Internationally recognized Sicilian-American singer, Michela Musolino, the grand-daughter of Sicilians immigrated to America, explores cultural roots and shares them with the world through the study and reinterpretation of the folk songs of Sicily and Southern Italy.
With voice and frame drum Michela Musolino sings songs of daily life, songs of feast days, songs of protest, and songs of love…songs that make your heart sing and your feet dance!
A love for her roots set Musolino on a course of a liftime of exploration of the musical traditions of Sicily - returning again and again to Sicily and Italy to research, discover, and perform a tradition of music first identified as its own entity in the mid 1400's: Sicilian Folk Music.
Having grown up listening the language and music from two worlds, Musolino now weaves the ancient and the modern into melodies and allures with a voice that seems to float between the ages. Musolino has sung in medieval castles and ancient Sicilian temples, NYC landmarks, honkey tonks and national folk festivals connecting audiences in a brotherhood of shared emotions and experiences, conveyed in the songs of her repertoire.
An Italian-American born and raised in NJ, now relocated to Memphis, new projects combine the richness of the South's musical roots with Sicilian folk traditions to create a new sound: Sicilian Folk-a-Billy. The South of Italy meets the Southern US in her recent album (recorded and produced in Memphis) in which Sicilian Christmas traditions marry the music traditions from the American South.
The founder of Rosa’s Drum, a cultural events and educational organization which promotes and teaches folk traditions from Sicily and Southern Italy, Musolino also teaches and organizes workshops on traditional folk dances of those regions.
Places Where Michela Has Performed:
Old Town School, Chicago, IL
St. Markʼs Church in the Bowery, NYC
Yale School of Music, New Haven, CT
Casa Italiana Zerilli Marimò at NYU
Williamson Theater, CSI, NY
Ashkenaz, Berkeley, CA
MultiCultural Center, Santa Barbara, CA
Musco Center for the Arts, Orange, CA
Taste of Italy, Italian American Museum of Los Angeles, CA
Biblioteca Statale, Cremona, Italy
Maison du Tango , Naples, Italy
Castello Normanno Svevo, Salemi, Sicily
L’ Evento in Memoria di Pino Veneziano, Parco Archeologico, Selinunte, Sicily
NISTOC Festival, Lago Iseo, Italy
Montana Folk Festival, Butte, MT
Richmond Folk Festival, VA
Working Waterfront Festival, New Bedford, MA
Sea Music Festival, Mystic Seaport, CT
Broward Folk Festival, FL
Artist-in-Residence Middlebury Italian Language School, VT
Awarded the Esposito Visiting Faculty Fellow at UMass, Dartmouth, MA
Folklorist at the Tennessee Folklife Institute’s Charter Incubator
Sabbinirica a tutti!
If you'd like to know a little more…
I grew up in a household where Sicilian dialect was spoken so the children wouldn't be able to understand the adults' conversations. The sounds of that language were like music to me and I fell in love with them. Listening made me curious, hungry to understand, and determined to join in the conversations. On trips back to Sicily, I became enamored of the traditional folk songs and began to collect them, scouring tape bins with my dad trying to find recordings we didn't already have. Years later, by chance I'd join the NYC -based theatre company, I Giullari di Piazza, and perform Southern-Italian folk music dance with them for three years .
Once I started my journey as a performer, I was surprised and delighted when my father revealed to me that my grandmother played the frame drum and my great-grandmother was known for her drumming and dancing!
I treasure my time studying Commedia dell'Arte with two great Romans, actress Lydia Biondi and director/actor Enzo Aronica. Working with producer, Paola Bellu, I acted and sang in commedia performances and was directed by Aronica in a bilingual version of Goldoni's The Coffee Shop. Bellu proposed a one-woman-show for me and asked me to pick the twelve songs which I loved to sing the most...they were all Sicilian songs! Working with Bellu, I performed in such NYC venues as the Rainbow Room at Rockefeller Center and St Mark's Church in the Bowery.
and then...this all happened -
Since my performing base was NYC, my debut CD, Songs of Trinacria, would be recorded both in NYC and in Rome, Italy, at Alfa Music Studios. It's a selection of traditional Sicilian work songs, lullabies, and love songs accompanied by special guests: NYC-based guitarist and arranger, Wilson Montuori, and the great Sicilian drummer and folk singer, Alfio Antico. That CD would be heard on radio stations in the US and abroad, on programs like the BBC's Paul Sherrat's Global Jukebox; NPR's All Songs Considered, Gil Medovoy's Crossing Continents on KDVS and Radio Voce Spazio with Massimo Ferro in Italy.
Continued explorations of old traditions and new sounds brought me to a collaboration with avant guard musicians Kato Hideki and Marco Cappelli in and around NYC and the Metropolitan area. At the same time, trips back to Sicily and appearances at L'Evento in Memoria di Pino Veneziano in Selinunte connected me to Sicilian folk artists Umberto Leone, Rocco Pollina, La Banda di Paceco, Palermo Art Ensemble, Pippo Pollina, and Moffo Schimmenti. In 2009, when L'Associazione Pino Veneziano produced the compilation CD, Di Questa Terra Facciamone un Giardino , in honor of the Sicilian folk singer-songwriter Pino Veneziano, I was invited to be one of the contributing artists.
Friendships and musical collaborations made in Sicily started to criss-cross the Atlantic. I joined Palermitano singer-songwriter Pippo Pollina on stage in Salt Lake City Utah for his United States' debut concert. With Vincenzo Castellana I co-authored Sempri amMari, a theatrical presentation of Sicilian folk songs dedicated to the sea. Sempri amMari toured the North Atlantic in 2012-2013 in such venues as the Common Fence Music, RI; Mystic Sea Port and the Mystic Sea Music Festival, CT; the CrossRoads, PA; Woods Hole Folk Music Society, MA; and the Music Room, NY and as far west as Chicago at the Old Town School of Music.
In 2008, 2012 and 2013, I was an Artist-in-Residence at the Middlebury Italian Language School in Middlebury Vermont . For my 2013 residency, I created a performance piece of historical narrations and Sicilian and Southern Italian folk songs to tell the history of the briganti of Southern Italy. The work , Si Diedero alla Macchia,( They Went Into Hiding) with musical arrangements by John LaBarbera, has since been presented in both Italian and English.
2013 was also the year I met multi instrumentalist and bricoleur, Michael Delia, and guitarist, accordion master, & composer Fabio Turchetti. In 2014, our trio began performing and touring as Terra Sangue Mare (Earth, Blood & Sea) presenting traditional and contemporary Sicilian Folk and Roots music imbued with world fusion sounds. While Delia and Turchetti mix world traditions with Sicilian songs, I got to weave my voice through their musical sculptures. In October of 2015, our band, Terra Sangue Mare, debuted our original folk operetta, Iu Nascìi pi Beniti Appressu a ‘Ttia/ I Was Born to Follow You
After I met wild man guitarist, organetto player and folklorist, Phil Passantino at a party at my house - it was a great night: there were three zampognari (Italian bagpipers) in my garden! - I began a fun collaboration: singing arrangements that are wild and haunting from a repertoire of Sicilian and Calabrese songs mixed with the traditional songs from the Meridione (Southern Italy). With Passantino I've performed live on Time Warner Cable Television and in April of 2015 on Broadway for The Acting Company's One-Night-Only benefit performance of Tennessee William's , "The Rose Tattoo." The show starred the greats Patti Lupone & Bobby Cannavale, and Tony-Award-winning director Doug Hughes invited me to bring Sicilian folk music to the production, just as Williams originally included it in his homage to love and Sicilians.
In April, 2016, Terra Sangue Mare, the trio of Michael Delia, Fabio Turchetti, and myself released our NEW CD. It was recorded in Prague during Terra Sangue Mare's Fall 2015 European Tour.
That night on Broadway with the Rosa Tattoo gave birth to another band, Rosa Tatuata. Joined by Phil Passantino, Charlie Rutan and Jeffrey Panettiere, we performed the folk and roots music of Sicily with some Southern Italian songs sprinkled throughout the repertoire. Rosa Tatuata's shows were just the right mix of ballads and rollicking tunes to make everyone dance for joy and fall in love. In 2019, we performed at the Montana Folk Festival under the aegis of the National Council on the Traditional Arts and simultaneously released our debut CD, Sotto le Stelle ( Under the Stars) a selection of Sicilian & Southern Italian folk songs from our repertoire of our outdoor, summer concerts.
In 2017, I launched the duo, Metalli Sonanti, with Fabio Turchetti. Inspired by the ancestral sounds of Grecian, Roman, Arabian and Byzantine Sicily, tours throughout Italy and the US , we collaborate with many great musicians along the way. Metalli Sonanti has performed with Alberto Venturini, Luca Congedo, Michele Piccione, Roberto Catalano and Chris Garcia, and Angelo Morabito. Metalli Sonanti has performed in places such as the 12th Century Norman Castello in Salemi, Sicily, the Biblioteca Statale , Cremona, Italy, Ashkenaz, Berkeley, CA, the Jalopy Theatre, Brooklyn, and Bar Thalia at Symphony Space. On the hottest day of the summer of 2019, Fabio and I recorded North Beach Stories in Cremona, Italy, with noted jazz musicians Fabrizio Trulli and Gianni Satta. North Beach Stories is a musical tribute to Lawrence Ferlinghetti, inspired by Ferlinghetti's Coney Island of the Mind and a visit to City Lights during one of Metalli Sonanti's concert tours through the Bay Area.
By the end of February 2020 every concert on the schedule was cancelled , so I did what artists had to do: performed on line. One of my concerts for the Queens Public Library registered 14,000 online view! You can watch that concert here at this link: Michela Musolino & Rosa Tatuata on line concert for the Queens Public Library
Lending my voice to film, I sang the soundtracks to Anthony Fragola's Un Bellissimo Ricordo, a documentary on the life of anti-mafia activist Felicia Bartolotta Impastato and Mark Spano's documentary about Sicily, Re-Imagining Sicily.
in 2021, I again collaborated with Sicilian DJ, Raf 'n Soul to re-interpret the Italian pop hit from 1979, 'No Tu No'... and as soon as it was released (you can watch it here), we went back into the studio to re-work an old Sicilian folk song, 'Palumedda.' Our first collaborations in 2016 -2017 were Sicilian and English house mixes based on dance versions of the Sicilian love song, Mi Votu e Mi Rivotu.
In 2021 I made my annual concert residency in North Carolina, and received another invitation from the NCTA which brought me & Rosa Tatuata to the Richmond Folk Festival. Following the music led to a move to Bluff City...setting the groundwork for 2022 projects with a Memphis sound, I released the original single, Tavula ri Morti in November 2021.
In August of 2022, DJ Raf n Soul released the track, "Folk Palumedda," with me on vocals. While continuing my collaborations in 2022 with Metalli Sonanti & Rosa Tatuata, I also recorded a new album in Memphis, a collision of Sicilian folk traditions and Memphis music traditions. That album, La Notti Triunfanti fulfilled a long-time wish of mine: to make an album of Christmas music! There's a boat-load of Memphis talent on that album. Read what everyone is saying about la Notti Triunfanti and purchase a copy here.
So now that you know about me and my love for Sicilian folk music, my wish is that you come to love and enjoy Sicilian music as much as I do! Please explore this site to your heart's content…I'd be delighted if you listen, watch, add your name to the mailing list, and join me on this musical journey.