TaranProject “Tarantella Nova”
In recent days I’ve been floating in the warm Mediterranean waters, contemplating life as I soak in a panorama of Etna blowing off steam and the silhouetted Aeolian volcanos on the sea’s horizon. I’m feeling a bit primordial, a bit lizard-like. So though the wheels are coming of the global financial system, I’m feeling more contemplative about our time together on Earth.
At one point during Lewis Mumford‘s massive polemic against Western civilization and technology he argues that neolithic cultures–the gold standard of ecological cultural harmony–continue to exist, though in tatters. He suggested that anytime a community still practices solstice celebrations–or something like it–it means there is a shred of ancient nature worship still intact. Indeed, this seems to be the case in many Mediterranean communities, and in Latin America as well. The survival strategy of the Roman Empire to adapt and incorporate regional cultural practices (as long as they didn’t challenge their authority) into their system carried through with the Roman Catholic Church. And as Rigoberta Menchú stated in her autobiography, indigenous Guatemalans–to survive by not giving away their secrets– practice syncretism–essentially layering over Christian religious rituals their own system of beliefs. Hence, God is the sun, Mary is Mother Earth and saints represent various nature deities.
Currently I’m spending ferragosto (a summer holiday in Italy–follow the Wikipedia link for its pagan roots) in Calabria, Italy’s impoverished southwestern province. In the town of Palmi, which overlooks the northern tip of Sicily and the Aeolian Islands, there has been an ongoing festival in celebration of San Rocco, the community’s patron saint. As an outsider, these festivities are every bit as pagan as the kind you will find in Latin American towns. Every day there are dancing puppets called giganti (“giants”) that depict an ancient myth about an African Prince, Grifano (Griffin) and a Sicilian Princess, Marta. They prance about from neighborhood to neighborhood accompanied by the continuous drilling of drums and late night fireworks that echo against the mountain like bomb blasts. In the different piazzas throughout the town there are free concerts. With daily processions, the place reverberates with noise, revelry and communal spirit.
All of this is funded by the community. You do not see corporate banners sponsoring this or that event. It has the true spirit of the commons, which belays the planetary trend in which global financiers and their cronies are privatizing and taking over as much of our communal cultural space as possible. Nontheless, this is by no means a utopian environment. The mafia are the counterforce to corporatization.
However, it was during these festivities that I experienced a bit of an epiphany. I saw in action a fully realized manifestation of ecology, culture and community coming together during a musical performance by a group called the TaranProject. Taranta–derived from tarantula–is a kind of regional folk music that makes your body shake and move continuously like a spider. There are examples of it from all over southern Italy. Much of the music is sung in regional dialect and performed with locally made instruments.
The logo, lyrics, music and spirit of the group celebrates regional identity, social justice for immigrants, advocates for laborers, and sings reverently for the land. As you can see from the logo, its music unifies land and culture. Throughout the concert audience members danced in circles and song along to various folks songs with lineages that go back generations. During the concert there was a real sense of unity and cultural pride that I have rarely experienced.
It occurred to me that this kind of folk music and art is really the true counterforce to all the negativity that we are feeling about the world right now. It is tonic that strengthens the bonds between identity and culture. It is done in the spirit of independence, healing, and respect, values that are counterweights to the atrociously amoral system of economics that is pillaging the Earth and its peoples. It is my firm belief the collectives like the TaranProject are an inspiring answer to the destructive and nihilistic force being unleashed upon Europe, the US and the rest of the world right now.
For me, this is what real ecomedia is about.