Exposé Online banner

Aktuala — Aktuala
(GDRCD1102, 1973/2013, CD)

Aktuala — La Terra
(GDR CD 1103, 1974/2013, CD)

Aktuala — Tappeto Volante
(GDRCD1104, 1976/2013, CD)

by Mike McLatchey, 2017-01-12:

Aktuala Cover artLa Terra Cover artTappeto Volante Cover art

Regarding La Terra:

In the wake of the popularity of transcendental meditation in the 60s, the Beatles and others also incorporated the sounds of India and other cultures, although very few of them had the training to do so with any real skill. But that approach disseminated quite rapidly indeed and by the late 60s a lot of groups were picking up the idea of the raga and applying it somewhat haphazardly to popular music. I've been a fan of this kind of thing since I heard Strawberry Alarm Clock's "Sit with the Guru" and "Black Butter" in my teens and since I don't have enough skill to tell the amateur raga from, say, one of Ravi Shankar's, I tend to love all of this sort of thing, even sometimes when it's not so expertly played. The Third Ear Band is certainly one of my favorite ensembles, and Italians Aktuala picked up and pushed forward their approach by performing raga-esque, acoustic instrument driven trance music, here with guitars, tamboura, balalaika, oboe, harmonica, soprano sax, tablas, and other reeds and percussive instruments all with a sort of hippie urgency. The results were three albums by the ensemble, with this title largely considered their finest work. One of Italy's most oddball discographies, yet nothing short of magical. And it's nice to see them all in print again, as there was something like a ten year gap where they weren't widely available.


by Peter Thelen, 1995-07-01:

The creative forces behind Aktuala were Walter Maioli (arabic oboe, bamboo flute, naj, harmonica, piccolo, etc.) and Daniele Cavallanti (soprano and tenor sax, clarinet) who formed the band in Milan in 1973. Originally a quintet, at their peak they were a seven-piece, including instruments like acoustic and Spanish guitar, balalaika, flute, bells, harp, tabla, moroccan bongos, cello and viola. Originally on the Bla-Bla label, they recorded a total of three albums of what could best be described as world-fusion, combining the influence of Asian and North African traditional music with elements of jazz and folk, play exclusively acoustic instruments.

The first album from 1973, simply titled Aktuala, probably sports the most jazz influence of the three. Here, their music might remind of bands like Embryo or early Between, or take the Paul Winter Consort and strip out all the classical elements... in fact the music on this first album might occasionally hint of some of the more adventurous stuff on the ECM label. The opener, a twelve minute "When the Light Began" sets the tone for the rest of the album. Only "Mammoth R.C.," a free-jazz wail on multi-reeds seems a bit out of place.

For their second album, the lineup swelled to seven – plus guests, and included the renowned percussionist Trilok Gurtu. While the first album sported longer less-structured pieces that sometimes wore out their welcome, La Terra from 1974 was clearly a move to a more raga-based structure in the vein of early Third Ear Band, and the strong percussive elements here carry the album to a higher plane. The harmonica / sax interplay on the album opener "Mina" is quite unique. Overall, this one tends to be more energized than the other two, and thus I'd recommend it as the one to start with.

The final album, Tappeto Volante, is clearly the most stark – a more traditional sounding adventure of thirteen shorter tracks. At this point the jazz and raga elements had almost completely yielded to the very strong Moroccan / Arabic influence, yet it could be said that this is the album with the most variety among its tracks. Five of the tracks were recorded by a five piece lineup (including Gurtu, but not Cavallanti), and the remaining tracks by various fragmentations, alternate lineups and guest musicians, usually including Maioli, Cavallanti, or both, between 1974 and 1976. All are adventurous albums and come highly recommended for the open-minded.


Filed under: Reissues , Issue 7 , 2013 releases, 1973 releases, 2013 releases, 1974 releases, 2013 releases, 1976 releases

Related artist(s): Aktuala, Trilok Gurtu

More info

Latest news

2020-03-24
Bill Rieflin RIP – The sad news reaches us today of Bill Rieflin's death. Rieflin was best known as a drummer in bands ranging from post-punk to industrial to indie-rock to progressive rock, including work with The Blackouts, Ministry, Nine Inch Nails, Swans, Land, and King Crimson. Rieflin had been battling cancer for several years, and succumbed to it on March 24. He was 59. » Read more

2020-03-17
Cruise to the Edge and Seaprog 2020 Festivals Postponed – The worldwide outbreak of the novel coronavirus has started to produce casualties in the music world, and festivals are not immune. We've had word that both the Cruise to the Edge (originally slated for March 27 - April 1) and Seaprog (originally June 5-7) have been postponed to later dates, with those dates to be announced. » Read more

2020-03-06
McCoy Typer RIP – Word reaches us today of the passing of one of the most influential pianists in the history of jazz, McCoy Tyner. His tenure with John Coltrane in the early 60s includes some of the most treasured recordings of the era, including My Favorite Things and A Love Supreme. After leaving Coltrane's group, he had a long and successful solo career. He was 81. » Read more

2020-02-18
Jon Christensen RIP – Word reaches us today of the passing of Norwegian drummer Jon Christensen, a musician whose sensitive playing did much to help define the atmospheric sound of ECM jazz recordings. His work with Jan Garbarek, Bobo Stenson, Terje Rypdal, and many more was sensitive and varied, adapting to a wide variety of styles while maintaining a distinct identity of its own. Christensen was 76. » Read more

2020-01-21
Gong Announces UK Tour for 2020 – Having spent the last few years touring the world, including dates in Japan with psych legend Steve Hillage, multiple headline European tours and festivals, America’s Cruise to the Edge festival, a South America headline tour, and a headline performance at Tomorrow Festival in China, the band have won the hearts of both traditional and modern Gong fanbases. During this live journey, Gong has delved further into the truly psychedelic, exploratory, and mind-expanding side of the music. » Read more


Previously in Exposé...

Solstice - Spirit – One of the bright spots of 2010 was the return of Solstice. It's been 13 years since their last studio effort, Circles, and I was beginning to wonder if they'd ever return. Other than Andy Glass'...  (2011) » Read more

B.A.G. - Soudain, l'Éléphant – This French instrumental five piece of guitars, bass, keys, winds and drums plays music in a somewhat jazzy vein, yet with a rock flair and a multitude of influences ranging from world jazz and Arabic...  (1994) » Read more

Bruford - One of a Kind – After UK’s rookie tour of the US, Eddie Jobson and John Wetton fired Bill Bruford and Allan Holdsworth, thus removing the pervasive jazz element from their soon-to-be transitory super group. The...  (2005) » Read more

Ian Carr's Nucleus - Out of the Long Dark & Old Heartland – One of the last incarnations of Nucleus from the late 70s featured Carr along with long-time cohort Brian Smith on reeds. Geoff Castle, Billy Kristian, and Roger Sellers rounded out this version of...  (2003) » Read more

Coyote Oldman - House Made of Dawn – This duo of flautists, Michael Graham Allen and Barry Stramp, creates a music far beyond that of the acoustic instrument. Processed through a myriad of effects, the tones of the flute create music of...  (2000) » Read more



Listen & discover



Print issues