Musical tradition: melodies from Sicily

Musical traditionSicily is characterized by a great musical tradition. From ancient songs to contemporary artists, let’s discover together how the island has been told…in music. Sicilian Secrets chose for you the most significant and famous melodies, read more.

Notes and harmony sometimes are the perfect tools to talk about history, people and customs. This is why Sicily has a so important musical tradition: from Christian music to work songs, from brass bands to jazz, from folk songs to the most famous contemporary artists and composers such as Carmen Consoli and Franco Battiato.

Folk music

Folk music is very important in Sicilian tradition and generally includes many different instruments such as the so-called marranzanu (the jaw harp), a bagpipe known as ciaramedda, a small end-blown flute called friscaletto, etc. The accordion and the tambourines are definitely the most characteristic.

Musical tradition
Folk band

Sicily has always been very rich of folk songs, ditties, serenades, lullabies, Christmas carols because historically, the Sicilian literary tradition joined with orally transmitted song and folk music, inheriting the traditions of the Greek melos, the Byzantine hymn, the Arabic maqam, the love songs of the troubadours and the classical polyphony of the 16th century.

What about the most famous songs? Here is a selection: Ciuri Ciuri, Vitti ‘na Crozza, Quantu è laria la me zita. Click on the title and play it on YouTube!

Jazz: a musical tradition coming from the U.S.A.

Do you know that Sicily has the liveliest jazz scene in Italy? When between the XIX and the XX century many Sicilians migrated to the United States, above all in New Orleans, traditional music mixed with sounds coming from the local African American communities, so jazz has developed. If you visit Palermo, don’t miss the chance to attend a performance of Enzo Rao and his band called Shamal, they contaminated American jazz with Arab and Sicilian notes…simply amazing!

Musical tradition
Enzo Rao

Contemporary music: Carmen Consoli sings about Sicily

Pop music meets tradition. She’s known as la cantantessa and her name is Carmen Consoli. She was born in Catania and through her art she sings about Sicily. One of the most famous songs she composed is ‘A finestra (The window), it has been written in the classic dialect of Catania and represents a criticism towards contemporary society, it’s the hope for a better future.

«Zoccu ha statu aieri, oggi forsi ca putissi riturnari si truvamu semi boni di chiantari ‘nta sta terra ‘i focu e mari oggi sentu ca mi parra u cori e dici ca li cosi stannu pì canciari»

Musical tradition
Carmen Consoli

If you like folk music, listen to another song created by Carmen Consoli: Tano. Even in this case she uses the dialect of her city and describes the character of an oppressive and tyrannical man through the words of his wife. It’s a way to talk and criticize patriarchal system but also women that silently tolerate and accept both physical and psychological violence.

«Matri Maria da a Spiranza
Chi autru aia a fari pa aviri la Grazia
‘Na vita di penitenza
Come una fiaba di Giuda riversa
Putissi un Principe arrivari
Cu ‘na carizza mi facissi arruspigghiari»

If you are interested in learning more about Sicilian musical tradition, experience is the way. Come to Sicily and enjoy in person the magic of sound. Take a look at the tours by Sicilian Secrets and Dimensione Sicilia, pack and join us for an immersive journey around the island. Remember: where words fail, music speaks.


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