The ocarina belongs to a very old family of instruments, believed to date back over 12,000 years, with varied versions made of bone, clay, wood and other materials. Many cultures have used them for song and dance. Variations have come from China, Japan, the Americas and they came to Europe via the trade routes of Eurasia.
The modern Ocarina used throughout the world today was invented in Budrio, Italy, during the mid-nineteenth century by Giuseppe Donati. Its shape recalls the elongated ovoid profile of a goose (oca in Italian) without the head: the name is derived from ucarina, diminutive of oca in Bolognese dialect.
Donati invented the modern version of the ocarina in 1853 at 17 years old. Donati built a variety of large and small ocarinas tuned to each other, making it possible to place in concert with each other. Donati had made five ocarinas of different sizes, each having holes for all ten fingers, which ranged from bass and treble, an extension of notes tuned to the piano. With the help of other musicians, he assembled the "Concert of Ocarinas", each evening performing around town playing in taverns and private houses.
The haunting sound of a vintage, bass ocarina is played in this video.
The town of Budrio in the province of Bologna hosts the International Ocarina Festival each year in early spring. It's an event dedicated to the sound and atmosphere created by the ocarina, with the participation of guest musicians and makers from all over the world. The Festival is organized by the municipal district of Budrio with concerts, musical entertainment on the streets, exhibits, folk dancing and many other activities.
This video shows the possibilities of using the ocarina for complex, classical musical performances, with a full range of octaves available for each musician.
The Calabrian Lira (lyre) is a bowed string instrument with three strings. Like most bowed lyres and psalterys, it is played upright, usually supported on the knee, held with the left hand touching the strings with the nails laterally while the right hand moves the bow. Traditional songs of the Lira include accompaniment songs (e.g. serenades and songs of anger) and songs suitable for dancing (tarantellas).
These songs and tunes are passed on from older players to the young. In recent years there has been a resurgence of Italian folk music from many regions of Italy, with newer musical traditional folkloric music groups and performers. There has also been more and more craftsmen in Calabria building these instruments.
The Calabrian Lira is closely related to the bowed Lira of the Byzantine Empire, first noted by a 9th century Persian geographer and spreading to eastern Europe in the 11th and 12th centuries.
The video below visits a Lira maker in his workshop...
Back in 1983, Toto Cutugno recorded what was to become an incredibly popular, realistic view of L'Italiano. This is a somber, raw pronouncement of what a "real" Italian is.
The song speaks of the vices, virtues and stereotypes of la Bel Paese, which, for example, is accused of excessive Americanism, a crisis of religion, a sexual casualness ( i.e., the line, "more and more women who are less nuns"), but still a country worthy of being proud of. The lyrics lace together religion, football, al dente pasta, espresso, socks, Italian artists, partisans as presidents and God.
It's worthy to be thought of as a National Anthem for modern Italians.
Click the video above to see an inspiring visual tour of what the Italian spirit is made of, or the Gypsy Queens video below for a very sexy rendition...
The Gypsy Queens version of L'Italiano by Toto Cutugno
Click the photo above to watch the video