Friday, 4 November 2011

WITCHCRAFT AND FRIENDSHIP


Sophya Baccini is a sensitive Italian artist from Naples who has been for many years the singer of a band called Presence (by the way, don’t miss the interview with Presence on progarchives that you can find HERE). In 2009 she released her first solo album, “Aradia”, on the independent label Black Widow Records. The album was recorded with the help of some collaborators as Vittorio Cataldi (violin, accordion), Franco Ponzo (guitars) and Pino Falgiano (keyboards) while some prestigious guest musicians as Martin Grice (Delirium), Lino Vairetti (Osanna) and Stefano Vicarelli (Fonderia) contributed to enrich the sound. Sophya Baccini composed the music, wrote the lyrics, played the piano and synthesizers and, of course, sung...


This work features a long suite in 13 parts, three other tracks and a Joni Mithcell’s cover, “Circle game”. The suite is a kind of musical and spiritual path describing the friendship between two women, Aradia and Elide, and its importance for the way of life and the full self realisation of the protagonist Aradia. According to some sources, Aradia is the name of the messianic daughter of the goddess Diana and the god Lucifer, who was sent to Earth in order to teach the oppressed peasants how to perform witchcraft to use against the Roman Catholic Church and the upper class [1]. I don’t know if Sophya deliberately chose the name of a witch as a title for this album, but in the past some witches were just wiser and cleverer women than average in a world ruled by men...


The music is extremely heterogeneous with influences ranging from jazz to classical, from Piazzolla to Jethro Tull, but the thread that keeps the single parts of the suite together is my opinion is very thin and the blending is not always convincing. Some passages are absolutely brilliant, like the charming overture “La pietra”, the unquiet and dreamy “Don’t Dream That Dream” or the melodic and sumptuous “Elide”. Other parts are less good as “Ever Too Small” which seems coming out from a Diana Krall’s album or the melodramatic duet with Lino Vairetti “Non è l’amore il tuo destino”.


“Aradia” contains many good moments, but in my opinion it’s like if some parts were put in the wrong place... The voice of Sophya is beautiful, powerful and melodic, but listeners have to jump from one thing to another and, at length, even the outstanding tracks are in some way diluted by the excess of different musical ideas and risk to lose their charm. The lyrics are hermetic to say the least, in part written in Italian, in part in English and in part in French... This doesn’t help to comprehend the “concept” and there are no liner notes in the booklet to explain it. Luckily on Progarchives the artist gives us some clues about the concept in a very interesting interview: -  I took it all like a vision, and I invented this female figure that moves among different moods and different times. It’s a story of a physical and spiritual journey. That’s why I used different languages – I sung in English, Italian, French - and different musical genres - Prog, Blues, Country, Rock, some Pop like Elton John - all tied together by symphonic arrangements...

Sophya Baccini

Well, on the whole I think that “Aradia” a good album, but not an essential one in a prog collection. I'm sure that such a sensitive and gifted artist can do better...

Sophya Baccini: Aradia (2009). Other opinions
Assaf Vestin: I think this album could be a hit, had the circumstances been different. While it can be challenging music at times and demanding a longer-than-usual attention span, it is a gorgeous and ambitious piece of emotional and melodic melancholic songs. Sophya's voice is beautiful and quite wide in range (from mid to high pitch). Her musical skills are of the same quality, if not higher... To listen to Aradia for me, is to be taken to foreign landscapes, to be transported on the graceful wings of Sophya's voice and the charm of her music. I find the best way for me to experience this album is in a mostly dark room late at night with headphones. The magic really comes forth in that setting... (read the complete review HERE)
Raffaella Benvenuto-Berry: A finely-crafted, deeply personal album, "Aradia" will undoubtedly appeal to fans of female voices, especially those who do not mind a touch of operatic grandiosity with their music. On the whole, a very promising solo debut from one of the best female vocalists on the current prog scene, and a worthwhile addition to the ever-growing roster of interesting new Italian bands and artists... (read the complete review HERE)

You can read the complete interview with Sophya Baccini at Progarchives HERE.  

More info:

[1] Aradia is one of the principal figures in the American folklorist Charles Leland’s 1899 work Aradia, or the Gospel of the Witches, which he believed to be a genuine religious text used by a group of pagan witches in Tuscany, a claim that has subsequently been disputed by other folklorists and historians.