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The Cantu a chiterra by Daniele and Salvatore
Singing practices with guitar accompaniment are spread all over Sardinia. They are articulated in different traditions: the main one is the so called Su cantu a chiterra (or boghe ‘e chiterra) probably originated in the north area through Spanish influences. It is sang in logudorese language (the language spoken in the Centre-North of the Island) and is divided into well definite genres, each of them has its exact textual and musical pattern.
Su cantu a chiterra has two distinctive performing levels:
– Amateur’s level practiced both by men in zilleri (bars), taverns and public spaces and by men and women within spuntini (very long country barbecues) and other private gatherings.
– Professional (or semi professional) level that is practiced by men and a few women that carry out very long and ritualized duels on stages during villages feasts.
In the cantu a chiterra tradition the purely vocal/musical reasons predominate upon the text elaboration: in both levels (amateur and professional ones) the aim of performance is a “singing challenge” where the cantadores show their vocal and musical capabilities, stylistic interpretations, virtuosities and so forth.
The instrumental accompaniment is realized on guitar, actually the Chitarra sarda (Sardinian guitar), with the case larger than the normal guitar, adopting a distinctive tuning that varies according the singer/guitarist preferences. The guitar plays chords in arpeggio with continuous variations and passages in counterpoint, note by note, with the singing.
The presence of guitar in Sardinia is testified by the end of the 16th century but the first evidences of its accompaniment to the voice date back to the 19th century.
The main genres of Cantu a chiterra are:
– Boghes in re (or canto in re: often this definition is used as a metonymy to refer to the whole tradition). It is practiced by all the singers, both amateurs and professionals: it has a quiet progression with binary rhythm, octosyllabic text and instrumental accompaniment rooted on a continuous succession of tonic-dominant chords. It is a musical “open structure”, including very refined techniques of improvisation so that it is possible to sing in re for hours.
– Sa nuoresa (from the city of Nuoro; but its real origins are unknown) with a sustained rhythm in 3 and the introduction of the subdominant chord in the accompaniment (I-IV-V).
– Sos muttos, whose lyrics are often improvised by the singers and deal with loving themes: there is no Cantu a chiterra performance without a space consecrated to the muttos singing.
– Other genres – Mi e la; Sa Corsicana (from Corsica), su Fa diesis, sa disispirata, sa filognana, su Si bemolle, sa ozieresa and so on – are usually a prerogative of professional singers/players and characterized by a very ornamental and virtuosic performance.
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