“Onit tucc un giuorn cantean / e tucc’ i ricc ch diggrozza jean. / Cantà u cucc, / u cià ed ufùaenaezz…”
These are the initial verses of the song “I Dijevu di Vurchean” from the album “Moviti ferma” by Eleonora Bordonaro, and it begins with the lines: “On a day the cuckoo, the woodpecker, and the owl sang / And all the rich, what joy do they have if the poor are sad?”. This poem is written in an ancient dialect, the Gallo-Italic, still heard in San Fratello, a small town in the Nebrodi region of Messina province. This dialect is the Lombard of Sicily, a fusion of northern Italian dialects that resonate even a thousand years after the arrival of the first Norman settlers on the island.
Eleonora Bordonaro, a singer-songwriter, storyteller, and scholar from Paternò, has been conducting research to recover and bring to light the musical traditions of this linguistic and cultural enclave in Sicily. In the course of this project, she encountered the “diavoletti” (little devils) of San Fratello, known as the “Guidei.” They are groups of “masks” that freely roam the town during Holy Week, playing trumpets and disrupting religious events and processions. They represent the Jewish people according to ancient anti-Semitic tradition, accused for centuries of the death of Christ. At the same time, they are a kind of cheerful and noisy devils, wearing colorful costumes with helmets, hoods, and long fabric tongues with crosses on the tip, symbolizing the deceitful nature of demons.
As they wander through the village, the “Giudei” visit bars, taverns, and homes, receiving offerings of wine and sweets, considered auspicious. They play an endless stream of melodies, creating an auditory overload with what seems like an emphatic triumphant march, then a distorted waltz, and finally transforming into a strange polka. Others distort a selection of traditional songs, such as “Torna a Sorrento” and “O Sole Mio.” It’s such a strange and playful musical collage, the way the trumpeters gather fragments of popular songs and distort them, creating as much color and disorder as the celebration itself.
The audience then becomes part of the show, which promises to be curious and entertaining, and Eleonora Bordonaro and the “Giudei” will stage it on Sunday, July 3rd, as the closing act of the XIII edition of the Marranzano World Fest, but also as a preview of a project that will have broad development.