Born in Palermo, the capital of the Region of Sicily, on January 30, 1982, Vincenzo Castellana spent his childhood in a little village in the Madonie Mountains. It was there that he was first introduced to music.  By the age of 5 he already had his first encounters with ’il tamburello siciliano’the Sicilian Frame Drum. This drum would become his companion on many adventures as he forged a life-long and unbreakable attachment to it.

photo © reino veenstra

His first professional performance was at the age of 5 with the folk group Gazzara, of which today he is still an active member.  It was with the Gruppo Gazzara that he  performed in cultural festivals on various tours throughout Europe, visiting cities such as Prague, Stockholm, Paris, Budapest, Lisbon, Madrid… It was through this experience that he was first exposed to the musical traditions of many different cultures.  It was during this period that he also performed with the musical band of his village ; activity which gave him instruction in reading, interpreting and writing music.

He met the noted folk musician, Alfio Antico with whom he developed an interesting dialogue. It was this friendship which represented a fundamental source characterizing his musical formation. Castellana discovered that the Frame Drum is not simply an instrument for accompanying others, but that it is an instrument capable of producing music which could stand alone. Antico changed Castellana’s conception of the Frame Drum and Castellana then integrated this new vision with  ethnomusicological research  into various other world music percussive traditions. At the same time his encounters with his elderly compatriots exposed him to and instructed him in the  traditional instruments of Sicily such as the “fiscalettu” ( Sicilian Cane flute) and the marranazanu (Sicilian mouth harp).

After graduating from the  Liceo Scientifico a Termini Imerese he attended  the University of Palermo from which he holds a degree in Art, Music, Theater (D.A.M.S.). While completing his studies at the University, Castellana and fellow students formed a collective called Laboratorio teorico pratico di etnomusicologia Aglaia, which researched and performed traditional music. Their musical abilities and their passion for the tradition so impressed  the faculty that they were asked  to  organize teach courses at the Unversity. For his thesis he interviewed the most famous of the Sicilian folk musicians of the last fifty years  and  documented the significant and world-wide phenomenon of the Folk Music Revival which characterized the musical life, especially of the youth in Sicily, between the 1970’s and the 1980’s. Castellana now independently teaches courses in the musical traditions of Sicily; his goal is to pass these traditions on to the next generation of musicians.

Amplifying his perspective on the frame drum and deepening his rapport with it and its musical tradition lead him to collaborate with artistic and musical groups such as Ensemble Engyon, Compagnia Ditirammu, C. P. F; Matrimia Klezmer Band (and the Kocani Orkestar), Mario Incudine and Gruppo Terra, Beati Paoli… performing with them throughout Italy and world, in countries such as Turkey, Netherlands and China and recording many discographic products. These well known musical groups conferred a noted performing experience beyond a heightened awareness of music and  traditions of various continents. In 2003 Castellana  became an active participant in the group Taberna Mylaensis and extensively toured with them in Italy and abroad. He continues to perform with them  and he also  recorded the rhythm tracks  for their latest CD “E vinniru du mari… Federicu”. Castellana’s talents are also appreciated far beyond the genre of Folk Music. In 2008 he makes part of the project Al Funduq, a musical exchange program directed by Pierre Vaiana, Carlo Rizzo and Girolamo Garofalo, performing in Tunis with a multicultural orchestra. He has collaborated with contemporary artists such as Maestro Ennio Morricone and various more.

Castellana contributes his musical and theatrical talents to stage performances and film having participated in Baaria by Giuseppe Tornatore; Walking Bagpipes, a short movie produced by National Geographic MusicSulle Orme dei Suoni by Michele Piccione and Suoni e Miti dell’Antica Grecia by Secoli Bui. Castellana divides his time between Amsterdam, Sicily and New York performing the traditional music of Sicily with his own folk bands, Sud Al Nord, Duo Marziano and AcquAria, a music-theater company who pays hommage to the Sicilian sea, combining music, literature, dance, acting and songs. The first version of Acquaria has performed in several prestigious venues in the United States with a large appreciation of the American audiences. The last projects of Vincenzo Castellana are focused more on Music-Theater forms. He collaborates with the Master Storyteller Sahand Sahebdivani as stable member of Mezrab Collective, an high quality music ensemble. The new born Passi/e with Marije Nie, an excellent tap dancer, poet of steps, is an extraordinary experiment. A combination of concert and percussions workshop, where the two artist merge their different backgrounds and skills in an interesting analysis the concept of ‘roots’. On december 2014, Vincenzo Castellana is invited to partecipate as musician of Supercity Band on the production of the 4 days sold out 100% Amsterdam at Stadsschouwburg by the German company Rimini Protokoll. The same concept has been represented in more than 20 biggest cities of the world. In the Netherlands it has been a big success with high interest of the national press and medias.