Beautiful Obscurity: Acquaraggia play Dylan: a new experience

By Tony Attwood

The Beautiful Obscuriti series aims to find little known or even unknown reworkings of Bob Dylan’s music, and with this in mind I have been sent a copy of the album Pontifex by Acquaraggia from which I’m going to offer a few recordings below.

I must admit from the start I don’t feel that qualified to be able to comment on an enterprise as broad as this but it is utterly fascinating as it seeks to use Bob’s music as a method of bringing together two totally disparate musical traditions – something I have not come across before.

My own view is that the music on this album (and there are three tracks set out below for you to judge) incredibly intriguing it is not like anything I have heard before.  But of course that’s a dangerous thing to say; you may well have experience of this type of fusion.

Of course not having experienced this approach before leaves me at a disadvantage in that I don’t have a base line from which to build my comparisons or comments.  So I am going to offer these three tracks along with my own thoughts on what I find here – but I am keeping them much shorter than usual.

So in what follows please do remember this is just me exploring something that is quite new to me, and I am doing it on my own.  You might reach a totally different conclusion.

The essence of the music, as far as I understand it, builds from within the phrase, “A wall that unites instead of dividing.”  In short it is using the music of Dylan to combine the very different worlds of western and eastern music symbolised by the Great Wall of China, in a way that enriches both sides.

The first track from the album I have selected is my eternal favourite…

Drifters’ Escape

This is a project that has been realized thanks to the encounter between the celestial sounds of the guzheng (21-string musical instrument, of the family of zithers) of the virtuoso performer Chinese Nie Xin (called Silvia) and the band known as Acquaraggia.

The notion (as I understand it) is that the wall has become a connecting, peaceful, brotherly bridge between cultures and civilisations, between thoughts and moods.

I think one can see how this can be extended particularly here with…

Chimes of Freedom

Each song is thus seen as an exploration of backgrounds and sensitivity, to see where it goes which in a sense takes us back to Marco Polo’s exploration of the far east.

Giuseppe, who has been my guide to the album, gave me a particular insight when he explained that there is a sizeable Chinese community in Florence but there is very limited communication between Chinese and Italian parts of the city, despite the recognition of this reality through dual language signs in the city.

Thus the bringing together the music of two disparate cultures is an understandable response especially as there were musicians from both cultures willing to work together.   It was out of this that the idea of Dylan on the Great Wall emerged.

Blowing in the Wind

Band members are…

  • Giuseppe Oliverio, writer, singer , rhythm guitarist
  • Domenico Arcuri, playing bass guitar and ideas
  • Alessandro Abba, electric guitar and ideas

Visiting musicians who usually play alongside the band are…

You can get more information from giuseppe@acquaraggia.it

The Beautiful Obscurity series

What else?

You can read about the writers who kindly contribute to Untold Dylan in our About the Authors page.   And you can keep an eye on our current series by checking the listings on the home page

You’ll also find, at the top of this page, and index to some of our series established over the years.  Series we are currently running include

  • The art work of Bob Dylan’s albums
  • The Never Ending Tour year by year with recordings
  • Bob Dylan and Stephen Crane
  • Beautiful Obscurity – the unexpected covers
  • All Directions at Once

You’ll find links to all of them on the home page of this site

If you have an article or an idea for an article which could be published on Untold Dylan, please do write to Tony@schools.co.uk with the details – or indeed the article itself.

We also have a very lively discussion group “Untold Dylan” on Facebook with getting on for 10,000 members. Just type the phrase “Untold Dylan” in, on your Facebook page or follow this link    And because we don’t do political debates on our Facebook group there is a separate group for debating Bob Dylan’s politics – Icicles Hanging Down

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