Discover famous Neapolitan sea songs

Neapolitan sea songs are the cornerstone of classic Neapolitan music.

But of course! Naples is the quintessential seaside city, and it’s only natural for it to have countless Neapolitan sea songs.

The SEA and YOU festival of folk music tradition from Granada, Porto, and Naples is about to make its stop in Naples, following concerts in Granada and Porto.
The protagonist of the entire festival, as in classic Neapolitan songs, and as suggested by the title, is the sea. A sea that embraces Spain, Portugal, and Italy.

A sea that symbolizes hope, conviviality, and the future.

This is what SEA and YOU aims to be: a hope for the future for all those cultural associations that, after much sacrifice, achieve something majestic beyond the borders of their nation.
Associations like Napulitanata, CajaGranada, and Ideal Fado are invaluable for continuing to enjoy culture entirely for free.

Since SEA and YOU was created, one of the primary objectives has been to make Fado, Flamenco, and Neapolitan song concerts accessible to everyone.
Free concerts of folk music, bringing together three nations on stage and three different musical styles.

Now, let’s explore together the importance of the sea in Neapolitan songs.

The Importance of the Sea in Neapolitan Songs

Naples is a city of love and the sea. It’s only natural that its music speaks of these two themes. Often united, often separately.

The sea in Neapolitan songs has been celebrated since antiquity.
Remember that according to legend, Naples was born from a mermaid. It is therefore inextricably linked to the sea and everything related to it.It is a port city and a commercial hub. It had one of the largest and most powerful fleets in the world.It’s obvious that a love would develop between Neapolitan song and the sea.

The Neapolitan sea songs are countless within the vast production of classic Neapolitan songs.
Many artists have used the sea as a metaphor, as a symbolic place, as a condition of isolation.

But Neapolitans are also, above all, a people of emigrants. Thousands have left from the port of Naples to seek fortune elsewhere, especially in the United States, as evidenced by the song Santa Lucia Luntana, written by E.A. Mario in 1919. This great work tells, in a sad and melancholic way, how the sea has been fundamental to Naples’ imagination, whether it produces well-being, relief, and happiness, or sadness, dismay, and melancholy (or, better said, “pucundria“).

The Sea is the Favorite Place of Neapolitans

Neapolitan sea songs have been written by some of the greatest composers to ever exist.

Authors of the caliber of Gaetano Donizetti have imagined the sea as a locus amenus to build a home. Canzona Marenara in 1835 speaks precisely of this. A song written for the love of a woman as beautiful as the Sun. A song about building a dream home in the middle of the sea, made of peacocks’ feathers and sprinkled with gold and silver.
A happy island in the middle of the sea, where one can live in peace and total serenity.

But the sea is above all the place to live if you’re a fish! Among the Neapolitan sea songs stands out Lo guarracino, an ancient popular Neapolitan song written in 1768, which narrates disputes among 81 different species of fish. The greatness of this magnificent popular work, apart from the tarantella rhythm, lies precisely in the scientific list of so many different species.

The sea is also the mirror where the satellite of love, the Moon, is reflected.
La Luna nova, written by Salvatore Di Giacomo and composed by Mario Pasquale Costa, is a true masterpiece of classic Neapolitan song. The Moon shines silver on the sea at night, and this wonderful image serves as a backdrop to a sailor who falls asleep thinking about his beloved.

La luna nova, ‘ncopp’a lu mare,
stènne ‘na fascia d’argiento fino.
Dint’a la varca, lu marenaro,
quase s’addorme cu ‘a rezza ‘nzino.

Fishermen and Sailors. Protagonists of Neapolitan Sea Songs

The sea in Naples is not just a geographical position. It’s a way of being. That’s why there are so many Neapolitan sea songs.
In addition to fish and emigrants, the sea is the cornerstone of fishermen and sailors’ stories.
This ancient profession has inspired many Neapolitan sea songs.

Let’s talk about texts like ‘O marenariello, a famous Neapolitan song written in 1893 by Gennaro Ottaviano and composed by Salvatore Gambardella. A wonderful text, rich in pathos and sentiment. A Neapolitan sea song about a young sailor in love, who recites these magnificent verses to his beloved.

Close to the sea,
we make love,
heart to heart,
to enjoy ourselves.

A song that has been so successful that it had interpretations by Dean Martin and Frank Sinatra in the English version called “I Have But One Heart.”

More melancholic is another great among Neapolitan sea songs. Piscatore ‘e Pusilleco, but in this case, it’s not the fisherman speaking, but the tormented lover because the woman he loves, Maria, has left him.

Written in 1925 by Ernesto Murolo, father of the great Roberto Murolo, and composed by Ernesto Tagliaferri, the song could only be one of the flagship songs of Napulitanata concerts!

Piscatore ‘e ‘stu mare ‘e Pusilleco
ch’ogne notte mme siente ‘e cantà.
Piscató, ‘sti pparole so’ lacreme
pe Maria ca luntana mme sta.

The fisherman here is the witness of suffering.

Do you want to know more Neapolitan sea songs? Do you want to see a completely unique traditional music concert? Do you want to discover what it feels like to see Fado and Flamenco live in Naples? Then don’t miss the SEA and YOU event on April 26th at Teatro Galleria Toledo.

Don’t miss any news from SEA and YOU, the first traditional song festival in Europe. Keep following us on Facebook and Instagram.

By Davide Lancia