Sicily’s First Musical Instruments.
Here we can find some images related to traditional (inflated) musical instruments usually played in Sicily on special occasions and by folk groups. The instruments are generally played during festivities connected with work in agriculture and refer to the provinces of Messina and Enna (mine one). Here you find some of the most common musical instruments played by folk groups around rural Sicily. They are generally used during festivities and special occasions, usually connected to the life in the countryside, on some occasions, such as harvest in June, at marriages, in parties. However, today the instruments are not common as it was until a few decades ago. Now there is a special interest to let old musical dances and music live again. Of course, a great part of Sicilian musical tradition is closely linked to religious (Catholic) events, such as Easter, Christmas, etc.

Marranzanu", or "Scacciapensieri"

It is one of the most famous Sicilian instruments and consists of a tongue applied to a small metal frame, on the one hand is free so that the player holding it in your mouth and pinching with your finger to obtain a sound is weak but pleasant.


this instrument is very similar to the Maltese "flejguta".
We can say that the flute (made from cane), in dialect “friscalettu” is one of the instruments that dates back -unaltered - to the oldest times. The only developments regard the holes along the tube and their number varies according to the places and ages of use. The "Friscalettu" is widely used by Folk groups and in popular music; today it is also used in "virtuoso" manners and in other musical productions, different from the folk one.

Zampogne and Zampognari: Bagpipes and players

Bagpipes are famous instruments in many areas of Europe. They belong to the family of "Aerofones", in which the sound is produced by vibration of air. The "Zampogna" has a double reed made from a dried cane and emits a sound strident and trembling. In Sicily and in most regions of Italy these bagpipes are closely connected with Christmas time and symbolize the shepherds' arrival to the Nativity scene.


Music and Religious Traditions in Sicily
"Giudei in San Fratello". San Fratello is a small village situated in the Nebrodi hills (in the Natural Park of Nebrodi) bordering the provinces of Messina and Palermo. From here you will see the stunning panorama of the Eolian Islands (North), as well the Etna Volcano (South). The village is a linguistic island, one of the five towns in Sicily where people speak a particular dialect called "Gallo-Italico", a language dating back to medieval Longobards. A rather peculiar performance is held there, from the Wednesday before Easter up until Good Friday, unknown elsewhere in Sicily, called the "Feast of the Jews." The leading actors are the village menfolk, who freely roam the streets playing loudly and menacingly as they swing a thick chain known as the 'discipline'.
The "trumpets", as the instruments used are generically named, are the main element in the Jews' customs, whereas they are actually both trumpets and cornets, with or without a tuning slide. Unlike any other place in Sicily where Christ's Passion is celebrated during the Holy Week and rather subdued sacred performances take place, a sort of Bacchanalia breaks out at San Fratello, reaching its climax on Good Friday during the procession of the dead Christ.

This image is a typical example of lands in Enna province, where our school is. Enna has always been called the repository of wheat even since Roman times...!


Festa dei Giudei

Here you have a real example of the so-called "Giudei" in San Fratello, who play flutes and disturb the Passion from Holy Thurdsay to Saturday. They will be overcome by Jesus on Easter Day.

A Museum on a Train

If you want to visit a bizarre museum focusing on agriculture, rural life, people, and jobs, please have a look at the website below, centred on the tiny railway of Villarosa, a 50 kms away from our school, still in Enna province. Here you have a particular recording too (please note the RAM, RealPlayer format). Recorded in 1954, Sicily is a digitally remastered selection of mostly unreleased material from Alan Lomax's sweeping Columbia World Library of Folk and Primitive Music project. Ironically, the island's few developed roads, the late arrival of radio and TV, the highly skewed distribution of wealth and brutal history of political repression all worked to preserve the folk traditions documented here. Lomax sampled the soundscape of a rural, pre-industrial Italy just as industrialization began to undercut the pastoral economy, crush peasant political movements, depopulate the countryside and erode the transmission of local oral traditions at the core of the folk process. The raw immediacy of these field recordings rocked the Roman folklore establishment and sparked a reassessment of the nature of Italian folk music.