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Aktuala Aktuala album cover
3.84 | 39 ratings | 8 reviews | 26% 5 stars

Excellent addition to any
prog rock music collection

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Studio Album, released in 1973

Songs / Tracks Listing

1. When The Light Began (11:50)
2. Mammoth R.C. (4:35)
3. Altamira (2:23)
4. Sarah' Ngwega (5:45)
5. Alef's Dance (6:25)
6. Dejanira (5:51)

total time: 36:51

Alternative tracklist (version unspecified at present):

1. Sarah' Ngweha (5:42)
2. Alef's Dance (6:20)
3. Dejanira (5:44)
4. When The Light Began (11:45)
5. Mammoth R.C. (4:27)
6. Altamira (2:17)

Line-up / Musicians

- Walter Maioli / arabic oboe, bamboo flute, bass flute, piccolo, metalflute in C, harmonica, reeds, whistles, djembe, percussion
- Daniele Cavallanti / soprano sax, tenor sax, clarin
- Antonio Cerantola / 6 stings acoustic guitar, 12 stings acoustic guitar, balalaika, zither, dulcimer, viola, violin
- Lino "Capra" Vaccina / maroccan bongos, kobor?, african drums, tabla, gong, xilophone, whistles, cymbals, musical bow, marimba, percussion
- Laura Maioli / tambura, percussion, whistles

Releases information

LP Bla Bla BBL 11054 1973
CD Artis ARCD 038 1993

Thanks to ProgLucky for the addition
and to Aussie-Byrd-Brother for the last updates
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AKTUALA Aktuala ratings distribution

(39 ratings)
Essential: a masterpiece of progressive rock music(26%)
Excellent addition to any prog rock music collection(33%)
Good, but non-essential (23%)
Collectors/fans only (15%)
Poor. Only for completionists (3%)

AKTUALA Aktuala reviews

Showing all collaborators reviews and last reviews preview | Show all reviews/ratings

Collaborators/Experts Reviews

Review by Eetu Pellonpaa
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
4 stars The album opener is named perfectly as "When The Light Began"; a peaceful and mysterious mantra arises slowly from the void, revealing an aural landscape habitated by exotic birds. In this grove we can listen to the beautiful acoustic guitar driven music, upon which tenor instruments perform pleasant solos. In addition of guitar there are two musicians focusing to percussion, along with some winds, harmonica, and string instruments. The overall feeling is very Near East oriented, and one can nearly see a water pipe's smoke trail being rising from the focal point of the spinning vinyl and turntable's stylus. There are few different themes in this song, and this kind of music works pleasantly as casual ambient music or subject for more severe meditating. "Mammoth R.C." gets its influence in my understanding from Japanese musical heritage, starting with a haunting flute, which makes then space for solitary bass drums. After the solemn rhythms some kind of chaotic dragon dance begins, which then returns to the slowly pulsing rhythms of the drums. "Altamira" starts also with ethereal soundscapes, and the melodies of the winds have a slow and delicate dialogs over it, here feeling returning to the sounds of Islamic world. "Sarah' Ngwega" continues the wind driven feeling, but contains sadly also a fade-out ending, and isn't even otherwise the most memorable of these tracks. "Alef's Dance" has a strong rhythm, with flutes soloing in an exotic oriental scale. Guitars also play an interesting melody, joined by a string instrument and flutes as the rhythm takes a turn to different direction. In the end the instruments disappear to the void in different paces, creating an unigue fadeout solution. The last tune "Dejanira" is very mellow and slow, driven by pretty acoustic guitar, and accordion and saxophone soloing over the strong blasts of wind and delicate percussions, being very calming and stimulating similarly.

The album covers are funny in their old beatnik style, but the screaming colors and simple forms don't really describe the music's tenderness and interesting fractal world with myriad details. I would recommend this to the fans of non-European ethnic music, and to those who like analog ambient music. Also friends of Jade Warrior should listen this record trough at least once.

Review by Sean Trane
3 stars Debut album from this atypical Italian quintet that that preferred a faraway folklore to its own. Indeed, this pack of musicians probably took the proverbial hippie trip to India and never really came back. Their whole quiet and reflective sound depends solely on Indian classical music and they do not try to change or modernize it as much as other "specialist" groups such as the British Quintessence or the German Embryo. Plagued with an horrible artwork, the group uses only acoustic instruments only, ranging from Western Sahara to the Far Eastern bamboo flute, but avoids the Indian sitar. The only non-conventional-sounding instrument is the saxophone, which does bring in the odd jazz phrasing to their spectrum.

Clearly lead by wind instrumentalist Walter Maioli, the group's opening track (the aptly- named When the Light Began) is a good acetate of Indian music, but no more. Mammoth is a rather strange completely chaotic music, resembling a bit what the Buthan Buddhist monks can do, laced with a bit of free-jazz, but it is little more than doodlings to these ears and it sticks out like a rotten thumb from the rest of the album. Altamira is a short descriptive track that evokes the jungle nights.

As the second side of the vinyl starts in the same calm manner, slowly drifting to an Arabian-sounding Sarah's Ngewha, but retaining an Indian feel caused by the Balala´ka strummings and accompanied with a jazzy sax. Maybe their better track on this album. The next track is close to Morroccan Jujube music, and IMHO only serves them to show that they've around (mentally at least), because it does sound as out of context musically as it is geographically. The closing Dejanira might just be their most personal track Cavallanti's sax providing a welcome jazzy evasion from the ethnic feel, with a surprising harmonica duet in the middle section

One can indeed ask himself the question of what exactly brought this kind of record, because outside the few personal touches of the group, there is not much to separate it from listening to Indian or Morroccan artistes, while not being sure that the natives will not cringe at their (sacred) music being handled in a non-purist manner, even if played as a homage. Nothing essential, I'd rather you either listen to pure ethnic music or that you'd listen to groups like Embryo or Quintessence, for the sake of experimentation.

Review by ClemofNazareth
5 stars Aktuala have an amazing sound that is not at all what one would typically expect to hear from an Italian band making what is supposed to be folk music. There albums are quite difficult to find today, but are well worth the effort for those who have an interest in complex, primitive music like raga and non-Anglo old folk.

There are no less than three dozen instruments employed on this album, with most of them representing African and Caribbean roots as well as Latin and more traditional sounds. The rhythms are provided via djembe hand drums, Moroccan bongos, kobor˛ and other earthy African drums, while the stringed instruments include The Eastern tambura, zither and hammered dulcimer, as well as a Russian balalaika, violin and of course all manner of six and twelve string guitars. There are also plenty of horns including saxophone, clarinet, oboe, piccolo and various flutes, along with all manner of percussion mostly of the African or Eastern variety.

Like I said this is primitive music in its construction, but the execution shows both a mastery and reverence for ancient musical principles and execution. Third Ear Band comes to mind as a reference for putting this band into some sort of context, and they have also been compared to the experimental jazz outfit Oregon. These are both valid comparisons, but Aktuala go much further than either of those bands in experimenting and mixing sound to form a true world music collage.

The opening “When the Light Began” showcases all these instruments in a rambling, hypnotic swirl of sounds that will leave listeners breathless and also wanting more. The shorter and more brisk “Alef's Dance” is in a similar vein that comes across sounding as if this is meant to be some sort of dance arrangement of undetermined historical and ethnic origin, but with unmistakable Eastern roots.

The most bizarre track is “Mammoth RC” which combines African rhythms and percussion with a frenzied blast of horn-driven cacophony that I guess is supposed to be free-form jazz and which has little perceptible structure or melody. But it comes around at the end and closes with a thudding African drum beat that leaves one with a sense of completion.

“Sarah' Ngwega” is a bit like “Alef’s Dance” in that it is spirited, highly percussive and danceable, while the closing “Dejanira” has a persistent drum beat and jazzy horns mixed with tambura to create an almost spiritual mood.

This is definitely not what one would expect from Italian folk music, and in fact it isn’t. The only things that are really Italian here are most of the musicians. For fans of primitive and world music this is a treat waiting to be discovered, and I highly recommend it. This is about as close to a five star album as I’ve heard in quite a while, and in fact I’m going to give it that in recognition of the fact that it grabbed me right by the ears and held my attention the very first time I heard it. There’s very little music that does that any more, so for those spend an awful lot of time experiencing and delving into different forms of music all the time, this may be an acquired taste but it will likely also be a huge treat.


Review by Warthur
2 stars Most of the Italian albums detailed on this site that came out in 1972 or 1973 are symphonic- influenced RPI albums, so Aktuala represents an interesting change of pace. Not working within a Genesis-influenced prog framework, and by all accounts not really moving in the same circles as the likes of PFM or Banco, Aktuala were instead conceived as a project that allowed the band members, who were collectors of ethnic instruments from around the world, to get a little use out of their collections. Dabbling in the folk traditions of several continents, the band produce music which is pleasant but not more than pleasant, never quite exploring any one tangent with sufficient depth to really develop their compositions. A fun little jam, but hardly a substitute for a proper exploration of the traditions it appropriates.
Review by Aussie-Byrd-Brother
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Rock Progressivo Italiano Team
4 stars An Italian band that operated between 1973 and 1976, Aktuala, led by husband and wife duo Walter and Laura Maioli, recorded three sublime albums in their short period together, and all of these are to be considered precious, treasured jewels. The booklet in the CD reissue proudly states `Music made with prehistorical and ancient cultures instruments', and the musicians here perform in an acoustic raga-rock/prog folk style with a beautiful mix of world, ambient, psychedelic and drone elements, and perhaps even just the slightest of Krautrock sounds as well. There's very little in the way of actual tunes on this album, instead it houses a rambling and intoxicating assortment of freeform improvisations performed on a variety of ethnic instruments. The music on this self-titled debut truly exists out of time, a limitless journey and spiritual meditation through the corridors of your mind.

`When The Light Began' gently unwinds over 12 minutes, an ever-evolving flowing stream of acoustic guitar, sitar, flute and violin around a collage of ambient nature. It's sedate and softly hypnotic with spontaneous bursts of positive whirling energy. The repetitive African tribal beats of `Mammoth B.C' are suffocating and imposing, sounding like an impending apocalypse, with the haunting flute your only respite. Without warning, a mind-shattering explosion of horn-driven splintering noise shatters your sanity, exploding your mind with hidden revelations and now untapped ancient secret knowledge. `Altamira' is a nightmarish dreamscape of rising cymbal crashes that take on a serrated electronic harshness with ethereal wailing voices and frantic horns, creating a deeply psychedelic unease.

The lengthy drone `Sarah'Ngweha' and the trace-inducing `Alef's Dance' spice ancient middle-eastern market place excitement with dark jazz, brought on by trilling flute, rising and falling echoing percussion, a relentless maddening beat that takes on a lustful trance- like quality, culminating in a joyous searing violin whirling jig. Album closer `Dejanira' is an impossibly lovely summer drowse. A pleasing and gentle strummed acoustic guitar, almost in the manner of the lazy acid-fried Pink Floyd folk numbers from the late 60's, it floats around an intoxicating concoction of harmonica, sax, rising cymbals and chiming triangle - this is absolute musical bliss. The bonus track on the latest CD reissue, `Flauti', is unsurprisingly a flute based piece, but quite experimental in that it weaves different types of flutes into an extended mysterious drone that washes over the listener. Despite dating from 1991, it perfectly compliments the vintage material and doesn't sound out of place at all.

`Aktuala' can be enjoyed as an evocative background listen, or a spiritually stirring meditative experience as well. It may instil a sense of peace and contemplation, other parts an uneasy tension and excitement for the unknown. But it's never short of being completely fascinating, and it's a thoughtful collection of ancient styled music. Psychedelic, world and new-age music fans will likely respond most to this, but lovers of the more chilled out ethnic flavoured Krautrock bands like Agitation Free and Popul Vuh will likely also welcome this beautiful collection.

Four stars.

Latest members reviews

5 stars Let's start saying that this is an atypical italian prog band. From the start to the end this album gives a strange emotion inside you, something like the sublime... a connection between the beautiful and the inquietude, a perfect union! i cannot say that i'm a good writer in reviews and this ... (read more)

Report this review (#159498) | Posted by MasteR ProggeR | Tuesday, January 22, 2008 | Review Permanlink

5 stars Mmm - Aktuala's first record from 1973 - finally I got this item to my collection ! What a bunch of great complex psychedelic world music from Italy!! Well - Aktuala was actually a commune of lovers of such kind of world music mixed with strong hints of different cultures, led by now-well-k ... (read more)

Report this review (#69652) | Posted by Rainer Rein | Friday, February 17, 2006 | Review Permanlink

5 stars Aktuala recorded 3 albums in the 70's on Bla Bla Records,a label who released only a dozen of records between 1972 and 1976 (the first 5 albums of Franco Battiato, Osage Tribe's "Arrow Head", Capsicum Red's "Appunti per un idea fissa" and J. Camisasca's "La finestra dentro" along with Aktuala ... (read more)

Report this review (#46535) | Posted by | Tuesday, September 13, 2005 | Review Permanlink

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