Thursday, June 28, 2007


28 June 2007

We had a great couple of weeks in Sardinia. It was very hot and we were staying in a fairly isolated hotel set in the middle of a pine forest near Arborea on the West coast – which allowed for plenty of relaxing days by the pool or on the beach. We also managed to explore quite a bit of the island including the main cities – Cagliari, Nuoro and Sassari – the picturesque towns of Bosa and Alghero (the only Catalan-speaking community outside Spain – Sardinia having been Spanish for three centuries), and several Roman and prehistoric (‘Nuraghi’) archeological sites. My highlight was the day we drove up a narrow winding road to the mountain village of Bitti, home to the famous singing shepherds, Tenores de Bitti. The Sardinian canto a tenore tradition is an amazing sound. For centuries shepherds have gathered in mountain huts at the end of the working day to sing to each other (and drink!) through the night. Standing in a circle facing each other, this is very much participatory music – not designed for an audience. The four-part unaccompanied close-harmony singing imitates natural sounds: the bass (‘bassu’) is the sound of a cow, the ‘contra’ is the sound of a sheep and the ‘mesu ‘oche’ is the sound of the wind. Above these the soloist (‘voche’ – the human voice) leads the song and carries the text. The result is harmonically scrunchy, with a very low growlly bass – hypnotically repetitive and remarkably catchy. After a lengthy search around the streets of Bitti we eventually found the tiny Museo Canto e Tenore and came away clutching heaps of CDs.



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