Music for dialect maintenance in Italy

My grandpa and I communicate in Italian but he brags about me in dialect to his friends. Dialect is an important cultural characteristic in Italy. Villages, towns, cities, provinces and regions have dialects embedded inside each-other, of which the speakers are proud but ageing with the rest of the country. Few people nowadays speak Laghee and other dialects from my Lake Como area, but these are still understood by most of the population. For myself, I didn’t hear much dialect being spoken while I was growing up because my grandparents thought it would confuse me too much since I was already bilingual. However, I can understand most of what is said in Laghée dialect. This interesting fact can be explained, at least personally for me and many of my friends, through the rise of musical artists performing in dialect.

Davide Van De Sfroos, a sign-a-song writer from Como, is an artist who signs almost uniquely in our local dialect and who is very much loved among northern Italians of any age.

With rustic and hilarious lyrics, Davide tells story of simple people with raw and outrageous details.

This is the text of the first two paragraphs of Yanez (2011):

Sale scende la marea e riporta la sua rudeera

un sèdell e una sciavata e una tuletta de Red Bull

Sandokan cun’t el mohito e’l bigliett cun soe l’invito

Sandokan che ha imparato a pilotare le infradito…

e la geent che la rüva al maar taant per dì che l’è staada che

cul getton de la sala giochi

el càvall el moev un zicch el cüü

uduu de fritüüra de pèss e de piza de purtà via

Kamammuri l’è de sessant’ann che sta

soel dondolo de la pension…

 My english translation:

The tides comes in and out taking trash

A bucket, a slipper and a bottle of Red Bull

Sandokan with a mohito and a invitation

Sandokan who learned to pilot in flip-flops…

And the people who arrive to the sea just to say they are there

With the coin for game room

A horse moves a bit his ars

Smell of fried fish and take-away pizza

Kamammuri has been for sixty years

On the rocking chair of the pension…

Fabrizio De Andrè Fabrizio De Andrè

Davide reminds many people of Fabrizio De Andrè (Faber), the sign-a-song writer from Geova, by many considered “Il piu gran cantautore di tutti i tempi”. Fabrizio sang in his own dialect, genovese many songs about the lower class of Genova, but also in critique to religion and the government, as can be heard in his popular song Don Raffae (translation), but also in the whole album Creuza de mä. De Andre also sang in Sardinian, Ave Maria, a traditional song in the album L’Indiano, which was written after the local Sardinian rebels captured and imprisoned him and his wife for four months.

De Andrè believed in the importance of languages for the maintenance of the creativeness of the National language, in this case Italian. He also believed dialects represented a form of art that goes in harmony as complementary to music. With his original style that recalls traditional cultures not only through the language, but also thanks to the combination of traditional instruments and chorus, De Andrè  is an immortal artists whose style will continue to inspire generations.

Artists play an essential role in the maintenance of dialects which are risking extinction. They are, in my opinion, the most effective way found so far in Italy to keep the dialects alive. Indeed songs sang in dialect often allow a reversing language shift, which one can notice in the streets or on the train, when one can hear young people singing in dialect to these timeless, beautiful songs.

11139371_10205940814301483_6876933787936341687_n Italian jammers in Stadspark with Maastrichtian audience

2 thoughts on “Music for dialect maintenance in Italy

  1. Hi Leana, thanks for your comment!
    Well, as you can see in the picture, my granpa is the one who transmitted the Como dialect to me, so I see it as an important element of my Italian heritage! I never really sang De Sfroos, who sings in this dialect, but I enjoying trying to understand him!

  2. Hey Clarissa!
    Your blog posts are very amusing to read, I especially like the last one. The photos give it a very nice personal touch, and it's nice that you can share something about where you are from. So now I have a question.. do you yourself identify at all with the Como dialect? Do you try to promote it through singing? 😉
    Looking forward to see your video!

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