MODENA CITY RAMBLERS


  • country:
    Italy
  • style(s):
    • Ethnic
    • Mediterranean
  • label:
    Mescal
  • artist submitted by:

Modena City Ramblers is a band made up of people who share a
dream: music is one of the paths that could lead to Utopia. This
belief has come from the lessons of the masters of folk music
along with the philosophy of the punk revolution.
The first steps along this path were the making of the band’s
albums Terra e Libertà (Land and Freedom),
Radio Rebelde (the name of the radio founded by Che Guevara at
the time of the Cuban revolution) and ¡Viva la Vida, Muera la
Muerte! (the statement that ended a speech by the E.Z.L.N.
commanders).
They followed the dreams of freedom in Emilio Zapata’s and “El
Sup” Marcos’ Mexico, in the happy follies of the itinerant
festivals that bring joy and dancing even to Columbia where
terrorism and “Narcos” (drug traffickers) make the law. The
Ramblers continued their voyage into the Saharawi refugee
camps, secluded in the vastness of the desert. They followed
Alberto Granado’s and Ernesto Che Guevara’s (not yet the Che)
motorbike tracks on their discovery of the Latin-American
continent. They observed the efforts of the new, young South
Africa to realise the dream of Nelson Mandela in the poor
townships of the Country. And, last but not least, they always
carry along with them the story of their community, sons of the
Resistance, which gave Democracy and Freedom to Italy.
The music of Utopia is rich in colour. The accordion is drawn
from Italian folklore while the tin whistle and the uilleànn pipe
are Celtic. There’s Woody Guthrie’s guitar and the Latin and
African percussion of the slave workers of the two Continents.
There’s the power of the electric guitar and the drums and
there’s also the rhythm of the violin and bouzuki and the
strength of singing influenced by punk. There’s also love for The
Pogues, The Clash and Mano Negra and, in the lyrics, passion for
Latin-American contemporary literature, from Gabriel Garcia
Marquez to Luis Sepúlveda. The result of all this is the so-called
Celtic patchanka.
Nowadays the Ramblers are heading towards a place, which
belongs as a right to everybody, that is nowhere but somewhere
along the path to achieving it. After all “nowhere” is the meaning
of the word utopia and as the Mexican writer, and a band’s close
friend, Paco Ignacio Taibo II put it “you can’t live without utopia”.
This statement is evidently also a truth in the minds of the
thousands of people who follow and enjoy the Ramblers gigs!

CHRONOLOGY

• The Modena City Ramblers started in 1991 as an Irish folk
band. They had no ambition to play concerts for the public; they
just wanted to play for their friends and families. The group’s
name comes from the usual way folk groups name their bands
by placing their birthplace before a noun. The musical influences
of the ramblers from Modena (the famous Italian hometown of
Ferrari cars) stretch from the great musical heritage of Irish and
Scottish folk to The Pogues, The Waterboys and Bob Dylan. They
soon tried to use these influences to create their own songs,
which, by speaking with love and passion, but also rage and
militancy, they hoped would reach the hearts of Italian people.

• In 1993, astonished by the warmth with which the audience
from their region, Emilia, welcomed their punk-Irish folk songs
and their Italian Resistance ballads, they recorded the first demo
tape: Combat Folk (it’s meant to sound similar to the famous
Clash title!). This tape sold more than 3.000 copies and
increased the popularity of the band all over Italy.

• In March 1994 their debut album Riportando Tutto a Casa
(“Bringing Everything Back Home”) was released by the
independent Italian label Helter Skelter. This record helped the
Ramblers to assert their hybrid identity: Ireland and Emilia, the
Resistance and the seventies in Italy (which they had only heard
about as they are too young), the voyages and the struggles, the
folk lessons and punk philosophy. The album was a success and
a few months later the Ramblers started working with Mescal
management and the major label PolyGram. Riportando… was
reissued in November in the Blackout-Mercury catalogue with
the addition of a new song (“Il Bicchiere dell’Addio”) guest
starring the famous singer Bob Geldof. Up to now the album has
sold 185.000 copies.

• The second album La Grande Famiglia (“The Big Family”)
has been available in record stores since March 1996. The
release was dedicated to all of the Ramblers’ fans: their stories
and their dreams. The sound changed, the folk (which was
played from the beginning with a punk attitude) got harder as it
was more influenced by rock. This second album also turned out
to be a great success, selling up to 50.000 copies (and the sales
have continued, reaching 120.000 copies).

• Meanwhile, the band built up a reputation as a live-band.
During their concerts, the Ramblers were always jumping,
dancing, playing loudly, having fun and entertaining the
audience who inevitably had a great time. The Italian
“piazze” (squares) and clubs hosting the Grande Famiglia Tour
were always crowded. In fact some of their venues attracted
many more people than other more famous Italian artists.

• The early Modena City Ramblers considered they were an
itinerant session group, which had a core of musicians who were
sometimes helped by guest-musicians. In this way the band
have been able to cope with various changes without any major
trouble, and so far have remained open to the most diverse
artistic cooperation. The famous Bob Geldof and the old Italian
female folk singers Mondine of Novi, the Irish ambassadors The
Chieftains and the Italian comedian Paolo Rossi are just some of
the many artists who have shared the stages and recording
studios with the Ramblers.

• In October 1997 the band flew to Bolivia to take part in the
Encuentro Mundial de Vallegrande in memory of Ernesto “Che”
Guevara, who was killed there thirty years before: they were the
first European group to give a live performance after the end of
the war in the Andean precordillera.

• At the end of the year the band released a new CD, Terra e
Libertà (“Land and Freedom”) which defined a new sound where
the old “combat folk” inspirations merged with echoes of Mano
Negra patchanka.and Balkan music. In the meantime, on 26th
December, the Ramblers also flew to Cuba. Here they were the
protagonists of a rousing concert in the Revolution Square in
Havana where 100.000 people gathered for the event that was
recorded by local television. As they do wherever they go, the
Ramblers went busking through the streets of the Havana Veja
after the concert.

• In May 1998 they took part in the huge 1ST May concert in
Piazza S. Giovanni in Rome in front of 600.000 people. The
performance gained them great success and the sales of the
album Terra e Libertà reached 50.000 copies.

• In June the band performed on the main stage of the
Neapolis Festival in Naples sharing the show with Deep Purple
and Primus. By now, Modena City Ramblers were an important
reality on the Italian rock music scene. “Canzone Dalla Fine del
Mondo” was included in a Celtic compilation released by the
American label Putumayo: “Dublin to Dakar, a Celtic Odyssey”.

• In July the Ramblers were guests at the Semana Negra,
which takes place in Gijon, Spain. The “Semana” is a week of
literature meetings and discussions on various subjects,
photography exhibitions and many other art activities. The
Festival is organised by Paco Ignacio Taibo II and supported by
Luis Sepúlveda and it also hosts a great number of buskers and
bands. The Ramblers were considered special guests (this was
the second time they had taken part in the festival) due to their
friendship with the Spanish-American writers who had inspired
their music and especially their latest CD, Terra e Libertà.

• In October 1998 MCR released a live CD entitled Raccolti,
(“Collections”, but also “Harvest” or “Quiet”), which was
completely acoustic and recorded inside a pub. This is a both a
collection and live CD. It is an original way of presenting the
music of the band, unplugged but really “electric” and powerful
as a performance!

• In February 1999 they made a prestigious theatre tour.
After this tour they started to work on the new album Fuori
Campo (“Out of sight” or “Out of focus”). The pre-production
was made in Ireland and involved various Irish musicians. The
CD, in the music stores in October 1999, had a very special
guest voice in the song “Fuori Campo”: the famous Chilean
novelist Luis Sepúlveda. The album was even released in Japan.
Kaba Cavazzuti, the studio band producer for many years,
became a new member of the Modena City Ramblers after
changes in the original line-up. The singer Cisco released, in
the meantime, along with Kaba, the album of the ‘brother band’
Casa del Vento, which came out in February 2001 and was called
‘900’. The Modena City Ramblers also started a special long
awaited tour with the famous Italian “combat rock” band The
Gang, under the name of the Gang City Ramblers.

• In September 2000 they went to South Africa to play (the
only Italian band) at the Awesome Africa Festival in Songweni
Park near Durban with the legendary Phil Manzanera (Roxy
Music) as a guest on stage. The band also collaborated with the
South-African group Landscape Prayers, playing on their album
“Lontano”.

• 2002 – on 22nd February they released a new CD, Radio
Rebelde. The record was produced by Enzo “Soulfingers” Rizzo,
formerly a member of the well-known DJ’s combo Kawanzaa
Posse from Naples (productions and remixes for Mano Negra
and Les Negresses Vertes). At the same time the Modena City
Ramblers created their own Record and Productions label,
Modena City Records, which develops productions and side
projects linked to the band. The first title published by the label
was ‘Pazienza Santa’ by the Italian old “folkers” Paulem. Radio
Rebelde was a new chapter in the MCR’s history: the sound was
now a real meltin’ pot of influences. There was the Clash lesson,
the Manu Chao way of constructing and linking the songs, there
were suggestions of world events, echoes of the no-global
struggle, there was rock, punk, reggae-dub and of course the
ethnic and folk sounds collected along the way.

• During the 2002 Radio Rebelde Tour there were more than
100 concerts all over Italy with highlights like the 1st May in
Rome in front of more than 500.000 people and the 1st
September with Manu Chao at the Independent Days Festival in
Bologna.

• At the beginning of 2003 the band went to Mexico
(Chiapas) and Guatemala, performing in San Cristobal de Las
Casas, in some EZLN communities and in Guatemala City. The
memories of this experience suggested ideas and imagination
for the new songs.
.
• 2003 - The band also toured the world, touching Algeria
(Smara – For Saharawi People), Germany (Lorrach – Stimmen
Festival), South Africa (Johannesburg - 4th Woodstock Festival,
Durban – Awesome Africa Festival), Holland (Amsterdam –
Melkweg; DenBosch – W2; Njimegen – Lux), Czech Republic
(Praha – Rock for People Festival, Tabor – Stadlecky Most
Festival), Slovack Republic (Trencin – Pohoda Festival).

• June 2003 – While working on the upcoming album the
band released a CD of remix versions of some Radio Rebelde
songs: Modena City Remix, including “Una Perfecta Excusa”,
produced by Feel Good Productions, and “Maisha” and “Newroz”,
remixed and produced by Coleridge of Transglobal
Underground. After the summer the Ramblers concentrated on
the recording of the new songs and became the chosen
testimonial for an important social campaign, “Acqua per la
Pace” (“Water for Peace”) supported by COOP, Italy’s leading
cooperative company in the large distribution market.

• 2004 – The band played in January at the Eurosonic Festival
2004 (Groningen - Holland). On 23rd January the band released
its new CD ¡Viva la Vida, Muera la Muerte!, produced by Max
Casacci (from Subsonica). The title came from the final sentence
of the Zapatistas commanders in their introductions. The album
follows the path of Radio Rebelde, but is also linked with the old
sonorities and musical structures (the ballad). The Ramblers’
music by now had an original personality with hundreds of
influences (folk, punk, rock steady, reggae-dub, Latin, Ska,
Balkan and so on…) mixed in a unique blend. In a few days ¡Viva
la Vida, Muera la Muerte! entered the TOP TEN of the Italian
album chart! During 2004 the band hold 120 concerts in Italy
and in very important European festivals (Oerol festival –
Terschelling NL, les Mediterrennes- Argéles Sur Mer France and
more)


• The Modena City Ramblers are now an important and
consolidated phenomenon on the Italian rock music scene. They
are the most important Italian band that mixes folk and “world”
influences with ska and rock. They hold concerts before huge
audiences and have sold half a million copies of their CDs in the
last ten years.


Modena City Ramblers are:
Stefano “Cisco” Bellotti: lead vocals
Kaba Cavazzuti: drums and percussion, keyboards,
acoustic guitar
Daniele Contardo: accordion and barrel organ
Franco D’Aniello: tin whistle, flute, trumpet
Massimo Ghiacci: bass and vocals
Luca “Gabibbo” Giacometti: bouzuki, mandolin, ac. guitar
Francesco Moneti: violin and electric guitar
Roberto Zeno: drums and percussion, keyboards,
mandolin


Album Releases:
Riportando Tutto a Casa Black Out - PolyGram 1994
La Grande Famiglia Black Out - PolyGram 1996
Terra e Libertà Black Out - PolyGram 1997
Raccolti Black Out - PolyGram 1998
Fuori Campo Black Out - Universal 1999
Radio Rebelde Black Out - Universal 2002
¡Viva la Vida, Muera la Muerte! Black Out - Universal 2004

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