Ph. by Angelo Trani.
I have started to collect traditional tunes from the time of the university when I have written my thesis in Ethnomusicology about a very ancient form of singing and oral poetry, still partially alive in central Italy.
From here I have started to develop a very big interest in the “pure voice” and the “folk” monodic form of singing around the mediterranean area. In this case, you need to understand Italian to enjoy the rhymes, but you can anyway get the mood of the thing and it’s totally worth knowing what this is about. Many similar traditions are spread around the world, but the melodic patterns and the connection with the literature is absolutely charming.
Ottava Rima (Eighth Rhyme) is a poetic form which has its roots in 13th-century; a form in which stanzas have 8 lines of 11 syllables in a rhyme scheme of abababcc. Is the standard form for epic and narrative verse in Italy (Boccaccio, Ludovico, Ariosto and Torquato Tasso). This form It has also been used for a very particular expression of oral poetry widespread most in Central Italy (Tuscany and Lazio) and for competitions: in its competitive form, two poets improvise verses (selected by the audience) and they can improvise for hours about different topics like politics, news, daily life, jobs and so on. In the past this folk singing poetry has been particularly important for people to express their own thoughts and spread news and ideas so much so that they suffered censorship and manipulation by politics and church.
If you travel in Central Italy you can still find some of which are called “poets”: villagers, carpenters, farmers that still sing verses and rhymes carried on an extraordinary art.
Im 2008 I wrote my BA thesis about social and political facets of Ottava Rima, since that time I have been working to hunt, interviewing, filming and get to know the “peasant poets” and stay in touch with what’s left of a strong tradition of folk poetry and strong expression of the “art of the word”.
Here are some of my video documentaries about Ottava Rima. Subtitles in english are coming slowly…for the moment you can enjoy the voices, the faces, the gestures of these extraordinary people.