The singer-songwriter, musician, and composer from Marina di Vietri sings womanhood through Afro-Mediterranean melodies.
By Vito Pinto
A few years ago, a new album called “Femmene” (female, in the Neapolitan dialect) was released. A celebration of womanhood declined in six songs, where notes, lyrics, and different colors painted the images of a friend, lover, female companion. It is a pop album that highlights the Mediterranean language and mixes it with the piano’s elegance, the guitar’s rhythm, and the accordion, without forgetting the tammora ( a type of drum typical of the Napoli’s area). The artist behind this fantastic work is Serena Della Monica, a passionate musician, and lyricist. She loves to create using the musical aspects of the “South of the world,” from the South of Italy to Africa’s sounds.
The womanhood’s magic
Serena Della Monica writes and sings about “femmene” with different backgrounds, cultures, religions, and ethnicities. She firmly believes that, even if those women may be far from her or at times difficult to understand, each one of them, including herself, needs to consider in the feminine call. Regarding them, she sings that “they are women born under different skies, sometimes unfortunates, but they are still femmene of love.” The firm belief in womanhood’s magic is what moves her pen and our hearts when we listen to these words.
Her father legacy
Serena has been surrounded by music since day 1: her father Enrico is one of the most recognized local tammorra and traditional music experts. This area’s contrade is always filled with the songs from our tradition, those unique sounds that can lead the listener toward a mystical state between Catholicism and Paganism well-known around here. Regarding the tammurriata, it is the main character of the celebrations dedicated to the Madonna delle Galline in Pagani to the extent that the instrument is put at the foot at the end of the festivities of the statue in honor of the Virgin. Starting with the first Friday of the Easter Week until the following Monday, these days are filled with music, dances, and songs that put everyone in a festive mood.
The old and the new
Serena started playing the piano when she was seven years old, and she went on to graduate in musical disciplines at a conservatory. During all her journey, she was helped by her father, who made sure to guide her towards Campania’s musical heritage. This is also a reason why she began to study tammorra and accordion from a young age. “I did all of that because a profound understanding of our traditions moved me. A musical heritage that involves pizzica, tarantella, and not to mention all those Mediterranean ballads that still gets us so emotional,” Serena explains. So it was this part of the world, where different cultures overlook the sea, that inspired Serena to express herself. “All these similar differences fascinate me and still surprise me even after years.”
Serera della Monica while playing, courtesy of the artist
Ninfe Della Camorra
Thinking about women, we also have to mention one of her previous works, “Scaramantrika.” An album where superstition, always crucial for people from the South of Italy, is merged with mantras (religious prayer, mystical expression, meditation practice) to offer good luck. Serena composed it with the collaboration of her band Le ninfe della tammorra to create an “all-female musical journey that could show the listeners that the past local culture is still very present. We wanted to use Mediterranean sonorities and modern rhythms coming from the theatre so that we could express our needs and our heritage”.
The band is formed by seven individuals and has been successful all over Europe while attending music festivals and events. The group found its female vocation when Serena decided to go in that direction, parting ways with her father for this project. The band has been awarded for “their important cultural commitment” and received accolades as “symbols of the Neapolitan musical heritage.” Regarding this, the band won the Mia Martini award in 2018 with their song “Luna.”
Teaching at school
Serena is always on the move, exactly like the sea that she can see from her house in Marina di Vietri. She is often involved in different projects, like “Le Musiche del Mondo si danno la Mano” (the world’s sounds join hands). It is a multidisciplinary educational lab that aims to offer more knowledge of various cultures, traditions, songs, and dances while using music as the perfect tool to teach respect and a positive response to differences.
Sgarbatelli Drum Circle
Serena loves to work with the youth. That’s why she is also the founder of the project called “Gli Sgarbatelli Drum Circle”: an-extra educational lab that sees 80 kids, from 11 to 17 years old, trying to face with the help of music a problem like inclusivity among adolescences. An exciting journey through songs, dances, and rhythms involves acoustic guitars, electric bass guitar, accordion, drums, and the local castagnette. This program was such a success that on the 22nd of March of 2018, the group played as the opening act for the international event I tamburi della pace held in Rome at the Promoteca del Campidoglio.
Serena Della Monica during a live concert, courtesy of the artist
Serena’s work shows how big her love for music is and how much she cares for the younger generations. All of this also allowed her to collaborate with artist such as Marcello Colasurdo, Nando Citarella, Farias, Tony Esposito and Eugenio Bennato. Bennato, the author of this fantastic song: Che il Mediterraneo sia / Quella nave che va da sola / Tutta musica e tutta a vele / Su quell’onda dove si vola / Tra la storia e la leggenda / Del flamenco e della taranta.
Coming back home
In 2008, Serena, her father Enrico, and their band created the album Ile oyo. The name comes from an African phrase that can be translated as “coming back home,” In this album, they included various non-Italian musicians. “We thought about the sounds of the South of the world, and we contaminated them with our lyrics and sounds. We decided to mix modern instruments with those coming from various musical traditions. For example, we added the “berimbau,” an instrument used by the African slaves in Brasil.” Serena tells us. Then she pauses for a moment, almost to meditate. “In Africa, the sound of drums get confused with the rhythm of the heart.” Serena gently touches the piano keys, and a piece of melancholic music fills the air while the sun is going down, and the seagulls seem to fly to the rhythm of “Valzer per Linda.”