La Mòssa: a moss’!

Hip to the World

Listening Post 230. Based in Avignon, the women of La Mòssa are polyphonic and polyglot; they have varied music backgrounds (jazz, folk, rock, roots), they tell stories old and recent, true-to-life, fanciful and surreal, describing marriage and courtship, evoking wars, witches and mermaids. There’s an elegant coherence to it all, as if they carry a world of lore in a small purse—labeled “roads women have traveled” and closed with a clasp of attitude. What binds all the facets, talents, languages and chronicles of a moss’! is the shared curiosity of artists who sing with such precision and expression that their voices sway along with their bodies. La Mòssa is Italian for “motion;” the album title has the same meaning in Neapolitan dialect and in context refers to a particular swing of the hips popular—and initially scandalous—in the cabarets of 1920s Naples. Many of the group’s stories describe communal dancing: Tarantella pé sbarià (Carefree Tarantella), written by ensemble member Lilia Ruocco, calls on musicians and singers to “turn the night upside down” (video 1). The tempo switches to forró in Dona Mariquinha, sung in Portuguese, in which the title character sours on her lemon-scented lover (video 2). Unfortunate matches flavor several songs: In the traditional Bulgarian Sedenki (Seats), a ragged shepherd is the only eligible suitor at a singles event (video 3); in Käppee (Loser), from the Finnish folk band Värttinä, neighborhood crones conspire to deprive a young woman of a decent prospect (video 4); and marriage itself gets a poor review in Sur la colline (On the Hill), the album’s only French track (video 5). The women also spin tales from Albania, Ireland, Réunion, Argentina and the United States. Back in Avignon, the city renowned for dancing on an unfinished bridge, these gifted citizens have fashioned a musical overpass that takes them everywhere. (La Curieuse/L’Autre Distribution)

La Mòssa: a moss’!
Lilia Ruocco, Emmanuelle Ader, Sara Giommetti, Gabrielle Gonin & Aude Marchand: Voice and percussion
Célio Ménard: Sound


Tarantella pé sbarià / Carefree Tarantella
(from the Italian lyrics)
I’d like to spend the evening without thinking of anything/With 
a carefree tarantella so I can dance all night
Call the musicians and all the beautiful voices/Let’s spend the night around the fire

Go out and wake everyone/I want everyone there, young and old, let’s turn the night upside down
Rosa, let’s go into the street and throw all melancholy aside/Show me how you dance… Ouch! you stomped on my foot

What freshness, what jumping joy/Dance my beautiful one, let your skirt flap like a butterfly
How lucky Signor Vincenzo, so rarely at the party/But now you dance like you own the street, let’s go

Look at Signora Franceschina, 90 years old and dancing like a girl/Mind your necklace!
Signor Catello stands aside, his belly weighs him down/“Dancing is for young people, and I eat macaroni!”


Dona Mariquinha
(from the Portuguese lyrics)
Good evening, good evening/
I’ve just arrived
I came in singing/If it pleases you or not, I don’t know

Dona Mariquinha, of delicate features, her love Manoel smelling of lemon flower
Dona Mariquinha, of delicate features, her love Manoel smelling of lemon flower

I wanted it to rain, 
a very fine mist/
That would dampen your bed 
so you would sleep in mine (alas)

Dona Mariquinha, of delicate features, her love Manoel smelling of lemon flower
Dona Mariquinha, of delicate features, her love Manoel smelling of lemon flower

Get out, Zumburana, inhale some rosemary/You have a new love, you don’t even remember me anymore

Tiny steps, tiny, tiny, tiny/1 step, 
2 steps, 
3 steps, lemon
Tiny steps

I threw a coin in the water, the coin changed color/I would also like to change my style of love
There, to the stone fountain, 
I went to voice my complaints/One of the stones told me
 I shouldn’t abandon firm love

Dona Mariquinha, of delicate features, her love Manoel smelling of lemon flower
Dona Mariquinha, of delicate features, her love Manoel smelling of lemon flower

Tiny steps, tiny, tiny, tiny/1 step, 
2 steps,
3 steps, lemon


Sedenki / Seats
The traditional Bulgarian song describes a vigil where villagers await the return of the shepherds. It’s an opportunity for young singles to meet new people. During one of these evenings the only pretender is a young shepherd, dressed in barely presentable clothes: a rabbit-skin hat, mouse-skin shoes and trousers with holes


Käppee / Loser
(from the Finnish lyrics)
The old wives of the neighborhood have woven a demonic plan/Yes, those tired, long-haired beasts are plotting against me
They will make sure/That I’ll never find the kind of man I’m looking for

So they put this tattered guy between my paws/Swung me a real tramp of the last degree
Poor me, a left-behind-a-good-for-nothing/He’s weak, this guy they found for me

Low, an inveterate drinker/Useless, unpredictable and bad-tempered
Poor me, what good-for-nothing loser.


Sur la colline / On the Hill
(from the French lyrics)
Way up on the hill, the beautiful shepherdess fell asleep while guarding her flock
My beauty, don’t fall asleep because the earth is wet

Go home, you will see lovers wise and prudent/Who don’t always say “yes” like an innocent girl
When you want to get married, don’t be in such a hurry, no no/The happiness you find will not last long

Don’t leave your home, stay by your mother’s hearth/And every time you go we’ll remind you to come back soon
After three or four years of marriage, you will have a crying child/You’ll rock him all night and you will hardly sleep

After a few more years, the child will have grown/He will ask you for bread, and maybe you will not have much
At the end of seven or eight years, poor girl, you will cry from weakness/And give anything to have never married


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