Italian folk songs comprise of different influences from the different regions which the people hail from. This is because national unification took place after very long time due to which the separate cultures remained un-homogenized leading to have the dependence of folk music on geographic positioning. Generally speaking, Italian folk music has quite a deep and complex history.
Italy's folk music is divided into different spheres of geographical influences namely Northern, Central, Southern, Sicily and Sardinia.
Northern and central folk songs:
The northern population of Italy derived their music from their roots. Historically, the region exhibited Celtic and Slavic influences in their culture. It derived it songs from areas like Piedmont and Lombardy. The city Genoese is considered to be the home of ‘Trallalero’ which is a form of music where a polyphonic vocal style is performed with the help of five voices, among which the leads voice imitates a guitar.
Northern and central Italy are well known for the medieval sung poetry known as ‘Ottava Rima’. This is performed by the ‘Poeti Contadini’ or the ‘peasants’ poets’ who essentially use poems of the Greek poet Homer or the famous Italian poet Dante. These poems were generally characterized by modern lyrics which address political or social issues. Among all the poetry that exists in Italy, Tuscan folk poetry is considered to be the closest in form and style to high culture poetry.
Southern folk songs:
Folk musical tradition in southern Italy includes religious music. The songs are dependent on rhythms which is dependent on the type of disease. A famous folk dance called the ‘Tarantella’ is performed to cure the bite of the ‘Lycosa Tarantula’. In this a female dancer exhausts her self by performing and the rhythm of the music and song used are unique for the exact kind of spider. The region Puglia is home to quite a few brass bands who also work in collaboration with jazz musicians.
Sicilian folk songs:
Sicily has diverse music and is considered as the home of a huge range of Christian religious music which includes ‘Cappella’ devotional songs, a form of music where the vocalist sings without instrumental accompaniment. There exist many brass bands too who play songs from distinct repertoire. Sicilian music also comprises of harvest songs and work songs which are dedicated to the agricultural land.
Sicily's historical connections with mainland Italy and in earlier days with Greeks, Normans, French and Spanish make its music diverse. Due to this, there exists a unique fusion of musical elements on the island.
Sardinian folk songs:
Sardinia is the most culturally distinct of all the regions in Italy. This isolated island is better known for the ‘Tenores’ polyphonic chant. Their sacred songs ‘Gozos’ and ‘Launeddas’ - basically a wood wind instrument which is a type of triple clarinet is used play certain complex style of music which over the time has achieved international attention. It can be played with the help of extensive variations applied on a few melodic phrases which could make a single song last for about an hour.
The ‘Otava’ is an eight line stanza and is a common form of lyrics in Sardinia. This kind of variation allows a performer or singer a certain amount of improvisation.
The rural chanting of the ‘Tenores’ in polyphonic sound is sung in four vocal parts which are ‘Bassu’ or bass mesa, ‘Boghe’ or the middle, ‘Contra’ or a counter and ‘Bhoge’ or the leader and vocalist.
The sacred ‘Gozos’ or the sacred songs are heard during religious celebrations.
Italian songs are categorized into different categories depending on the influences from different regions. These songs along with Japanese songs and Spanish songs bring a revolution in the music industry.