The traditional music festivals in Italy. Keeping ancient traditions alive

But are there traditional music festivals in Italy? And what are they?
Let’s start by saying that Italy has an incredibly vast musical heritage. It would be impossible to count every Italian musical tradition. Every region, every city, every town has its musical tradition. Therefore, it’s not uncommon to find traditional music events or festivals scattered throughout Italy.
This great musical and traditional wealth is protected by the Italian state through the defense of musical memory. It does so by providing funding for some initiatives, both public and private, that aim to promote the musical heritage through traditional music festivals in Italy.

There are many opportunities to discover the thousands of musical traditions in Italy:
we can choose to discover the immense Christmas musical heritage during the Christmas holidays, or the many peasant musical traditions that accompanied the harvesting of wheat and fruits during the months of April and May.

It is not surprising, then, that the major traditions of folk music are concentrated in southern Italy. They are songs and dances of rural origin, often accompanied by instruments that have remained unchanged for hundreds and hundreds of years.

Let’s see together what the most important traditional music festivals in Italy are, but not before talking about the second stage of the traditional music festival in Europe SEA and YOU, which once again concludes its journey amidst thunderous applause at the theater.

The importance of a traditional music festival

SEA and YOU arises from the same needs as traditional music festivals in Italy: to try to protect a popular and traditional musical heritage.

The purpose of SEA and YOU is to bring together the main styles of traditional music from Europe on a common stage, promoting values such as equality, cooperation, and sharing.

Thus, thanks to a call from the European Union, the first festival of European traditional music is born.

The importance of such a festival is immediately understood from the success it is achieving. Both in the first concert in Granada and in this second one in Porto (here is the complete program), the audience was enchanted by the combination of Fado, Flamenco, and classic Neapolitan songs. There is a hunger for traditional music, there is a hunger for popular culture!

Both this festival, a precious gem of the European musical panorama, and the associations that have given life to all this (Napulitanata, CajaGranada, and Ideal Fado) demonstrate that the love for folk music is great, and the interest in traditional music festivals in Italy is justified by a deep love for these events.

In every Italian region, you can encounter a variety of musical traditions that will leave you dizzy.
There are so many, and all important. From the extreme south to the far north.
From the Salento pizzica to the Sardinian mouth tenor tradition, to the Slavic and Venetian contaminations of traditional Friuli music.

But if we want to properly consider festivals, that is, those events, whether traveling or not, that have more scheduled stops or more dates, on a specific theme, then it is in the south that we must look, with its popular tradition of dances and songs that come from the peasant world.

The Taranta festivals

There are many events throughout the year that combine traditional music with celebrations in Italian territory. Celebrations that can recall religious commemorations, peasant events, or eulogistic festivals.
It is not just a celebration; it is music indissolubly linked to one’s own land.

Among these celebrations, there are some that pay homage to a particular dance. This is the tarantella, a dance that originates from an ancient ritual in southern Italy.
It was believed that after being bitten by a tarantula, especially women, suffered from ailments such as depression, visions, and pain.

The way to exorcise the evil of tarantula-bitten women was through wild dancing. A shamanic ritual that has its origins in the mists of time. A real possession from which one had to free oneself.
The dance ritual served to free the body of the poor possessed person from the possessing spirit.

We can well imagine that this belief originates from the months of wheat harvesting, where surely the poor disturbed spiders defended their burrows with bites from those innocently harvesting (remember that the tarantulas of the south are not dangerous at all, their venom has a very mild action).

Sweating with a frenetic dance could drive out the poison, and also the evil contained within, from the body. Here myth and truth, legend and history come together in one of the most beautiful and fascinating rituals in Italy.

Kaulonia Tarantella Festival

One of the most important events among traditional music festivals in Italy: the Kaulonia Tarantella Festival. The ancient village of Caulonia in Calabria, named after the Magna Graecia colony Kaulon, has been organizing the traditional music festival in Italy dedicated to the ancient tarantella dance for 25 years.

A dance with ancient origins. Danced in the regions of Puglia, Calabria, Basilicata, and Campania, born as a remedy for the bite of the tarantula widespread in southern Italy.

There are many tarantellas: the montemaranese, the Neapolitan (with its tammurriata variant), the Apulian (called pizzica). But each variant has its own variations, and it would be tiresome to list them all. This is to help us understand how important it is as a musical tradition.

In Kaulonia, the festival dedicated to the tarantella is organized for the end of August, and for 4 consecutive days. A wonderful event, starting at 6 pm with lessons on how to dance the tarantella and the pizzica, and lessons on guitar, Calabrian lyre, and tambourine, followed by the actual concert at 8 pm.
The village of Caulonia comes alive with life and joy, and the town becomes one with the ancient art of the tarantella.

Taranta’s night

Undoubtedly, the most important traditional music festival in Italy concerning the tarantella.
For 26 years, Salento has been organizing this tribute to the pizzica. A traveling festival throughout Puglia, starting from the town of Corigliano d’Otranto and ending with the grand finale in the historic square of Melpignano. An event capable of attracting thousands of lovers of pizzica from all over Italy.
15 stops where the love for this ancient music is exalted, bursting into dance.
Over the years, many musicians have decided to take the stage to pay homage to the most important traditional music festival in Italy: from Fiorella Mannoia to Allevi, from Clementino to Ligabue.

So important is this festival that the grand finale in Melpignano is broadcasted on Rai1.
But going live is a whole different story. A unique event, full of life and joy, where you can breathe in the south and love for music all night long. Thousands of young people dancing and singing to the rhythm of pizzica, united by this fantastic traditional music festival in Italy.

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By Davide Lancia