My Favorite Sardinians
I am listening to the video above as I begin this post and literally salivating as I do it. It may be the square of delicious German chocolate I just ate – but even as that flavor fades, all my senses are alight at the sound of Tenores di Bitti.
Though my post on Things that Make You Cry… reveals that I have the emotional fortitude of a sensitive teenage male lead I have a hard time believing that one could leave an encounter with this music unmoved. I sense this music with my whole head and many other parts of my body; it makes my guts ache, tear ducts quiver and fingers tingle. I am fascinated by sounds that activate senses other than hearing in this way. An unpleasant analog and much beloved chestnut of class cut-ups everywhere that illustrates the tactile capabilities of sound is nails on a chalkboard. In younger years, I called these sounds (certain singers like Bjork and the sound of the french horn are pleasanter examples) sounds that ‘take up your whole ear’ or ‘have no air in them’. What I can identify now is that these sounds’ effects are more than just auditory.
Tenores di Bitti represent a tradition of overtone singing in Sardinia known as polyphonic singing. Four men form a quartet and each has a specific vocal role to play. The combination of these sounds results in the utter fabulousity you will note in the videos above and below. For an expanded explanation, here’s Wikipedia’s article on overtone singing.
Here are the fab four breaking it down for you. I have no idea what they’re saying because I lost all the lyrical, fluent Italian I had to a tragic, but non-life threatening head injury in a downtown laundromat last year. Tragic, but such is life. They make it clear enough, however, that they are explaining their respective vocal parts (see helpful comic dialog bubbles). I also love how it appears that the camera crew has caught them just before they head out for a leisurely nature walk. Enjoy.