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That valley in the Gargano so rich in history that must not be forgotten In the interesting book by Grazia Galante,“La vadda de Stignane” e altri canti popolari di San Marco in Lamis, complete with musical transcription and CD, witnesses give their precious evidence of an almost bygone civilization by Sergio D’Amaro
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There’s not much time left to save traditional culture and the anthropology linked to it. A world which has lasted centuries, that is melting even on the last slopes of a mountain used to landslides and rock falls, shaken as it is by the speed of today’s hyper-modern life. It’s an entire time dimension that has changed, driven by mechanics and electronics to get rid of clocks that go too slow, fatally bound up with a way of being based on the cycle of the seasons and the rural artisan microcosm of the countryside and market towns of the Italian provinces.

There should be many more initiatives to conserve and pass down the message of this past. When one of these nuggets comes to light we cannot but be happy. This holds too for the re-discovery of the rich ethnographic heritage of the little town in the Gargano called San Marco in Lamis that Grazia Galante has been working on for at least twenty years, and has now revealed in her publication ‘’La vadda de Stignane’’ e altri canti popolari di San Marco in Lamis (with a preface by Rafaele Nigro and a musical transcription by Michelangelo Martino, published by Levante, Bari, 380 pages, 25 euros). As she declares in the premise, no nostalgia in this work, no retro mythology concerning the ‘’peasant culture’’, no invitations to invert the order of the calendar by returning to a lost well-being. If all this isn’t present, then the book is a careful reconstruction, backed up by a CD containing 66 recordings by Mastering AMP Studio’s Ciro Iannacone, of a significant slice of life in a community whose culture was exclusively oral, which knew how to make song and musical communication (the serenades were accompanied by instruments) an efficacious vehicle of expression of an almost complete range of feelings, from love to scorn, from jealousy to fear and from melancholy to hope. It was an apparently closed-off world, since the males – whether grown men or boys – were forced to travel long distances to work: from the Gargano they often had to go down towards ‘Pugghja’, that is, the plain of the Tavoliere, covering many kilometers and then returning – the lucky ones on the backs of patient four-footed friends. And then there was emigration to underline the changing nature of the times, the fatal separation from ancestral horizons, the plunge into alienating modernity, which gave the repertoire of the San Marco in Lamis songs some new reference points of heartbreaking drama.

The book, carefully distributed into various sections, should really be considered a sort of narrative continuum. Each song, each fragment, offers an insight into the world of the time. We get to know a similar planet to that of Levi and De Martino, a folk universe which, despite being well grounded, is not averse to calling on magic forces when the going gets tough.

In a long lullaby we are struck by the detailed sequence of trials that the baby will have to face as it grows up, with no holds barred. And awed by finding, in verses destined to a community of illiterates, lyrical passages of obvious poetical creation, confirming the impressions that Raffaele Nigro expresses in his preface at the beginning.

Is this world really finished, filed away and fit only for museums? It would seem not, if whole cultural and tourist sectors invoke farm holidays in masserie, sing the praises of organic farming, and dedicate ever-increasing space to winning back our pact with nature. The rural world gets its own back on the technical moloch that had exterminated it and can now tell its story in song in convenient CDs. Patience has won over arrogance and the lively ninety-year-olds in one of Galante’s photos look like they are waiting for someone to come and grab the torch passed down by previous generations.

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