Michela Musolino, American-born-and-raised, has been carrying on a love-affair with Sicilian music. It's no secret, though. Known for her fiery and passionate interpretations of both traditional and contemporary Sicilian folk and roots music, Musolino turns world fusion songs into timeless pieces and infuses her vocals with the emotions of life. Musolino enchants with a voice that seems to float between the ages. Peter Covino, Pen America prize-winning poet and University of Rhode Island Assistant Professor of English said about Musolino, "Can you imagine the wild soulfulness of Tina Turner and the earthy yet ethereal voice of Neapolitan songstress Teresa De Sio combined? Well imagine that; then think even more vibrancy, more urbanity, in songs that somehow also feel impossibly intimate.... No wonder Michela Musolino has such a devoted underground following; full divahood seems scarily within reach."
Michela Musolino 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 Michela and she fell in love with them. Listening to those sounds made her curious, hungry to understand and determined to join in the conversations. On trips back to Sicily, she'd become enamored of the traditional folk songs and began to collect them, scouring tape bins with her dad trying to find recordings she didn't already have. Years later, she'd join the NYC -based theatre company, I Giullari di Piazza, and for three years performed with them Southern-Italian folk music and dance.
Once Michela started her journey as a performer, she was surprised and delighted to learn that her paternal grandmother played the frame drum and her great-grandmother was known for her drumming and dancing! ( check through the blog posts...those stories are in there somewhere...)
Michela Musolino studied commedia dell'arte with two great Romans, actress Lydia Biondi and director/actor Enzo Aronica. Working with producer, Paola Bellu, Musolino 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 Musolino and asked her to pick the twelve songs she loved to sing the most...they were all Sicilian songs. Working with Bellu, Michela 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 her performing base is NYC, Musolino's debut CD, Songs of Trinacria, would be recorded both in NYC and in Rome, Italy, at Alfa Music Studios. Michela presented a selection of traditional Sicilian work songs, lullabys 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 Musolino 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 Musolino to Sicilian folk artists such as Umberto Leone, Rocco Pollina, La Banda di Paceco, Palermo Art Ensemble, Vincenzo Castellana, 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, Musolino was invited to be one of the contributing artists.
Friendships and musical collaborations made in Sicily started to criss-cross the Atlantic. Musolino joined palermitano singer-songwriter Pippo Pollina on stage in Salt Lake City Utah for his United States' debut concert. With Vincenzo Castellana, Musolino co-authored Sempri amMari, a theatrical presentation of Sicilian folk songs dedicated to the sea of Sicily. 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.
Musolino was an Artist-in-Residence at the Middlebury Italian Language School in Middlebury Vermont in 2008, 2012 and 2013. For her 2013 residency, Musolino penned a performance piece in which she narrated and sang Sicilian and Southern Italian folk music 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. It was for Musolino pure joy to work again with gifted composer LaBarbera as he was her first musical director when she began performing in NYC.
2013 was also the year she met multi instrumentalist and bricoleur, Michael Delia, and guitarist & organetto master, composer Fabio Turchetti. In 2014, the 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, Musolino weaves her voice through their musical sculptures. In October of 2015, Terra Sangue Mare will debut their original folk operetta, Iu Nascìi pi Beniti Appressu a ‘Ttia/ I Was Born to Follow You and they'll soon be together in the studio recording their first CD. Expect to see them touring the US and Europe in 2015 and beyond.
After she met wild man guitarist, organetto player and folklorist, Phil Passantino at a party at her house ( it was a great night: there were three zampogna (Italian bagpipes) players in her garden...and she's still trying to figure out how to turn these parties into performance pieces...) Michela began a fun collaboration: singing arrangements that are hot and haunting from a repertoire of Sicilian and Calabrese songs mixed with the traditional songs from the Meridione (Southern Italy). With Passantino she has performed live on Time Warner Cable Television and in April of 2015 on Broadway for a 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 Michela to bring Sicilian folk music to the production, just as Williams originally included it in his hommage to love and Sicilians.
Musolino can't quite put a year to the exact time when she first met her old friend & zampognaro, Dom Porco, but happily their friendship has resulted in the group, I Vicini della Ruga, with zampognaro Charlie Rutan, I Vicini play the music of Calabria and Sicily with heavy emphasis on bagpipes and frame drums. They recently performed at the Tenth Annual All Things Italian Festival in Fairfield, Iowa.
On a recent trip to Sicily, Musolino realized two dreams-come-true: she recorded at R.T. Studio "U sciauru du suonu" in Polizzi Generosa with the great singer-songwriter and poet, Moffo Schimmenti. The song, Navigannu Cu Viientu du Sud was written by Fabio Turchetti, translated by Schimmenti and arranged by Roberto Terranova. Look for it here on Michela's website.
In April, 2016, Terra Sangue Mare, the trio of Musolino, Michael Delia and Fabio Turchetti, released a NEW CD. It was recorded in Prague during Terra Sangue Mare's Fall 2015 European Tour. Visit the Terra Sangue Mare page on the pull down menu above to read more about the CD, find reviews and where it's playing. Better yet, visit the store to purchase a download or a copy!
Remember that night on Broadway with the Rosa Tattoo? It gave birth to another band, Rosa Tatuata! Michela joined by Phil Passantino, Charlie Rutan and Jeffrey Panettiere are having a ball performing the folk and roots music of Sicily with some Southern Italian songs sprinkled throughout the repertoire. Rosa Tatuata's shows are just the right mix of ballads and raucous tunes to make everyone dance for joy and fall in love. In 2019, Michela and Rosa Tatuata performed at the Montana Folk Festival under the aegis of the National Council on the Traditional Arts and simultaneously released their debut Cd, Sotto le Stelle ( Under the Stars) a selection of Sicilian & Southern Italian folk songs from their repertoire of their outdoor, summer concerts.
2020 saw the cancellation of every concert on the schedule, so Michela did what so any artists had to do: performed on line. One of her 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
Michela also participated in the online Cuisine - Concert series for the Montauk Public Library. Click here to watch Michela's episode.
Musolino tours Italy where she collaborates with Fabio Turchetti and gets to perform in such places as the 12th century Norman Castle in Salemi, with special guest Michele Piccione, and the Osteria del Quinto with special guest , Angelo Morabito, and the Biblioteca Statale di Cremona.
Lending her voice to film, Michela can be heard on 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, Michela again collaborated with Sicilian DJ, Raf 'n Soul to re-interpret an Italian pop hit from 1979... and as soon as it was released (you can watch it here), they are back in the studio re-working an old Sicilian tradition...stay tuned for that!
2021 is now filling up with live shows and workshops so please check out Michela's Shows page!
So now that you know about Michela and her passion for Sicilian folk music, explore this site to your heart's content, listen to her voice, watch some of her videos, add your name to the mailing list and be part of this musical journey.