Corsican songs, music and polyphony

Corsican song

Corsican song is an oral and popular tradition that originated in village society, where it has a social function from sunrise to sunset. All the songsThe music of the Middle Ages, and especially sacred music, drew on outside influences: Greek, Spanish and Gregorian.

Corsican songA distinction is made between monodic singing, sung by a single person ("i lamenti", "i voceri", "i nanni"), and the Corsican polyphonic singing which is sung with several voices (at least 3: a siconda, u bassu, a terza). Corsican polyphony is the traditional point of reference, it has accompanied the daily lives of farmers and mountain dwellers. Corsican. These are songs "A cappella is an essential means of expression on the island, whether to express torment or joy.

The different songs of Corsica


Traditional Corsican song in three voices, expressed in a poetic form that comes from the hymns of the liturgy. A single stanza in 6 octosyllabic lines, it could be considered a mini-poem or a micro-musical piece lasting around 1mn30.

The three voices mentioned above are :

In Siconda : This is the lead voice (the baritone), the one that sets the rhythm and carries the song. The other voices must blend harmoniously around it.

A Terza : the third, is the highest voice in the trio. It is the ornament of the song, with its "ribuccati", that gives it an oriental flavour.

U Bassu : the bass, as its name suggests, is the lowest voice. It carries a seconda, and adds a lot of roundness to the song.

The "Chjami e rispondi" scheme

The singers call out to each other and respond with improvised poetic jousts. Autrefois Corsican shepherds They communicated with each other in this way, from one mountain to another, their voices carried by the echo and the wind. You can still witness these jousts, particularly at village festivals, where improvised opponents have a field day.

Around a subject, which can be very banal, the poetic duel is organised, the answers must be relevant, until one of them can no longer follow up and admits defeat. As a general rule, defeat comes because of fatigue.

The Terzetti

It is also a singing in three voices, with a verse structure of three lines. The tone is poetic, and the lyrics are mainly written in Tuscan and date from the Middle Ages.

The "Lamentu" (lament)

The singer's voice expresses a lament of unhappy love, exile, suffering or death. It is an emotional songIt makes the audience shudder. In the case of a violent death, it's "Voceru", very well described by Mérimée in "Colomba".

A Nanna (lullaby)

A song about life, in the form of a poetic lullaby, designed to help children fall asleep.

In Triberra (threshing)

It is a country song linked to work, invoking generosity and abundance.

Corsican polyphonic songs and groups

Corsican polyphonic singing the best known is undoubtedly the Diu vi salvi Regina (God save you Queen) which is a Church songbut above all the anthem that has been recognised by the people since 1735 Corsica.

Since the 1980s, there have been a number of well-known polyphonic groups in France and Europe, including :

  • Canta u Populu Corsu
  • the Eternity
  • l'alba
  • The arcusgi
  • Tavagna
  • I Chjami Aghjalesi
  • I Muvrini
  • A Filetta
  • Barbara Furtuna
  • Diana di l'Alba (co)
  • Surghjenti

And there are many others, such as solo singers, who practice singing rather than polyphony.

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