ÌSfardo, a Sicilian dialect word meaning “strain”, is the debut album from singer-songwriter Alessio Bondì. It reveals a wide range of influences, like the rap-inflected pattering groove of ‘Vucciria’ with its homage to young men drinking and hanging tough in Palermo’s marketplace. Elsewhere, Latin charango breezes along with the cantering rat-a-tat percussion of lead single and opening track, ‘Di Cu Si’, with its nostalgic recollection of childhood games (including the classic, “got your nose”).
While it’s not strictly necessary to understand the lyrics, as the emotions are quite apparent through the delivery of the songs, the accompanying booklet is so informative that it would be a shame to overlook it. Its translations and explanatory notes fully bring to life Bondì’s delicious word play and imagery.
These songs of the joys and pains of life are full of inventive rhymes and rhythms, slipping effortlessly between realism and metaphor. In ‘Granni Granni’, for example, the child is creating both a physical and psychological safe place (calling to mind the shed in the film “Adult Life Skills”). Imagery of the sea in ‘In Funn’o Mare’ is woven through with metaphors of life, death and love. The gentle ‘Un Pisci Rintr’a To Panza’ is a multi-layered contemplation of the bond between mother and child, the purity of pre-birth innocence and the inevitable mortality.
Bondì’s guitar playing is another mainstay of the album, mirroring the emotional lyrical intensity in its pacing and sensitivity. He moves fluidly between the intimacy and immediacy of ‘Rimmillu Ru’Voti’, a love song recorded straight to tape, and the moodier ‘Wild Rosalia’ or the angsty wail of the title song. There’s a jazzier feel to ‘Iccati Sangu’, sitting loosely against an increasingly vehement vocal. In total contrast is the rolling guitar bounce of ‘Es Mi Mai’ with its euphoric “yee-ha” refrain.
This is a truly delightful album, full of compelling imagery. It offers up a wealth of musical flavours, delicately and thoughtfully arranged. From the greyness of a British winter, these ten songs bring a very welcome splash of light and warmth, with the promise of summer to come.
Artist’s website: www.alessiobondi.com
‘Granni Granni’ – official video: