Southern Italy has always produced many talented musicians, inspired by the traditions that come from the territory: from the tarantella to tamurriate or pizziche, from band concerts to religious festivals, and up to operatic and melodic traditions.
However, in recent decades, in this part of the Italian boot so marginalised for political and geographical reasons from the rest of the European continent, new musical trends have developed and crossed the borders, leaving folklore to conquer a large local and international audience.
Through our documentary we would like to tell the story of one of the most original protagonists of this southern new wave: Cesare Dell’Anna. Starting from those regional sounds and focusing on cultural contaminations, and particularly expressing himself live, in public places, he managed to make himself well-known and appreciated worldwide, even though he never got into the big business of mainstream music.
Our documentary starts from the character and his music to also tell the story of his fascinating homeland.
The docufilm project The Touring Band originates from an idea by Cesare Dell’Anna, whose musical work we have been following for several years, and is inspired by one of his musical tours which has the same name – The Touring Band.
The occasion arose from the filming of a documentary for the RAI 3’s programme GEO on the city of Lecce. We then had the idea of linking the valorisation of the territory to a tour that could also tell the story of the human side, the “behind the scenes” of a musical venture of such magnitude.
Gradually, the context of an impressive production machine emerged, involving about fifty among musicians, circus performers, and technicians. To these people, all those who set lights and carousels, and those who take care of the catering and accommodation, need to be added.
Above all, we focus on the bond between Cesare Dell’Anna and his father Vincenzo, also bandmaster: because through this relationship, tender yet conflicting, we aim to tell the relationship between generations, the transition from tradition to experimentation and contemporary music, which is the thread of Cesare Dell’Anna’s artistic experience.
A tornado wanders around Puglia: is Cesare Dell’Anna.
In our project, this multifaceted and enthusiastic musician from Salento, together with his father Vincenzo, will be the bandmaster of a magical itinerary which will cross the most spectacular corners of his homeland, moving from square to square, between the shining lighting and the whirlwind of a carousel gone crazy, in a circus atmosphere that connects tradition to experimentation and unites all generations under the creative fire of music.
In the most important square of Lecce, the Baroque capital of Salento, there is great anticipation for a concert linked to the patron saint’s festival, Sant’Oronzo, the opening event of a tour that will last the whole month: at least ten thousands people are expected to attend.
The musician that everyone wants to listen to is Cesare Dell’Anna, a figure a bit out of the ordinary.
Cesare, who was born from a very humble family and grew up in Surbo, a little town near Lecce, learnt to play the trumpet in the town’s band, directed by his father Vincenzo.
Before retiring, Vincenzo worked as a stone quarrier, breaking his back to support his family. When Cesare began to distance himself from the band, when he was young, and later when he came back with flights of fancy, they fought like crazy.
Then little by little, Vincenzo’s son demonstrated that his choice was successful, he began to fill the squares where he performed, and even persuaded his most traditionalist colleagues. Like Nino Ippolito, who when listening to his distorted Lingonziana (a historical theme of the Salento repertoire) had to admit he quite liked Cesare’s version. Equally, Cesare’s dad Vincenzo got closer, and little by little joined the band.
The success of Cesare’s pieces has been so overwhelming that in recent years he has almost become a star. And he became one partly because he is an original person, full of energy and creative, partly because he is a true musician, who studied at the conservatory and who played, in his career, with renowned Italian and international musicians.
But above all because he understood that the music of towns’ bands and the music of the local tradition, such as the pizzica and the taranta, could mix with other musical suggestions arriving in Puglia, even through immigration, from different parts of the world: from the sounds of the Balkans to the ethnic African themes, from Middle Eastern harmonies to international jazz.
Cesare’s music is a very successful mixture of these powerful and dynamic rhythms, which represent the whole South, all the Souths of the world. It is characterised by contamination.
From Cesare Dell’Anna and his group of 30 musicians (among whom his dad Vincenzo, who now plays percussion), jugglers and fire eaters, a unique musical experience is born, which highlights a passion for the world of bands, with humility and respect for the classic repertoire, together with hazardous experimentation.
A research that mixes and translates the cultural and musical experience of the people from the South: of all the Souths of the world.
The Touring Band is the band that renews itself and, maintaining its melodic and emotional memory, lets itself be contaminated by the sea and the Earth, from cultures and styles.
But Dell’Anna’s shows are not only the result of this fusion between musical cultures. They are also opportunities for many musicians to meet, each one with their own character, led by an orchestra director who acts a bit like a clown, who with his magnetic presence drags the people like a Pied Piper, making them follow him in procession around the city until they arrive to the square.
A very successful mix between a town’s festival, a musical event, and a circus.
The circus in another strong aspect of Cesare’s show: a fire eater, a man dancing on stilts, a juggler and many other attractions anticipate the band and excite the crazy crowd.
Because going crazy is one of the words often repeated by the maestro Dell’Anna, who always manages to keep together the control of musical technique with the madness of excess and playfulness.
Our story will begin at the preparation of the shows, with the set-up of field kitchens and the beds for all those who work there. Musicians, carousel workers, lights technicians, who also act as cooks, cleaners, and waiters…
They will all go around together, like gipsies and like relatives, sharing caravans, lunch baskets to eat on the road or food cooked using a field kitchen. They will always go around together with other two large families of wanderers.
The first is the Parisi family of Taurisano, artists of lights from several generations. Their lighting illuminates all the village festivals of Salento, but nowadays they get called even further north, outside the region. Because with their little lights they also build majestic architectures, from the Rialto Bridge to the Milan Cathedral, from the Colosseum to the Eiffel Tower. But here they particularly respect the traditions of the patron saint’s festival, still using their crazy and creative style, at the limits of kitsch and exaggeration, but always with results of great amazement.
And this is what the Parisi manage to create, around their soundboards, a sort of large gazebos of lights where the band plays, or with bridges, galleries, illuminated scenery flats and garlands of thousands of lights. To allow the festival to enjoy the wonder of this firmament of lights, the lighting companies plan the patron saint’s festivals months in advance, taking care of every detail.
With the same advance planning with which the lighting companies deal with the set-ups, so another family organises a no less important part of the patron celebrations: carousels.
The Marisco family of San Cesario, committed from generations to entertain entire families with the filibuster carousel, the bumper cars and the “tagadà”, a sort of huge tambourine that rotates swinging back and forth, one of the most famous carousels.
The latter will give the name of the new tour narrated in The Touring Band. The last stop of this tour is the greatest and most spectacular Carnival of Puglia: that of Putignano. And it is here that all these souls, arts, professionalisms, families and irreducible dreamers meet for the first time, all in the same square, at the same festival, together with the master papier-mache artisans from Lecce such as the Donfrancescos, who will transform the two tagadas placed at the sides of the soundboard into two huge tambourines (including the rattles), which will host singers and audience, soloists and carousel lovers: all together in a Dionysian, visionary, crazy festival.
The tradition of the Band, handed down from generation to generation, is perhaps among the most deeply rooted in Puglia and, after all, throughout Southern Italy. Between matinees, processions, and evening concerts, the band players spend the whole day playing, with the dedication of a centenary passion, but also chasing the desire and need for change that the new generations look for.
We will also try to understand what the discovery of music was like for young Cesare, what worries led him to dedicate himself body and soul, what emptiness did he try to fill.
Because this musician, like several of his colleagues, has a restless character, always on the move, but also not very tolerant when things do not go as he would like them to.
Sometimes, perhaps because of a little imperfection during rehearsals, he happens to get mad at his musicians and shower them with insults. Since most of them know his temper, it is unlikely they will feel offended. But it may happen that a newcomer does not take it well.
The tour often has difficult moments, also and especially in the relationship between Cesare and Vincenzo. Because even though there is a very strong bong between father and son, and Cesare always has the feeling that any show could be the last with him, the old disagreements and different mentalities are constant reasons of tensions.
It is therefore very likely that during our filming a concert is at risk of getting cancelled.
In the microcosmos of an itinerant band, if a gear comes off, everything else might go off, and even a commercial machine with so many employees cannot afford to cancel an appointment.
This is the tension that is often felt in the music business: giving up, getting ill, pulling back is not allowed.
But there are also constant euphoric moments, where Cesare feels like he achieved all he always wanted in life: being able to play his music, enjoy family affections, and also have great support from the people.
For him, who was born in a poor family, in a small town in the South, and who suffered a lot of rejections, it is definitely a successful story.
But, as we all know, success is an ephemeral joy.
And Cesare would not be Cesare if he did not leave a part of his success to chance.
Surprise is the key of his music, improvising the sea in which he swims like a fish.
The tour will highly depend on the season when the filming will take place: during summer in Salento, which culminates in the saint patron’s festival of Sant’Oronzo in Lecce, or in winter in Murge, which has his peak in the Putignano Carnival – two benchmark dates.
But the itinerant joy of Cesare Dell’Anna’s band always has a place where it can express itself in all seasons. Puglia offers tens of natural stages, historical towns and squares that always get crowded at the passing of the acrobats of The Touring Band.
It is in this extraordinary energy linked to tradition that lies the uniqueness of this project that fascinated us: something that we think could infect the audience at any latitude, leaving a mark difficult to erase.
Cesare Dell’Anna biography
Refined author and exceptional performer, Cesare Dell’Anna rightly belongs to the category of the masters of Italian music.
Virtuous trumpet player, born in a family of band musicians for generations, aged seven he was already playing the trumpet in the Complessi Bandistici Pugliesi, a historic band in the musical tradition of Southern Italy. At seventeen, he graduated from the Lecce State Music Conservatory and subsequently perfected his education at the Pescara Music Academy.
His classic education allows him to collaborate regularly with the lyric-symphonic orchestra of the province of Lecce, and with other chamber music orchestras, and ensembles of Baroque, Renaissance, contemporary, and jazz music.
He alternates his classical music work with a continuous work of jazz experimentation and technical-harmonic research in the field of electronic and popular music, paying particular attention to the Balkan area, and carrying out an intense concert activity in Italy and Europe.
In 1996, together with other artists (painters, sculptors, and musicians), he created the Albania Hotel house/workshop in the Salento countryside, of which he is the artistic producer. A self-managed place for meetings and productions, which pursues the aim of valorising and conveying art in all its expressions of multiculturalism.
in 2006, he founded the label 11/8 Record, with the aim of promoting and producing musical projects of particular artistic value, always consistent with the idea of facilitating the dissemination of music and art, opening the spaces and breaking boundaries.
The constant research and fusion of the musical content of the Salento popular tradition with the sounds coming from the whole Mediterranean area led Cesare Dell’Anna’s poetics towards the creation of a single thin musical line made of improvisations, band arrangements, and jazz experimentation. The ability to break schemes, getting free from barriers and conventions, the energy always to the point of catching fire.
“Opa Cupa” is an explosive band, an artistic project characterised by the mixture of the Balkan musical repertoire, jazz, and the typical sounds of the Italian south. Productions that are not limited to the classic hummus of jazz but works that evolve in an experimental attitude towards the whole field of Mediterranean culture and music.
Among the latest initiatives are worth mentioning, in particular: the music classes in the maximum-security jails of Prato (Toscana), Hunt Verpem in Belgium, and Lecce’s prison in 2015. Free music classes have also been offered to children from poor families and disabled children.
Cesare daily activity sees him constantly busy in his work as arranger, composer, and discographic producer of pieces with international artists, with a particular eye to emerging realities from Salento.
He participates at the realisation of festivals and music festivals as Artistic Director and creator. He is currently in charge of the artistic direction of the new Casa della Musica “Livello UndiciOttavi, a project in collaboration with the Puglia Region, Department of youth policies; the Casa della Musica is a multifunctional container dedicated to artistic research and experimentation, capable of hosting live shows, major events, courses, stages, performances, installations, and artistic workshops also thanks to the of equipped rehearsal rooms, recording and production studios.
At the same time, he works as artistic director of events and festivals, personally organising the shows of: Public Enemy (USA, only date in Italy), Caparezza, Lecce European Film Festival, Uri Caine (USA), Neffa, Raphael Gualazzi, Afterhours, Enrico Rava 5tet, Gianluca Petrella in various formations, Paolo Fresu, Locomotive Jazz Festival (with Gaetano Curreri of Stadio, Paolo Fresu and Giuliano Sangiorgi of Negramaro as special guest), Fabri Fibra, Area, Claudio Santamaria & Jazz All Stars, Samuel & Boosta (Subsonica), Daniele Silvestri, Afrika Bambataa (USA), Gogol Bordello (USA), Busta Rhymes (USA), Simona Molinari, Goblin, Dean Bowman, Sizzla (JAM), Don Letts (UK), The Zen Circus, Capleton (JAM), Peetah Morgan (JAM), Mr. Lexx (JAM), Dj Falcon (USA, Daft Punk) and many others.
Among the more than 300 works deposited at the SIAE, only a few of the albums he produced are mentioned.
In 2015, 11-8 Records released two new record productions, “Baluardo” by Opa Cupa and “Dove dove” by Takabum, a Calabrian street band. The new Opa Cupa album gained immediate popularity with the public and was previewed at the Auditori in Barcelona (Spain).
In 2014, Cesare made a special concert with the participation of Enzo Avitabile, whereas in 2017 he hosted Mannarino as special guest.
In May 2018, he released the second album of the “GirodiBanda” project entitled “Guerra” which immediately obtained a strong consensus from both the public and professionals, launching a first tour of 25 shows and obtaining the recognition of the authoritative “World Music Charts Europe”, the ranking compiled by the radios of 24 different European countries. In 2019, he published “Tarantavirus Jazz Night”, the 18th production of 11-8 Records.