Italian Folk Music

Italian Folk music has a very varied scope, as the country unified quite late in the days of the world. So, much like Germany, Italy has a collection of various regions with their own widely varying Folk music styles and traditions. Italian folk music also reflects the country’s geographic location at the south of Europe and in the center of the Mediterranean Sea: Arabic, African, Celtic, Persian, Roma, and Slavic influences are readily apparent in the musical styles of the Italian regions due to the large exposure Italians had with these cultures thanks to trade via the sea. Italy’s rough geography and the historic dominance of small city states allowed quite diverse musical styles to exist in close proximity.

In the north, Italian Folk music has Celtic and Slavic features, while in the South, Arabic, African and Persian influences are much more dominant. In the center of the country, these two traditions combine, all the while keeping the very Italian styles of narrative and ballad singing traditions alive and strong.

The Folk music revival in Italy took place in the 1940s and 50s, thanks to a new increase in the regionalization of Italy. In the early 60s, Italian Folk music took the form of being political and social music, much as would happen in the United States a few years later. The Italian Folk music revival was extremely strong, having started in the 40s and 50s, and keeping the music popular until well into the 80s.

The Northern and Central parts of Italy are well known for their Folk music to take the form of the medieval ottava rima sung poetry. Ottava rima is performed by the poeti contadini, or peasant poets who use the poems of Homer or Dante, combined with modern lyrics to address political or social issues. It is often completely improvised, and sometimes quite competitive in nature. This Northern poetry is often more high-class and scholarly than any other form of song to be found in Italy.

In Sicily, the music is very religious, and focuses on religion as well as the harvest, as the region is also known as “Italy’s Grainfield”. The Folk music of Sicily mainly features brass instruments, and in modern times, traditional Sicilian Folk music has been combined with other Italian styles to create a truly unique new style of Sicilian Folk song.
The Ethnic Greeks in Italy, who speak their own dialect, also have their own Folk music which saw its own revival in the 1970s. Their main song is done as a play about The Passion of the Christ. They have been largely assimilated by the Italian nationals, but their Folk songs and traditions remain unique, and should still be considered Italian Folk.

Italian Folk music is very complex and very varying depending on which region of the country one visits. However, it has not died out in any region, and their revival of Folk Music may have been stronger than that of any other country.