Neapolitan Music

The Music of NAPLES
The Music of NAPLES


Neapolitan music today is not only liked by older crowds, above all, it's not only liked by country folk. From the 15th century till today Neapolitan music has positively evolved, been preserved and also mixed into modern styles. In the 50s, with American influence of jazz and boogie music, new music was formed and embraced by artists of the time.

Thank you Renato Carosone for being one of the most significant Italian musicians of your time! The 70s jumped on Saturday nights for the TV program "Canzonissima" a singing competition with singers singing their songs. If you're talking about the story of Italian music one personality to remember is Renato.


Above Renato Carosone U Sospiro

Above Lucio Dalla and Pavarotti sing Renato Carosone

During WWII, US troops piled into Naples and Renato's success excelled with blendings of boogie-woogie and jazz with his native music.

His first band the "Trio Carosone" was the start of a career that allowed his songs to be played in the best festivals in the world. Songs as "Tu vo fa' L'Americano, and O Sarracino." His style was a mix of swing, jazz, boogie, and traditional Neapolitan. He may leave you to stop, listen, and do nothing else but wiggle and dance. The Neapolitan song was born in 19th century opera, originating in Naples, Italy and grew to inspire, comfort and warm the hearts and bodies of millions! Music's popularity during the war was looked upon fondly by these artists. They break out into song upon their recollection.

Neapolitan folk music features folk percussion instruments such as the putipu--consisting of a membrane stretched across a chamber which resembles a drum with a handle attached used to compresses air rhythmically. The Triccaballacca is another instrument they use called a clapper featuring three mallets with a central piece to strike.  Then there is the classic tambourine called a "Tammorra" in Naples.

With these instruments producing what is known as "Neapolitan Folk Music," a well representation of that very sound can be found within the group "Nuova Compagnia di Canto Populare" who are fun, moving and typically "Napolitano." They combine dance with music and drama, with several different voices within the song.

The "Canzone Napolitana" is a large body of composed music, usually popular music like Funiculi Funicula', or "O Sole Mio" (My Dear Sun). In the 1830s the music evolved through the annual competition "Festival of Piedigrotta" a religious festival dedicated to the Madonna of Piedigrotta with its famous church in Naples the Mergellina.

Above Renato Carosone a Sanremo

A song that is well-loved today was the winner of the very first festival it was: Te Voglio Bene Assaie, composed by Gaetano Donizetti which festival ran until the 1950s.Nonetheless, the festival of Neapolitan song on Italian radio, mumbled some success in the 50s, and then fizzled out like the other. This period although had produced for us such songs as "Carmela" by Sergio Bruni and "Malafemmena" by famous actor Toto'.

The Cantautore-Singer/Songwriter-these songwriters who sing their own music, have been extremely successful in Italy for decades. Such artists include; Pino Daniele-the best known Cantautore, Daniele Sepe (saxophonist, percussionist, flautist), Ciro Ricci, Nando, Citarella, and Rita Marcotulli. Pino Daniele is known for the songs Terra Mia and Napule e'.

Neapolitan music has also been globalized mixing with American jazz and rock, Middle-eastern and African music which gives recent Neapolitan music its flare. Massimo Ranieri released "Oggi o Dimane" a collection of Neapolitan songs from the 19th and 20th centuries such as Rundinella, and Marechiaro.
The first Italian musical was for original production in Italian and Neapolitan dialect; Carosello Napolitano" with its first stage production in 1953 directed by Ettore Giannini and starring Sophia Loren. Since then there's been others like "Napoli 1799" and "C'era una Volta Scugnizzi"-based on the lives of Neapolitan street kids. The term musical is quite English, and was intergrated in Italy, mostly in Naples.



The exact origins of Napolitano music are obscure. Historians have not found concrete elements in which to describe the very first melody of this music. But you can say that this obscurity was as meaningful as a glowing myth of songs which caused this Neapolitan phenomenon. Between  the 15th and 16th century the "canzonette" (canzonets) Napolitano were sung by thousands, and sung by more than one single voce with accompaniment of a flute and mandolin, a stringed instrument.

Villanella is a form of light Italian secular vocal music which originated in Italy just before the middle of the 16th century, first seen in Naples. The music of early Villanella was for three unaccompanied voices. The first composers of this type were; Neapolitans- Orlando did Lasso, Luca Maurizio, Oration Vichy, Adriano Wilbert, Carlo Gestalt, Giovanni Maria Trabuco, Claudio Monteverdi, Guile Vaccine-the most prestigious names in polyphonic (various harmonies put together) Italian music. The first Villanelle vocal music was printed in 1537, and published quickly allowing less known compositions to spread and become widely known. Neapolitan music was a musical phenomenon and the most interesting music in Europe.

Above Renato Carosone A collection of images of Neapolitan songs

In the 17th century Mice lemma and Cicerenella were brought into the scene and then came the 18th century with Lo Guarracino.  In the end of the 18th century, numerous songs were already in circulation. The songs were so popular that musicians incorporated them in comic opera in the theatre which took part in conserving them until today.

In the first years of the 1800s, these songs were left behind; and it wasn't until 1835, when a famous and brilliant song appeared: Te Voglio Bene Assaje, which was a hit at the Piedigrotta festival, which was exclusively religious! This song became the synonym of the Neapolitan song! A long period between 1820 and 1880, represented the epoch which historians refer to as the "pre-digiacomiano period," a moment of transition from popular songs.

From 1925 to 1938, songs were still being created, but the main vain was wearing out. Great poets and musicians disappeared or just appeared to be surviving within a new tragic climate that was maturing in Europe.

An invasion of rhythmic songs was imported from the United States and talking cinema, the diffusion of records, and the difficulty of setting up stages for theatre shows contributed to the sunset of Neapolitan songs. After the war, they were expected to take possession of new rhythms and style and to show its vitality was inexhaustible in relation to modern songs.

After another half a century of successes from 1880 to 1930, after the war interval, new interests for great songs during the golden period were brought on by foreign singers. They brought back the old, incorporated them within new harmonies and rhythms. This you can see in the enormous success of the old "Voce e' Notte" which is even accepted by the younger generations. This restabilizes a direct thread between the past and the present towards the natural process of assimilation, and this way Neapolitan music continues down its antique road, and still brings sweet comfort to our exhausting lives!

Some are known to be faithful to the songs expressed in this music's past, and the proof is in every album released in Naples by artists; Peppe Barra, Antonell Paliotti, James Senese, Nuova Compagnia di Canto Popolare or Roberto de Simone.

Above Boccelling in O Sole mio

Piazza del Plebiscito in Naples, the San Carlo Opera House

To hear the music's of Naples, you must visit the Communal Gardens, a park running along the seaside, or visit Plaza Plebiscito the vast square on the west side of Royal Palace, and the largest venue for New Year's celebrations, music and parades. There is the Trianon Theater know as the theater of "Neapolitan Song" who features plays, musicals, acoustics and an art gallery located in Piazza Calenda.
Finally there is the San Carlo Opera house in Naples. Besides opera, it boasts orchestras several times a year. Nearby you'd find the Teatro Mercadante, an old theatre with charming themes established in 1790.

It's inevitable to expand on new boundaries in favor to great music which still today expresses the city of Naples. One of the newest releases is called "Le Forme Incantate" by Gianni Lamagna could be bringing back of the old tradition of the immortality of Neapolitan music art.

Above Pino Daniele

Above Teresa De Sio : A umma umma