Monday Notes

Domenico Modugno, Amara terra mia. An Italian spiritual

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Leggi in Italiano

[Monday Note No. 134] Amara Terra mia is a song that Domenico Modugno reinterpreted and thus brought to the attention of the whole of Italy. The original piece titled Nebbia alla valle (Fog in the valley) dates back to the early 20th century and was a work song of the olive harvesters of the Abruzzo region.

The best-known work songs are certainly those that originated on American plantations and contributed to the birth of the blues and jazz. This folk song, originally from Abruzzo, has many points of contact with blues and work songs, not only because of the similar context but also for musical reasons.

Like much folk music, the piece has a simple strophic form. The root key is E minor, the piece insists on the I degree Em while also moving through the IV Am and V B7, more or less as happens in the blues. Finally, the chromaticism that recurs in measures 2, 6 and 9 is vaguely reminiscent of a blue note.

Amara Terra Mia - Domenico Modugno

The song is moving and beautiful, Domenico Modugno had a great intuition in choosing it and reinterpreting it. In fact, the singer and songwriter from Puglia readapted the text, transforming it from a work song into a farewell song, that of an emigrant leaving his homeland.

In this way, Modugno renewed the song, adapting it to his times and to his land, from which so many people left for northern Italy or even more distant destinations in search of fortune and work.

Domenico Modugno performs the song with his eyes closed, its dramatic power unparalleled. Very few gestures disturb an almost total stillness: an arm stretching out, a clenched fist. A superb performance by one of the great interpreters of Italian song.

Until next Monday!

download the lead sheet of Amara terra mia

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