He is a very famous artist in Sardinia and has long been the musical companion of vocalist Elena Ledda, with whom he founded the legendary group Suonofficina in 1983. Mauro Palmas has worked with personalities such as Maria Carta, Riccardo Tesi, Paolo Fresu, Don Moye and Lester Bowie; he has released an album with popular Italian political songs and composed music for several movies, including »Sonos 'e memoria« by Gianfranco Cabiddu (together with Paolo Fresu).
There is a thread running through his musical career: his openness to all types of music of many different backgrounds and his love of forming his own style from all these elements.
Mauro Palmas derives his inspiration from the rich musical tradition of his Sardinian home; yet at the same time he is a modern musician, equally fascinated by jazz, pop and sounds from other countries. So we cannot compare his approach to his Sardinian heritage with that of folk musicians: rather he takes traditional elements and adapts them in a contemporary way to fit his own ideas. Palmas' compositions cannot be categorised as "Sardinian music of today" but simply as the creation of an inventive musician.
His open mind is shown particularly clearly in the music to the movie Cainà - and particularly for its instrumentation. In the foreground are the mandola and the mandoloncello - originally instruments of Renaissance music, which he himself plays in his varied and individual way (from the classic arpeggio and Sardinian cantu a boghes de chitarra to solo passages with a plectrum, reminiscent of Arab lute playing). He has added a string ensemble (quartet, quintet and double quintet in succession) and also Sardinian folk instruments (barrel organ, launeddas, sulittu). On some tracks a rhythm group of electric bass guitar and percussion form the foundation for Riccardo Tesi's accordion and Gavino Murgia's saxophone, which is strongly present throughout the work.
The spectrum of origin of this music is huge: partly written scores and partly improvised music; oriental scales and passages in 7/8 time point to the Balkans and the Middle East. The pentatonic scales are of African origin. We also hear an arrangement of a ballu campidanesu (folk dance) inspired by launedda music. And finally strings, mandolas and accordion play two more traditional pieces: the Disispirada from Sardinian guitar repertoire and the well-known Deus ti salvet Maria, an Ave Maria in Sardinian which Maria Carta made famous all through Italy.
This music was written to accompany a silent movie called Cainà (The Island and the Continent) which was filmed on Sardinia in 1922 by Gennaro Righelli. The only remaining copy of the work was rediscovered in 1992 in an archive in Prague and subsequently restored at the order of the Società Umanitaria / Cineteca Sarda. As most Italian silent movies have been lost, the find was a significant cultural document for Italy and particularly for Sardinia. Using the story of Cainà the shepherd girl, Righelli painted a realistic portrait of the island and its scenery and Sardinian society with its archetypal popular figures who no longer exist.
"One could question whether a silent movie really needs a soundtrack," was Mauro Palmas' comment on the project. "But experience shows that from 1995 until today hardly anyone has seen Cainà without the music. With the music and thanks to the live performances the film has become a great success seen by a total of about twenty thousand visitors to Sardinia and outside the island, in Italy and Europe. The pictures have given meaning to the music and the music has emphasised the film. It has a power which draws the viewer into the middle of the film. That was one of the primary aims of the project: to show a large audience a work which would otherwise have remained invisible and unknown in its own country."
Of course the reverse question could also be asked: do we need the music without the pictures or the story they tell? Here we are in agreement with Mauro Palmas: as a pure listening experience this music has power and presence, because he has succeeded magnificently in translating the exotic nature of the setting, the drama of the plot and the "great cinematographic dignity" of the movie into sound.
Mauro Palmas - fretless mandocello, mandola, mandocello, mandolin
Riccardo Tesi - melodeon
Gavino Murgia - saxophones, launeddas, sulittu
Silvano Lobina - bass
Alberto Pisu - drums
Antonio Ferraro - keyboards
String quintet, brass band
01 Oltre il mare 4.25
02 Tempo perso 3.38
03 Cainà 7.37
04 Isola Piana 2.08
05 Ave Maria 3.45
06 Disisperada 2.04
07 Mar roku 4.25
08 Aggius 2.42
09 Danza per tre (1) 3.11
10 Danza per tre (2) 1.48
11 Danza per tre (3) 2.42
12 Zio Mario 2.39
13 Ave Maria 2.36
14 Un anno e... 5.21
2002 • Biber Records 76741 • S’Ard CD002