Music

Sardinia’s musical panorama is traditionally fascinating: from the ancient, traditional Canto a Tenore singing through launeddas flutes all the way to modern jazz festivals - Sardinia speaks multiple musical languages. And all this in Italian, Sardinian and Catalan.

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Sardinia’s music: archaic male choirs and lots of jazz

Sardinia’s musical panorama is traditionally fascinating: from the ancient, traditional Canto a Tenore singing through launeddas flutes all the way to modern jazz festivals – Sardinia speaks multiple musical languages. And all this in Italian, Sardinian and Catalan.

Canto a Tenore

Sonorous, penetrating vocals sung by four male voices – the Canto a Tenore is an intriguing musical phenomenon in which one bass, one baritone, one also and a lead vocalist sing a choral song. Much of this ancient vocal tradition remains a puzzle: it is difficult to say when exactly it began. Some say it goes back to the songs of Roman prisoners of war, whereas others see its origin in the Nuragic period around 1800 BC. It might also have come from Sardinian shepherds, who in their solitude mimicked the sounds of nature and animals with their voices. Musicologists are also divided when it comes to evaluating this pervasive chorus – is it a polyphonic song or an example of overtone singing? The Sardinian folk singer Elena Ledda describes it as polyvocal, because in her opinion four solo voices harmonise with each other, but could all also stand alone. One thing’s for sure, this striking, archaic vocal style reflects the millennia-old, often mysterious island soul and has also been key source of inspiration for contemporary artists like Frank Zappa.

Launeddas

The Sardinian instrument par excellence: the 3,000-year-old launeddas is a double or triple flute made of Sardinian giant reed. The hypnotic melodies that weave out of this simple instrument made of bamboo and wax are simply mesmerising. Using the circular breathing technique, launeddas masters like Luigi Nai play two-part melodies with a sound that hovers somewhere between the flute and the bagpipes. The launeddas tends to feature most during processions in Sardinia or traditional folk dances.

Jazz

Contemporary music also has a firm place in Sardinia. Sardinians love jazz and regularly invite international musicians and ensembles to festivals against breathtaking Mediterranean backdrops. One of the most famous is Time in Jazz in Berchidda. Since 1997, it has been a meeting place for local and international jazz virtuosi, who play their blues at locations all over La Paradisola. JazzAlguer is a series of concerts in Alghero, with regular events held over the course of half a year.

In Alghero, the atmospheric, trilingual coastal town in the north-west of Sardinia, artists such as Franca Masu unite jazz and traditional elements: in Alghero, people speak Algherese as well as a dialect of Catalan, and Masu not only sings in Italian, but also in Catalan and even Portuguese. She has also been known to use texts by poets from Alghero.