Thursday, June 16, 2016


During the height of the 1960’s surge of Italian singers and love songs, there was one song that make made the charts, and made Italian/Americans take pride in their native tongue and the stories conveyed by music. That song was Mala Femina about a wayward woman.

The song with its pleading and classic tango tempo seemed to mesmerize the listener if he/she was Italian, and often it was lip-synched and sometimes sung along. It was the favorite of old unmarried or widowed ladies especially.

Being Italian/American, there was often a wedding of some cousin or distant relative and your presence was needed to avoid embarrassment for the bride’s father, and so you went. The record book was taken out, and next to your name were two things:
1)    Did you show up?
2)    How much you gave
This record keeping was for future use, in case you were having a wedding, it was important to receive in kind what you gave.

AS you sat through the ordeal of the other side’s family, the food, and the music you decided how much could possibly be given for the occasion. If the food was bad, or the music bad, or God-forbid you were seated with that loud-mouthed son-of-a-bitch at the same table, you retreated to the restroom and extracted some money from the envelope or ‘Aboost’. This was acceptable behavior and practiced by at least half the attendees.

Once the dancing began, the MC would ask for request, and the favorite was from the little old ladies and you guessed it: “PLAY MALA FEMINA!” “PLAY MALA FEMINA, oh I love a the song, “PLAY MALA FEMINA!” Suddenly the lights went low, as the introductory notes of the song commanded attention and the song was sung, the only light emanating from the flicker of little candles that danced at each table. Faces turned to stone and voices silenced as the singer begun to play on the heart strings of the old girls.

This of course got a lot of laughs out of me, as I watched these old gals get up and dance with one another, all with stiff grey hair packaged in a bun and dressed in black. Most of the dolls were widowed for over 10 years and more, their husbands died because they wanted to. Once the music ended, suddenly the lights went up and to the center of the dance floor strode Zia Francesca and Zio Felice! All at once the atmosphere was lifted to a new height, and the heart started to beat once more, taking you from the range of melancholy to the joy of the quick stepped Tarantella Napolitana, the mood quickened by joy, laughter and amazement at the skill of the old couple coming alive, bringing you your heritage on the wooden dance floor. Pure JOY!


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