Event Review + Gallery: Ariano Folk Festival 2023
(Ariano Irpino, Italy; Wednesday 16th August
to Sunday 20 August 2023)

Words by Marco Canepari / Photos by Gaetano Piazzolla

It’s no secret that we have quite a soft spot for organic, far-reaching, and risk-taking music festivals—events that illuminate the evenings and nights of entire towns, bridging the gap between locals and “outsiders” in a familiar, heartfelt, and homespun manner. It’s almost as if you’ve always been a part of the community, residing in those squares and streets, immersing yourself in the local way of life, even when you live thousands of miles away in another country.

But that’s the joy of discovering and attending global-local hidden treasures like the Ariano Folk Festival. This event, which took root in the late ’90s and has continued to flourish year after year, summer after summer, quite literally brings the world to an often-overlooked and off-the-beaten-track area of Southern Italy, such as Irpinia.

The 26th edition of the festival was no different—four days brimming with quality, vibrant, dance-inducing, and heart-warming music, all delivered in the unmistakable Ariano Folk style.

Francesco Fodarella @ Ariano Folk Festival 2023 / © Gaetano Piazzolla

Everything came to life on Wednesday evening with a bang! The first-day lineup already showcased four highlights, with acts creating a pan-European musical journey that transcended not only the nationalities of the musicians but also musical genres.

The festival kicked off with an unlikely yet unforgettable neo-zombie-post-folk duo, renowned for its sui generis performances that seamlessly blend musical virtuosity with Baltic folk traditions and impromptu comedic elements. Puuluup is indeed a duo that transforms folk music, establishing a continuous connection with the audience and adding some fun-filled moments, thanks to the dry and incisive humor of both its members, Ramo and Marko. Notably, they even ventured into learning Italian, adding a unique dimension to their performance.

Following them was the larger-than-life funky fusion sound of the Turin-based Rhabdomantic Orchestra, a 10-piece band led by multi-instrumentalist Manuel Volpe and fronted by the expressive voice and captivating stage presence of Colombian singer Maria Mallol Moya. Their distinct blend of spicy and enchanting musical concoctions became their trademark, as they blew away the crowd with their refined grooves and nifty vibes.

Rhabdomantic Orchestra @ Ariano Folk Festival 2023 / © Gaetano Piazzolla

The upbeat reggae and dub notes from French heavyweights Dub Inc jumped on stage next. Hailing from Saint-Étienne, this reggae institution delivered a mind-boggling performance that artfully wove together smooth and evocative North African melodies with deep, resonant Caribbean rhythms, thanks to their two charismatic lead singers and top-notch instrumentalists.

Closing the first night of the festival was the multifaceted set by Amsterdam-based vinyl diggers and global dance purveyors Pushinwood. They took the audience on a whirlwind journey through rhythm-rich sounds from around the world.

This marked just the beginning of an extraordinary and sunshiny festival that attracted thousands of music enthusiasts as well as the merely curious to the squares, alleyways, bars and venues of Ariano Irpino… and it couldn’t have been otherwise, because the program for the following days was as eclectic and diverse as its opening.

Dub Inc @ Ariano Folk Festival 2023 / © Gaetano Piazzolla

On Thursday evening, the sounds of Turkey, Colombia, and the UK resonated through the streets of the Campanian city. Berlin-based Derya Yıldırım & Grup Şimşek made their entrance on the Folk Stage in the central Piazza Calvario, treating the audience to honeyed acid-folk melodies and vintage Anatolian rock riffs.

Following them, Romperayo brought Afro-Colombian rhythms and larger-than-life sounds, deftly blending social fervour with Bogotano emotions, tropical vibes, traditional Colombian music, digital cumbia, relentless drumming, and a special guest appearance by Maria Mallol Moya.

Wrapping up the night show was none other than Scratchy Sounds, a legendary London DJ who whisked the audience away on a musical odyssey from the Balkans to Latin America, traversing the ’60s to the future with his “Rock and The Roll of The World,” all while spinning his strictly vinyl collection.

Romperayo @ Ariano Folk Festival 2023 / © Gaetano Piazzolla

Friday ushered in the early hours of the afternoon with DJ sets filling the air in small, cosy squares nestled in the city’s historic heart. Attendees were enthralled by an all-encompassing range of styles that accompanied them on a journey around the world, with French DJ Big Buddha and Coqo Djette leading the way.

As the evening rolled in, live sets once again took the spotlight. The Castle Stage witnessed a leftfield performance by Bahian-based accordionist and versatile singer/songwriter Livia Mattos and her trio. Together, they explored the Afro-Brazilian connection, intricately weaving and unravelling cultural threads with their unpredictable artistry.

A few hours later, Angolan-Portuguese Pongo took the main stage, delivering an unrestrained and exhilarating bass-heavy kuduro set, enriched by spirited dances and a stage invasion by an enthusiastic audience.

Pongo @ Ariano Folk Festival 2023 / © Gaetano Piazzolla

The square continued to pulsate with Afro-vibes, courtesy of Ivorian DJ Asna‘s tasteful and groove-inducing set. She explored exhilarating electro-vibes from across the African continent, ensuring that the night maintained its infectious energy.

The party spirit persevered, as French techno-accordionist Grayssoker had revellers dancing into the early hours. His wild set masterfully blended old-fashioned folk music frames with futuristic arrangements, creating a deep sonic experience that transcended time.

Maria Mazzotta @ Ariano Folk Festival 2023 / © Gaetano Piazzolla

On Saturday, after a late lunch filled with global sound delights generously shared by Pushinwood and Coqo Djette, the programme presented an unconventional take on folkloric and traditional sounds from around the world.

The early evening shone a spotlight on one of Italy’s most inspiring artists, Maria Mazzotta, an Apulian tradition enhancer and defier. She graced the Castle Stage with her deeply personal, emotional, and stimulating nterpretation of Southern Italian musical expressions like pizzica.

Rumbo Tumba @ Ariano Folk Festival 2023 / © Gaetano Piazzolla

A couple of hours later, back in the main square, the audience was treated to the fervid imagination and all-encompassing musicianship of Argentinian one-man band Rumbo Tumba. This multi-instrumentalist and electro-craftsman from Buenos Aires held the crowd spellbound with his visionary performance, seamlessly weaving, blending, and mixing instruments, loops, and airy Latin American melodies and rhythms in real-time.

Within minutes, attendees found themselves transported to a 1950s Athenian wedding, courtesy of Marseille-based Deli Teli. This Greek-French quartet possessed a unique talent for getting people to move and join in communal dance. They offered a fusion of funk, psychedelia, vintage rock, and irresistible bouzouki-led laiko, rebetiko, and tsifteteli music.

Deli Teli @ Ariano Folk Festival 2023 / © Gaetano Piazzolla

As sure as a Sunday morning mass or a family sit-down lunch, Ariano Folk Festival Sunday morning was all about the parade. A two-hour-long procession in funky music and party spirit was led by a classic and shiny Fiat 500 and the rambunctious local marching brass band, which had the crowd dancing step after step to the grand finale of the festival in the Main Square. The closing show provided plenty of musical refreshment on a scorching afternoon. While a water gun battle broke out in front of the stage involving and soaking all the concertgoers, Cape Verdean Fogo Fogo brought their charming and soothing funanà vibes, embracing and lulling the audience as only tropical Ocean waves can do.

Following them was one of the hottest acts in the Italian indie scene, Extraliscio, a band of true ballroom heroes and dancefloor instigators. They seamlessly fused the kitschy and vintage ballo liscio essence, drawn from the most rustic and folksy honky-tonks of Emilia-Romagna, with a militant folk ethos and a punk attitude. The result was an unbridled, untamed, and arguably the most fitting end to one of the few authentic and long-standing music festivals in Italy, if not Europe. A presto, Ariano Folk!

Extraliscio @ Ariano Folk Festival 2023 / © Gaetano Piazzolla



Enjoy the photo gallery by our good friend Gaetano Piazzolla 
and you can find out all the Ariano Folk Festival-related news HERE


Photos © Gaetano Piazzolla

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