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Ancient Roman Jews Meet Wartime Partisans on a Raucous and Lush Avant-rock Album

Dan Kaufman and his band Barbez blend jazz, rock, liturgical melodies, and Italian neo-realism on ‘Bella Ciao’

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Crowd listening to a speech by Socialist Pietro Nenni at the Basilica di Massenzio in Rome on March 11, 1948. (David Seymour/Magnum)

When guitarist and composer Dan Kaufman headed to Rome in 2009 to study the liturgical melodies of the city’s ancient Jewish community, he stumbled upon the site of a famous partisan attack against the Nazis. Bullet-marked, the building where the action took place remained as a testament to resistance. That story joined together in his imagination with that of the city’s inhabitants from millennia before, inspiring him to create the new album Bella Ciao. Like previous projects Kaufman has undertaken with his band Barbez—he joined the podcast in 2007 to discuss his album inspired by the work of Paul CelanBella Ciao draws on poetry and uses theramin, vibraphone, and more traditional instruments to produce an invigorating mix of sound and ideas.

He joins Vox Tablet host Sara Ivry to talk about how he came upon this ancient liturgical music, dramatic chapters in the history of the Italian resistance movement, and his take on the international protest anthem “Bella Ciao.” [Running time: 20:21.] 

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Ancient Roman Jews Meet Wartime Partisans on a Raucous and Lush Avant-rock Album

Dan Kaufman and his band Barbez blend jazz, rock, liturgical melodies, and Italian neo-realism on ‘Bella Ciao’

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