot of folk groups from Sweden, Spain, Norway, Denmark, and I bought their CDs. It was easier for me to understand them with the English translation, so I did the same. It's not for a marketing reason but more to help people to understand the whole concept."
This is the right time to give a bit of background on Ned Ludd, the mythical character. The following is what we found at a Luddism homepage: "No one really knows whether Ned Ludd ever existed. But one can surely say that it was this Ned Ludd who "led" the angry and afraid workers to destroy the machines and fight for their beliefs.
The working class of England worked independently until the Industrial Revolution. Their status was better and their standards of living were acceptable. However, when machinery and factories were introduced, these people were then forced to work in horrible conditions in factories and receiving extremely low wages. This greatly affected the workers attitude.
Soon, groups of furious workers joined together and destroyed the new machinery in the factories, led by the mythical leader, Ned Ludd. These people were called "Luddites" after their leader, Ludd, and these "Luddites" would cause great damages to factories. To spread the word of Luddism and to bring fear to the factory owners, Luddites would scribble names of Luddites on the walls of the vandalized factories. This was how Luddism was born.
Even though the Luddites do not know whether Ned Ludd actually existed, they use his story as a "spiritual encouragement" to carry on their "mission"."
"Ned Ludd's audience is of mixed ages, and this is one of our aims. We are trying to reach people of different ages with our music, not out of commercial reasons but because we want to involve them in what we tell and play." This is also one of the reasons why Ned Ludd play folk music: "Even though people have never heard your songs, the sound is so familiar that they immediately begin dancing or clapping their hands. One day I was listening to our master CD of "A zero ore". My uncle and my aunt who were there began dancing, and even if they don't care about words I was really happy about that."
"We usually play in summer at open festivals (especially political party ones) and usually we play together with groups of other genres."
Although Gianluca himself is more into Celtic music than Italian folk, he doesn't think that there's a big Celtic scene in Italy. There are some pubs where you can hear folk musicians, but no many.
"I can tell about some Italian folk groups that I like:
Photo Credit: All from Ned Ludd's CD booklet
More infos on Ned Ludd and their Debut CD at Ned Ludd's homepage, e-mail Ned Ludd's Gianluca
Win Ned Ludd CDs
You can win one of two copies of Ned Ludd's excellent debut CD "a zero ore" (reviewed in FolkWorld No. 6). The CD is - if you do not win - available directly from Ned Ludd's Gianluca
Question: Ned Ludd's accordionist comes from an Italian folk music style to support a particular way of dancing. What is the name of this folk music style?
This competition is out of date, for new competitions look in the latest issue.
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© The Mollis - Editors of FolkWorld; Published 12/98
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