Italian producer, DJ, musician and cosmic traveller, Giulio Fonseca aka Gu Dugong, releases his latest LP 'Meridies' on Hyperjazz Records/La Tempesta Dischi. It's an electronic album that reinterprets the rhythmic and musical tradition of his home in Southern Italy. 'Meridies' moves between hard-hitting bass and techno tracks to soft synths travelling through psychedelic hazes and soothing cosmic jazz hues, all under a broad spectrum of world inspired beats. He takes us through the album track by track to reveal the conception and inspiration for all his tracks, the result of an investigation into traditional Apulian music inspired by his hometown, Taranto, and the phenomenon of the Tarantella.
Tarantism is deeply rooted in South Italian folklore and history between the 15th and 18th century. It was a psychological illness related to a schizophrenic state, widely believed at the time to be caused by the bite of a tarantula, scorpion or snake. Legend has it that the victim, mainly women, would fall into a fit and to achieve healing, they would be subject to a ritual where they would be driven into a state of trance, thanks to a frenzied dance called Tarantella.
Filtered through his own electronic synthesis, Go Dugong interweaves rhythmic pizzica with organs, old synthesizers, lysergic guitars and makeshift objects such as old cardboard boxes and cookware, used as side percussions to the traditional tambourine. These all become immersed in a magma of deep trance and hypnosis for the purpose of “healing”.
His research into pushing the boundaries of traditional Apulian music has allowed him to rework the musical traditions of his homeland, leading to the creation of a soundtrack for an imaginative and futuristic ensemble of peasants and farmers. He has collaborated with numerous musicians to combine traditional Apulian music with sounds and influences belonging to other Italian and Mediterranean regions.
On ‘Corna di Serpente’, multi-instrumentalist Ricky Cardelli (Funkrimini, Caportuna) brings a trance-like rhythmic flow to a track that has the same eclectic nature of contemporaries like Mark de Clive-Lowe. The flute ripples out sensationally here amongst the vast textures that create a warm embrace around the track. On ‘Mercato Nero', Ricky Cardelli's father Claudio, a musician, documentary film maker and author of several books on India, adds sitar to a kaleidoscopic soundscape of fusion with Apollo Negri adding touches on the Hammond organ.
Indian psychedelia and Italian folk come to life there whereas the tribal, future exotica of ‘Randagio’ (feat. Mai Mai Mai), inspired by abandoned parts of the south of Italy and the stray dogs that live there, is a rich collage of sounds. This is one of the heavier tracks and has the same primal energy of 'Tarantismo' which equally evokes an intensity full of passion and wildness. Italian folk legend Alfio Antico brings frenzied tambourine to the archaic ‘Esorcismo’ that continues the vibe.
Rome-based trumpet player Francesco Fratini brings a jazz influence to the warm melodies of ‘La Montagna Sacra’ - one of our favourites from the album that uses arpeggiating synths to wrap you up into the spiritual nature of the track. 'Risveglio' uplifts with the atmospheric twinkling from the synths while '13 aprile' gently builds with flutes bouncing on the percussive elements.
Having collaborated with many artists in his career including Populous, Clap! Clap!, El Buho, Témé Tan, Rafael Aragon, Miriam García and more, Go Dugong displays the meticulousness of a craftsman with his intricate patchwork of rhythms, languages, instruments, field recordings and samples from all over the world. Read on below to find out about the stories behind each track.
Sacara is how the “Cervone” (Four-lined snake) is called in Puglia, a snake that in southern Italy is the protagonist of many legends related to peasant culture. For example, it is believed that this reptile reaches a very advanced age, even secular, and that it undergoes a metamorphosis once it gets old. This consists of the appearance of a horn on the muzzle and of feathers on the top of the head.
In Cocullo (A small village in the Abruzzo region) the cervone is the protagonist during the celebrations for San Domenico (believed to be a protector from toothache, reptile bites and rabies), on this occasion the statue of the saint is carried in procession covered with snakes.
The god Pan was, in the religions of ancient Greece, a divinity with the appearance of a satyr linked to the woods and nature. He is mainly indicated as Lord of the fields and woods in the midday hour, protects the flocks and herds, the tops of the mountains are sacred to him.
The tambourine still has very ancient origins. In pre-Christian times it was used by the priests of ancient Greece in religious rites, as evidenced by the depictions found on the vases or on the walls of sumptuous Roman villas.
Goatskin was used for its construction because, in mythology, the goat acts as a link between the earthly and the otherworldly worlds. The god Pan, for example, is depicted with the head and feet of a goat, and he assumes the appearance of a goat in the part of the body closest to the sky and in the part in contact with the ground.
Corna di Serpente
It means “snake horns” and it is inspired by the figure of the "basilisk". In bestiaries and in Greek and European legends, the basilisk is a mythological creature also referred to as the "king of snakes", which is said to have the power to kill or petrify with a single direct look in the eye.
It means “exorcism”. The belief in malefics and the evil eye is quite ancestral. Southern Italy was (and in part still today) a land dripping with popular superstitions and mythologies; virgin lands and sacred lands, but of a sacred mixed with the pagan.
I wanted to imagine a new music suitable for exorcism practices in which Alfio Antico (Italian singer-songwriter, musician and theatrical actor, one of the major world interpreters of the tammorra and the frame drum), in addition to playing his drum, recites a sort of "magic formula" linked to nature and peasant life, in a strict ancient Sicilian dialect.
It means “stray”. Song in collaboration with my friend Mai Mai Mai. This track is inspired by some places where I lived in Puglia, in particular in Taranto. Barren and arid lands where stray dogs join the herd and fight to defend their territory.
La Montagna Sacra
It means “The Holy Mountain” and it is inspired by Alejandro Jodorowsky's movie and the mountain I had in front of me while I was recording and mixing this record, in an old isolated house in the Apennines. Francesco Fratini's trumpet is like goosebumps and every time I listen to it, the vision of that mountain in front of me - imposing, ancient and immortal - comes to my mind.
At the same time, "tarantism" indicates a hysterical and convulsive disease caused by phantom sting insects and poisonous animals and, more recently, a traditional "magical-religious" music therapy practice once very common in Puglia and in the regions of southern Italy. It consisted of a music and dance ceremonial used as a cure of people (very often women), affected by hysterical-compulsive phenomena.
According to popular beliefs, these manifestations were mainly attributable to the bite of a spider (taranta) or a series of poisonous animals (insects or snakes). This track would be is a more current reworking of this music that sees the club as a place to exorcise the collective hysteria caused by the hectic and working everyday life and by an increasingly uncertain future.
It means “awakening”. Song inspired by a powerful psychedelic journey and the Buddhist "awakening" understood in a spiritual sense, also translated in the West as "enlightenment".
I am a very curious person and traveling has always been one of my greatest passions. During the lockdown period, since I no longer had the possibility to travel physically, I chose to travel "inwardly", starting a path of introspection and spiritual research.
It is a song dedicated to two dear friends of mine, Stefano and Andrea, both of whom passed away years later on this cursed day. They are two people to whom I will always be grateful, who have supported and helped me a lot, they will always be in my heart and in my music.
It means “Black market”. When I was a child I lived in Taranto and one thing that remained etched in my mind of those years were the city markets. From the food market to that of junk, antiques and stolen objects. I have always been fascinated by the chaos that reigned in these places, often scenarios of muggings, quarrels, smugglers and neo-melodic music.
The Ionian Sea is a basin of the eastern Mediterranean Sea, located between Sicily, southern Italy (Puglia, Basilicata and Calabria), Albania (prefecture of Valona) and Greece (Ionian Islands). The Ionian Sea also bathes the land where I was born and raised, Taranto. Its waters are so crystal clear that some beaches there almost seem like the Caribbean. Unfortunately in the heart of the Gulf of Taranto (a portion of the Ionian Sea), the largest steel mill in Europe, formerly "Italsider", formerly "Ilva", today "Acciaierie d'Italia", long pride of Italian industry, devoured a city and its ecosystem with its poisonous fumes. The lives of women, men, children, killed by dioxins and fine dust.
Luci nel bosco
Many parts of this record were made in a period of isolation in a mountain house on the Tuscan-Emilian Apennines and not having much else to do I spent most of my time walking in the woods and reconnecting with nature and trees, under the influence of psychedelics. That period has greatly changed me for the better, I learned a lot about myself and how to deal with some aspects of my life in the healthiest way possible and to overcome past traumas.
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