CORSICAN POLYPHONY


Why | Groups and singers | ConcertsThey sing Corsica | Your turn | DedicationsBooksLinks | French version


WHY THIS PAGE ?

Music being a cross-boundaries art, I thought it might be worth translating my page about Corsican polyphony. I am not a native English speaker so if I made unforgivable mistakes in syntax or spelling, please correct me by sending me an e-mail.

You are Corsican and know a lot about polyphonies...
In this case, you might be disappointed by my selection. Being a non-Corsican speaker (shame on me!), this selection talks more about being sensitive to a group or a singer rather than a true passion for their lyrics, even though I try to understand them by reading the CD covers. One of the objectives of this page is to meet true amateurs of Corsican music in order to exchange impressions. Indeed, buying Corsican records is not always easy. Corsican music is far from being widely broadcast on the airwaves. I have to rely on a group's fame or on rare critics in the "Musique du Monde" [World Music] section of Télérama (French cultural TV magazine). I also now have the opportunity to listen to CD track extracts on the FNAC (French Multimedia store) CD players. Thus, if you think that I missed a group or a singer, please do not hesitate to write to me.

You are not Corsican but you fell in love with polyphony... during your last stay in Corsica. This page's main goal is to list the CDs you need to buy first in order to start a basic collection; you might also want to use Corsican music in order to spice up your last holiday video.
I recommend that you start with the acquisition of a compilation. Lots of them come out every year, especially during the holiday (for example: " Corsica, les plus belles chansons corses," Versailles, 1994). It's an easy way to discover different aspects of polyphony. According to what you like best on the compilation, you will be able to discover singers or groups in more detail.

About Corsican polyphony…

Polyphony is closely connected to the Corsican identity. Its revival dates from the Seventies, a period called "riacquistu" (literally the fact that Corsican people took over their language and their musical culture). Extremely varied, it comes in many forms: sacred, religious, Franciscan, secular, traditional, contemporary, world music and even electronic. Polyphony remains mostly sung by men even if some women are also popular. Sometimes misjudged as being sad or austere, it does not leave anybody indifferent.  

For copyright reasons, I do not wish to propose MP3 extracts on this page. If you want to get a better idea of the different styles, it is always possible to listen to extracts either on the groups' websites or on websites specialized in selling records.
 

MY FAVORITE ARE...

  Among the solo singers, I have to start with Petru Guelfucci.
Son of Filice Antone Guelfucci, who was a famous fiddler, he comes from Sermanu, a small village near Corte. Founding member of Canta U Populu Corsu, he often presents himself as a singer-bee-keeper. Canta U Populu Corsu is the group that many say was the key to the revival of traditional Corsican singing in the Seventies. His "harsh" voice is his signature.
His first success "Isula" (1987) is often used as soundtrack for TV programmes about Corsica. Marie-Claude Pietragalla, head of
the ballet of Marseille used his albums "Corsica" (1989) and "Vita" (1999) for dancing."" Corsica " is a tribute to the Island of Beauty. The ballet subject relates to patriarchal domination, the power and  courage of Corsican women and their influence on men [... ] "Vita" celebrates life and Corsica. Natural elements are the ballet's subject. Water, earth and fire represent wandering, roots and energy ". (Nice Matin, Corsica Hebdo, 21 January 2000, pp. 30-31).
With his group Voce di Corsica, Petru Guelfucci recorded a traditional music album in 1994 which has been rewarded by a "Victory of the Music" in 1995. This same year, he was singing with Renaud (first part of Renaud show). In 1996, he met Pascal Périz, leader of Pow Wow. He also sang with Pow Wow at the Olympia (first part of the show).
This collaboration has continued on the fifth album of Petru "Vita" (1999) where he has adapted a Pascal Periz's song "Une autre ville" which became "Una altra cita". Pascal Périz also wrote the music of "Sognacciu".
Petru Guelfucci regularly performs in Canada where he has sold a lot of records (perhaps even more than in Corsica and on the Continent).
See his dedication.

  Former member of Canta U Populu Corsu, Jean-Paul Poletti has chosen to use his tenor voice for religious hymns. With the male-voice choir of Sartène, in two albums "Polyphonies Corses" (1996) and "Fiori di memoria" (1999), he gives a new life to lamentu, prisoners laments, Christmas and threshing songs. He has recorded extracts of the Dante Divine Comedy transmitted orally by shepherds.
Jean-Marie Colombani speaking about Jean-Paul Poletti says: "I have  admired, as lots of us I suppose, a career that has started with popular and political songs and that is  becoming increasingly poetic and demanding. With the male-voice choir of Sartene he has reached the highest point. According to me, it says it all: the only way to know where we come from is to go back to our Latin roots; that is to say, Franciscan manuscripts of the 14th century. These Latin roots lead us toward universality, therefore towards the future".

Canta U Populu Corsu. A mythical group dating from the Seventies. Some of its founding members are now leading their own career (Petru Guelfucci, Jean-Paul Poletti). The group renewed itself since the beginning but Canta has remained faithful to its original style. Old vinyl records are now available on CDs (they often come in sets of two). Their compilation "In Cantu" which gathers titles dating from 1975 to 1981 is worth having as well as the only public recording in Théâtre de la Ville (Paris) dating from 1981. In 1995, the group came back to life to record an extraordinary album called "Sintineddi" whose main title is used as a soundtrack for music and lights show at the citadel of Calvi (the record that I would bring to a deserted island!). Their last album "Rinvivisce" (2001) is in the style of what is currently recorded, that is to say a mix between traditional music and music from other countries (here Basque or Irish).

Among the other groups or singers that I would recommend: 

A Filetta, (the fern) seems to specialize in film soundtracks. Their credits include collaborations on the soundtracks of "Himalaya, l'enfance d'un chef" of Eric Valli, "Le Peuple Migrateur" of Jacques Perrin, " Vidocq" of Pitof, and "Don Juan " of Jacques Weber. The group, coming from Balagne, is mostly known through its leader's charisma:  Jean-Claude Acquaviva "whose vocal direction always astonishes by its implacable rigour, its metronome precision, its quasi-religiosity and its tremendous humbleness. With him, the insular song is neither folklore nor political assertion, it is an authentic artistic expression " (Télérama, Sortir n° 113, 26 June  2002). Don Kent's documentary "Corsican Voices" concerning this group and their album "Intantu", which was broadcast the May 12th 2002 on Arte (Channel 5), has been published on DVD (Editions Montparnasse). "Don Kent managed to avoid the traditional postcard of beaches, fishermen and local accent by filming Corsica's hidden face:  that is to say, loneliness and a rough  nature " (Nice Matin, 19 May 2002, p. 19). This dark and painful aspect of the documentary gave me pause before buying "Intantu"; however it is a small jewel, powerfully and magisterially orchestrated, the kind of album to be listened to with the greatest meditation. This sentence on the CD cover summarizes their work very well:  "singing is, also and perhaps especially, saying tenderly powerful things and saying strongly tenderly things ".
With their last album, "Si di mè", A Filetta forgets about polyphonic research to come back to songs , "16 wonderful songs to say to everybody, "You are one of mine"". Bruno Coulais's special touch and Jean-Claude Acquaviva's exceptional voice are back with guest stars like Antoine Ciosi, Guram Tamazashvili (Gregorian singer), Marie-Jo Allegrini and Marie Kobayashi. See their dedication.

I Chjami Aghjalesi, very famous group in Corsica. Just like Cantu U Populu Corsu, their old vinyl records are now available on CDs (double records).
I recommend the compilation "I vinti cinque Baroni" (2001), which came out for the group's 25 years of career. You'll find in it famous titles as well as titles like "les trois cloches", "la complainte de Pablo Neruda" (with Ferrat) and "Bella Ciao" often sung but seldom recorded.

Surghjenti (the source), a 1998 compilation gathers titles sung between 1981 and 1989, one of my favorite albums.

Cinqui Soa group, which I discovered through their last album "Essenza" (2002). A very "world music" record. "Cascades of syncopated voices, melodies where you can hear distant echoes of Cameroun, Algerian, Greek and Séfarades music. Created in 1990 in Ajaccio, the Group has often been invited abroad, from Denmark to Japan and the United States. Meeting Ray Lema pianist from Congo, Elena Ledda from Sardaigna, Pedro Aledo from Spain, or the Mystery of the Bulgarian voices, they became familiar with interbreedings. " (Télérama 2002, Eliane Azoulay).


Soledonna

Les Nouvelles Polyphonies Corses (now known as Soledonna for the female former members). These Corsican women fight against violence and sing too! Created in 1989 by two childhood friends, Patrizia Gattececa and Patrizia Poli, the group has won international recognition and has worked with famous musicians like Patti Smith, Manu Dibango and Bernard Lavilliers. Their first record was rewarded a "Victory of the Music" in 1992; in 1994, the group was chosen for the opening of the Olympic Games in Albertville. A compilation (2000) gathers their main titles.


Marcellesi:  "Barqueiro" (2000). A strange record in the Corsican musical landscape with a mix of fado, samba, mambo, African rhythmic and traditional Corsican music, the whole supported by a marvelous voice. I fell in love with this first album of a young man who is Corsican by his father (Porto Vechio) and Spanish by his mother.

 

Giramondu

Giramondu (traveling around the world or globe trotter):  this group which was created in 1993 by former members of A Filetta and I Muvrini as well as by natives of the village of Poggio d' Oletta, met great success with their second album "Mediterraniu" (1998). They know how to mix modern musical arrangements and traditional writing. They took the best from their famous godfathers while creating a new sound, which has Mediterranean and groovy influences. 

The two leaders, Maxime Merlandi, singer and Stéphane Casalta, song writer and singer unfortunately separated in 2000 at the top of their fame. Each one continues his career, Stéphane Casalta in solo and Maxime Merlandi with the new group Barbara Furtuna (see below). In 2003, Giramondu made a come-back with some former musicians.

  Stéphane Casalta began a new career with "Una Preghera" (a prayer) (2002). His style hasn't changed much since Giramondu:  a blend of tradition (with the help of Jean-Paul Poletti and Patrizia Guataceca from Soledonna), Mediterranean inspiration and electronic music.

 

 

Barbara Furtuna began a new career with "Una Preghera" (a prayer) (2002). His style hasn't changed much since Giramondu: a blend of tradition (with the help of Jean-Paul Poletti and Patrizia Guataceca from Soledonna), Mediterranean inspiration and electronic music.

Tempus Fugit : this young group of five singers has worked with the ethnomusicologist Corinne Bartolini to bring back to life hymns of the area of Nebbiu. On "Tempus Fugit" (2003) they sing extracts of a lost mass, the mass "Vultum tuum" (your face), which is dedicated to the Holy Name of Marie.

I Muvrini: It is difficult to speak about Corsican polyphony without talking about I Muvrini (moufflons), the best known Corsican group.

Jean-François Bernardini and his brother Alain started to sing at the age of 10 with their father in the first "paghjella" contests (lament with two or three voices). Their style now relates more to "world music" than to pure polyphony. They even play instruments like bagpipes and hurdy-gurdy which are more Celtic than Corsican (that's why people coming from Britanny like them so much !).

Jean-François Bernardini has sung beautiful duets, like the famous duet with Sting "Terre d'Oru", adapted from the English version of "Field of Gold". This duet is recorded on the album "A Strada" (2000), the first compilation of the group made of "profane" and traditional songs (which tends to prove that I Muvrini are good at world music more than just !).

For this group, I recommend that you buy the live concerts like le Zenith (1994) or Bercy (1996), where you will ear the energy and the festive spirit.

Muvrini in Fnac St Lazare on September 10, 2002 for their new Umani album: 

I Muvrini à la FNAC St Lazare le 20/09/2002 Their last record "Umani" (Human) was released in the summer of 2002.
It gathers the humanistic concerns of the group.

Muvrin met several artists recording this album like Mc Solaar and two Afghan singers on the main title "Jalalabad", Stephan Eicher on "a sognu pè campà" (a dream to live, very poetically translated into sign language on scene), Josephina Fernandez, a Portuguese singer who sings with the group, Antoni Tapies, a Catalan artist, who illustrated the album with one of his paintings and Luz Casal and the Basque choruses of Oldarra on "Erein eta joan" (I sow and I go away, a song with Corsican, Breton, Occitan, Basque and Catalan lyrics).

I Muvrini à la Fnac ST Lazare le 20/09/2002

With this album, Muvrini proved once more that before being Corsican, they are citizens of the world. It is reassuring to see that after more than 20 years devoted to the defense of the Corsican culture, the group still renews itself and grows richer by opening itself to the world and to humanity. "Of course, people close to insular traditions will be very annoyed by the success of these Corsicans playing pop music. It is true that Muvrini songs have little to do with the rough songs of their ancestors... But the Bernardini brothers have other assets: solid voices, perfect arrangements and a humanistic speech. On one hand they lack authenticity, one the other they defend a culture by opening it to the world "(V.L., Télérama, Sortir, May 2003).

"Umani" is also a book (éditions du Seuil) with poems and notes by Jean-François Bernardini.
In 2003, Muvrini won a "Victory of the Music", category "World".

UNCLASSABLE

Nanne di Corsica:  "A Cumpagnia, Corsican lullabies ", recorded in Casa Musicale of Pigna on April 12, 1999, for Corsican babies but it might also be suitable for stressed adults!  

Isula


Isula:  "Isulamea" (2002):  Starting with its very designed cover you can tell that it is different. This is the only electronic Corsican music record I know. A mix between traditional and religious songs and music of the 21st century. As if Massive Attack had met Poletti:  surprising ! The greatest record for a rave party in the "macchja" [Corsican bushland]. With the participation of Jacky Micaelli, Joseph Figarelli, I Surghenti... I fell in love with this music! 

Bretagne Corse, polyphonies corses et chants bretons (Coop Breizh, 2000)
This record reminds me a concert in Francofolies de la Rochelle on July 16, 1994 when  Breton singer Denez Prigent, Basque singer Peio Serbielle and Corsican singer Petru Guelfucci mixed their voices. This record stresses the point that polyphonic cultures "draw their poetic sources in everyday life, in the political, social, economic and religious events". The Corsican selection is highly recommendable. I hope that it is the same for the Breton selection.

 
CONCERTS

On the continent:  look at your favorite artists web sites (see my links). See also: Le Monde (Aden, on Thursdays), Télérama (Sortir).

In Corsica: most of the concerts take place during the summer holiday. Advertising is massive so you won't miss anything. However, another way to know about the main groups and their concerts for the season is to get a leaflet called "A Canzona in Giru" from Corsican tourist offices. It is published each year.

THEY SING CORSICA

In love with Corsica, they proved it by recording beautiful duets...  

I Muvrini sang with Veronique Sanson in 1994 in Francofolies de la Rochelle where they adapted "Le temps est assassin" (Sanson: Comme ils l'imaginent, 1995). While still in Francofolies (1996), they were chorus-singers for Michel Fugain for the song "L'Ile" (Fugain: Petites fêtes entre amis, 1996). They also were chorus-singers for "Marin du Cap" of Maxime Le Forestier (Maxime Le Forestier: Essentielles).

Gilbert Bécaud asked Petru Guelfucci to write and sing with him "Les gens de l'île". He sang it in his last Olympia Show (autumn 99).

The thirteenth song "Corsic' armes" of Renaud's last album, "Boucan d'enfer", is a tribute to François Santoni. A journalist of Le Monde said that:  "Finally, if nationalism becomes folklore, why not...", Le Monde, May 31, 2002, p. 13).

YOUR TURN....

Chantal Landi-Costérian and Marie Colonna have created l'Association Les Lutins Musiciens. They organize workshops about Corsican polyphony. These training courses take place the evenings or weekends in Paris.
Association Les Lutins Musiciens, 23 rue Clapeyron, 75008 Paris, Rép/fax:  01.45.22.19.09. Pour en savoir plus:  http://leslutinsmusiciens.org 

Poletti says:  "even if the Corsican language has obvious implications in the song, there is no need to be Corsican to practice it. The word must perfectly be articulated and accentuated to be right, and the accuracy is what makes the difference ". (Interview of Philip de la Croix published in Le Monde-Aden, June 12-18, 2002, p. 8).  


Why | Groups and singers | ConcertsThey sing Corsica | Your turn | DedicationsBooksLinks | French version
 


Logo of this page with the authorization of Bruno Vellutini/Peuples de Méditerranée. 
The covers presented on this selection were the subject of a written  reproduction authorization by the producers except Giramondu and Barbara Furtuna (agreement of the singers)


 © 2002-2004 Realization and Conception Carole Guelfucci 
 
Last modification 20/02/2005