Photo: White Star
Photo: White Star

How often does a group of musicians receive a request to do an encore after it has finished performing? Very rarely.

Well, it happened on Wednesday night at the National Academy of Performing Arts’ (Napa) ongoing International Theatre Festival when the Italian a cappella band Mezzotono sang (the word performed would better encapsulate the brilliant act titled ‘Mad in Italy’) its heart out winning over the audience who had arrived in a big number to listen to the musicians.

For the uninitiated, a cappella is a genre of music in which no instruments are used to support the singing. The beat and melody are created through the artists’ voices for which harmony is key. On Wednesday it was not just about singing though — there was comedy, there was movement and there was engagement with the audience.

The group (Nicola Fabio Lepore, Alessandro Gnolfo, Luigi Nardiello, Tania Pugliese and Daniela Felicia Desideri) appeared on stage when Fabio, who was also the director of the show, tried to speak in Italian to the audience; Luigi stopped him and, reading from a piece of paper, spoke in Urdu. The attempt was well received.

The gig kicked off with the song ‘Mambo Italiano’. It clearly took the audience by a delightful surprise because what they heard was music of a unique kind in which five extremely talented vocalists were not only singing a lovely song but with groovy beats that Alessandro’s bass and Luigi’s baritone were making to keep the rhythm going.

Since the band comes from the Italian city of Bari, the second track was called ‘Dance of Barese’. The snapping of the fingers and the vocal harmonies with a lilting melody had most present in the auditorium swaying.

And how can any bunch of Italian artists not talk about one of their historic and culturally vibrant cities, Naples? So the song that followed was about that.

As if it was but natural, from cities the transition to food came effortlessly. After all, it was Italian music that the audience was there for. Therefore one of the Mezzotono musicians mentioned gobhi in the context of Pakistan. This led them to present the song ‘Cime de rape’ whose lyrics revolved around food. To boot, it had a mischievous tone to it, which everyone enjoyed a lot.

This was followed by a love song prior to which Fabio started to look for ‘love in Karachi’, spotted a lovely lady (Italian Consul-General Anna Ruffino) and invited her on stage. Next up were a few more tracks, including the famous ‘Buonasera signorina’. Needless to say that the audience enjoyed them so much that once the band was done with its stint, they asked it to perform one more time.

Originally published in Dawn, March 30th, 2019