Peoples' Legends, Instruments and Voices

Claudia Bombardella.

"A Journey in the World of Traditions"

This is a suggestive high-quality and technically complex project, developed in 2002 as a soloist: composition and arrangements, voice, baritone saxophone, accordion, various clarinets, violin, violoncello, balafon, steel drum, orujo, birimbao, wooden box, darbuka, tambourine, Tibetan bell, rubber tube, milk pot, fiddle horn (one string), bellows organ...

18 INSTRUMENTS, DIFFERENT MUSICAL STYLES, TRADITIONAL TEXTS IN VERNACULAR TONGUES. Each musical piece is written based on a traditional Armenian legend telling the story of a mythological bird, the Grung.

This project is an exploration of diverse musical and cultural fields, encompassing different periods of History. Claudia travels from one country to another without hesitation - a sustained musical metamorphosis. She is most respectful of the different styles in each culture she visits - at the same time, through her expressive freedom and her developments, she cares that the specific spirit of each of them is kept intact.

The concert is a journey with diverse nomadic peoples (Hebrews, Gipsies, Armenians, Innuit, Mongolian ....). It narrates the lands they traverse - ancient tribal traditions of communities hardly known to the world: their way of life, their music, the way they appropriate and mix sounds, their legends and rhythms, their languages and instruments.

A great fable, a kind of travel diary of the Grung, this legendary migratory bird of the Armenian culture, who follows -from its heights- the vicissitudes of the human communities along the centuries.

The voice is adapted, transformed - it establishes a dialogue with the human and cultural sensitivities of the different peoples, creating inspirational atmospheres and musical spaces that are pure. This is not a philology job recovering songs and music from this or that culture. This is a personal ellaboration of the various and characteristic elements used for expression, based on one's own cultural and musical experience.


Leggende, strumenti e voci dei popoli (Peoples' Legends, Instruments and Voices, a Journey in the World of Traditions)

The Grung is a migratory bird in the Armenian tradition who brings news from far away lands, those lands to which a great part of the population had been compelled to emigrate. In a way the Grung is a spiritual mediator, a carer of traditions .... in its incessant flight from one country to another through the centuries it has been witness to the smallest of human endeavours... sometimes it perched itself on the highest tree and listened .... if anyone asked it to sing, its small beak would emit a melody enfolding centuries of experience and memories....

The Grung talks through Claudia Bombardella, who plays a huge amount of sounds and instruments. She sings in several languages with her crystal-clear voice and many different intonations - she flies from Armenia to Algeria, then to several peoples in Africa - she overflies Persia, Greenland, and then returns to Mongolia where her journey ends. There are many instruments, sourced variously and in different sizes - they are all placed around her, on a carpet defining a sacred ceremonial space. Sound creations are born from her small cello, her strong baritone saxophone, her African sansa wood, her accordion, her violin played on her lap, the Tibetan bell, a long rubber tube,  a Brazilian berimbao, a milk pot, etc. She is a sweet master of the musical notes, she plays with the bow, she drums a wooden box, she imprimates the air with form and structure - recalling for us memories we had not visited for centuries.

This music quickly reaches us, starts opening up a new perceptual space for us, for the public just beginning to [arrive]. The curtain flings open. A third scenario: she playing, us watching her. The theatre proves itself once more - taking us into what is represented.... Short and intense pieces follow one another - there are some words between them, like journey notes. Now we hear stiff and strident sounds crawling fast up the bow's strings - reminding us of the urgency that we keep here and now. A sudden voice joins in, singing in a tongue we know nothing about- maybe it doesn't exist. This voice walks on lines broken by a cello appearing to have gone mad. There are colour contrasts as lights on nocturnal landscapes. This is a time when those listening get absorbed and effortlessly lost. We are nearer the fantasy than we had thought. An ambassador for many coexisting characters, Claudia enters her fields on the scene, conquers voids and surpasses the limits. She is enwrapped by the Daimon, her body elongates, her arms flow like dancing tentacles, her eyes pierce the subtle wall between scene and audience. This performance is about legends, people, and unknown myths - in direct contact with the public who resounds with the original roots ...  

Written by Valentina Barlacchi, "Porpore" online magazine       


Claudia's one thousand voices

Claudia sings in various languages and plays 21 instruments. She masters her voice, she plays with the bow, blows into her saxophone, is in absolute control of her accordion... She flies from the Eskimo dances to the Twelve Melodies of the gipsy steepes. One thousand voices for only one woman. This could be a subtitle for "People's Legends, Instruments and Voices". She performs alone in order to deepen, widen and caliber her long research work - which is also, to an extent, the story of her life.

Along her vast path of very eclectic studies Claudia composed, recorded her first CDs and her repertoire grew. Claudia's thirst was not quenched. She composed, listened, made use of certain realities between History and Philosophy - between legends and popular cultures. She was creating what mainstream fashion calls "World Music" - for Claudia it meant an alibi for travelling through different peoples’ [sensitivities]: Armenia’s, Algeria’s, Mongolia’s, Balcanic and Hebraic traditions. Melodies that tell about solitude, about the return to one's village - about being far away and feeling nostalgic... 

Claudia has a partner throughout her show: the Grung, a mythological bird of the Armenian tradition. It flies the skies and lands of the nomadic peoples and tells about their ancient tribal traditions. And it does so through Claudia's vocal chords, through the various instruments she has around her which she picks up one by one: here her baritone saxophone, her accordion, her tenor? clarinet, her violin, cello, balafon, steel drum, sansa , then her wooden box, Tibetan bell ... followed by her rubber tube and her milk can. Music is always music, also when played with instruments of everyday's life.  

Paolo Pellegrini for "La Nazione" May 10th. 2003


- "Mayo, Mayo" (steel drum and voice) with lyrics in Sephardic language. " I've poured water into the wooden bowl ... do you remember, O' lady, the bread and the salt we shared together in your kitchen? I say, your fires burnt me ... "

- "Luna" (violin and voice) "Ain el Kharma" (violin and voice). Texts from the Algerian tradition "... O' fountain, bring me news from my beloved - from the mountains – the mountains, where the horses gallop – the mountains, where war is raging ..."

- Chant a penser (Song to reflect) (balafon and voice) from Central Africa. "... Protect your children so that they are never caught by human-hunters ..."

- "Ghana" (baritone saxophone and voice). A rhythm of Ghana's medicine people, a "tarantella" and a song of the pygmy peoples from Equatorial Africa.

- "Ibo Loidi" (berimbao, rubber tube and voice). In Papua's tradition songs of happiness and sadness are sang alternatively in an atmosphere in which the spirits still dance with humans and sing through a rubber tube.

Gorize (sansa & voice): a song in the Persian language …. “bitter tears flow from your almond-shaped eyes …. Dance among the wrinkles of pain! dance, dance! Don’t allow the serpent to slither within you, don’t let it possess you …”

Little Golden Staircase (clarinet, drums, acordion & voice); lyrics in Sephardic language: “ …. We have come to see the wife … she is not rich, but she will live happily and she will be lucky ….”

Bardesum (chello & voice). Armenian chant: “… a rose has just flourished waiting for your return …. Tears drop from your sparkling eyes like water waves rolling in the river under the sun ….”. Shamanic chant. Mbern (Epic  text from Azerbayan). 

The Cock is Calling (acordion and voice). Far-away landscapes, rememberances, thoughts and reflections mix up in the small heart of the  Grung. The Grung patiently gathers all of it, and comes up with a treasure of inspiration for telling its stories….

Adinoira (Tibetan Bell and voice): a Hebraic/Bulgarian prayer.

Turea nicoluculu (milk pot and voice): an Inuit lullaby. Katajjait (voice and skirt): a competition among Inuit women, imitating animal sounds. They sing  opposite each other in a non-stop contest to the point of extenuation. Whoever laughs is out of the game!

Farae Ra (portable organ and voice):Mongolian chant about prophetic seers observing the clouds.

© 2014 - claudia bombardella