Italy’s Folk Music Scene

It is true that the folk music of Italy is not the country’s national symbol. It would probably be pizza or pasta, honestly. But after listening to songs, I became intrigued and I just needed to find out more.

The country’s folk music is a reflection of the its geographic location in the south most portion of Europe and being in the center of the Mediterranean Sea which is heavy in trade. As a result, the list of influences which are extremely evident upon listening goes on: African, Persian, Roman, Slavic, etc.

It is interesting that there is no homogeneous national character to Italian folk music. Although in most cases (but not all), the standard Italian language is rejected, there is one aspect that remains constant: the language and history of the area are always reflected.

In Northern Italy, folk music is influenced more by Celtic and Slavic features. In this region (but also in Central Italy), Folk music takes the form of highly improvised, sung poetry. Choral singing is also very common. This specific musical form is more high-class than other forms found in Italy.

In the South, influences are more Arabic, Persian, and African based. In Sicily (known as “Italy’s Grainfield”) the music is extremely religious and also focuses heavily on the harvest. In more contemporary folk music in the South, traditional Folk is combined with other styles to create a “new sound.” In Southern Italy, solo singing is more common as opposed to the choral singing of Northern Italy.

In the 1960s, as issues arose in the country, Italian folk music began to reflect them. The music became more politically and socially focused. This is ironic seeing as this would happen in the United States years later.

Usually synonymous with Italian folk music is dance. The most famous dance is tarantella, an upbeat dance which originated in Southern Italy. Originally, it was part of a folk ritual to cure the poison caused by the bite of a tarantula – hence the name. This dance can last for hours and although traditionally it consisted of a single performer who danced to the quick music, it has now been adapted to accommodate larger quantities of dancers.

Italy’s folk music scene is still going strong and their revival has been stronger than any other country.

Viva l’Italia!