Friday, August 16, 2013

Colosseum Country Festival (and more) brings imaginary wild west to Rome

By Ruth Ellen Gruber

Italians seem to be succumbing to the public expression of the Imaginary Wild West.

The phenomenon isn't as widespread as in some other countries, but it's certainly now there, or beginning to be there -- as testified by the upcoming "Colosseum Country Festival" to be held near Rome at the beginning of October, whose main attraction seems to be line-dancing.

Western riding and horsemanship have long been at the heart of the trend in Italy

Already half a dozen years ago I attended the "Western Games" at a "ranch" near Lake Bracciano northwest of Rome, which was a mini-rodeo and riding competition set among displays, Indian dancing, and general wild west themed family entertainment attractions. There were even "live" American cowboys brought over from Oregon.

Western Games, Bracciano, 2005. Photo © Ruth Ellen Gruber

The prime mover behind that festival, Andrea "Drew" Mischianti, has long been a key figure in Italy's western, horse, riding and cowboy scene for many years and long wrote a column about the cowboy life for an Italian wild west magazine. He and his wife Natalia Estrada run a "Ranch Academy" to teach and take part in "buckeroo" skills and lifestyle. They also take part in competitions and exhibitions of skills.

But country music -- unlike in other countries -- had little, if any, attraction. At festivals I've attended in France, Germany, CZ, Austria, Switzerland and PL, for example, music and line-dancing were major and something THE major, draws. But at the Western Games, this band played to an audience of ZERO. 

Western Games, Bracciano, 2005. Photo © Ruth Ellen Gruber

Line-danging, bluegrass and country music now seem to be making some inroads in popularity, particularly in northern Italy, where there have been some festivals. The Genoa-based Italian bluegrass group Red Wine is considered one of the best in Europe and tours in the U.S. The Rome-based banjoist Danilo Cartia also has been making a name for himself. This month, the American banjo great Tony Trischka will be performing with Red Wine before going on to at banjo workshop in Urbino.

Even in the little village festival in Collelungo, in Umbria, a (sort of) country duo called Western Strings was one of the acts chosen to perform in the piazza. Among the songs they played were the two all time European favorites -- Country Roads and Sweet Home Alabama.

Italy also, of course, has a thriving Cowboy Action Shooting scene -- I'm a member of the Old West Shooting Society and have attended a number of events, which I have posted about.

OWSS match, 2009. Photo © Ruth Ellen Gruber

No comments: