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

2017-04-16
ProgDay 2017 Announces First Bands – Flor de Loto, Sonar, and Infinien are the first three performers to be announced for the 2017 edition of the long-running ProgDay Festival. The 23rd ProgDay takes place Saturday and Sunday, September 2nd and 3rd, at Storybook Farm in Chapel Hill, North Carolina. » Read more

2017-04-16
Allan Holdsworth RIP – Surely in the list of artists who have contributed to the sound of modern music, there is a special spot for guitarist Allan Holdsworth. His name is known to virtually every student of the instrument in jazz and rock, and his style has been so widely emulated that it's hardly worth mentioning anymore — we can just assume that every guitarist has Holdsworth as an influence. » Read more

2017-02-20
Larry Coryell RIP – One of the greats of jazz guitar has left us at the age of 73. Larry Coryell was one of the founding figures of jazz fusion, but produced a significant body of work the bridged many styles. His group Eleventh House provided a unique take on the combination of jazz and rock that was distinct from contemporaries such as Mahavishnu Orchestra, Return to Forever, and Weather Report. » Read more

2017-01-31
John Wetton RIP – After a long battle with colon cancer, singer and bassist John Wetton has died at the age of 67. As an integral member of such bands as King Crimson, UK, and Asia, his was one of the distinctive voices in progressive rock, lending a human touch to often difficult music. » Read more

2017-01-30
Seaprog Announces First Artists for 2017 – The organizers of the Seaprog Festival in Seattle have announced the first set of confirmed performers for the 2017 festival. The best known names are Jack o' the Clock and Zero Times Everything, but a host of other bands are featured, mostly from the Northwest. The festival will take place June 2-4, 2017. » Read more


Previously in Exposé...

Apocalypse - Perto do Amanhecer – This is the second outing for this four-piece from Brazil, their first self-titled album from the late 80s still being a vinyl-only release. Their neo-progressive sound and dramatic styling have...  (1995) » Read more

Elton Dean & the Wrong Object - The Unbelievable Truth – It’s still hard to believe that Brit jazz giant Elton Dean is no longer with us. Considering how alive his performance from fall 2005 is with Belgian band the Wrong Object, it was clearly a joyous...  (2008) » Read more

Banda Elastica - Los Awakates de Nepantla – Dedicated to the memory of Frank Zappa, this Mexican RIO ensemble's superb new album is almost as reminiscent of another underappreciated influential innovator in rock music as it is of Zappa. So...  (1995) » Read more

Laser - Vita sul Pianeta – This one surprised me a bit – I guess I was expecting it to be much worse. I suppose it's a bit dated for 1973, with definite psych / beat influences and shorter songs. In many ways, Laser...  (1996) » Read more

Vacuum Tree Head - Thirteen! – Once one of the most prolific outfits around (when the band was based in San Jose, California, they put out no less than 10 CDs between ’93 and ’99), their output has slowed down...  (2011) » Read more



Listen & discover



Print issues