Canto a tenore – Sardinian pastoral songs

When you think about Sardinia, first thing that comes to mind is: Beautiful beaches, summer time, sailing. No question that beaches are beautiful, swimming , sailing, snorkeling are unique experiences but there is one part of Sardinia that is under-valuated. It amazes me how Sardinia can be so rich culturally and how proud the Sardinian’s are about it.

This is the second winter that we are spending in the island, and for me there is no better time to be here.

We heard about a small city called Bitti, and that the had a museum showing about the pastoral Sardinian culture, and we decided to visit

The museum is super nice, and next to that museum there is another one that is the museum of “Canto a tenore”

The first one I already knew what what to expect but with the canto a tenore I was catch by surprise.

The canto a tenore

Canto a tenore has developed within the pastoral culture of Sardinia. It represents a form of polyphonic singing performed by a group of four men using four different voices called bassu, contra, boche and mesu boche.

It is performed standing in a close circle. The solo singers chants a piece of prose or a poem while the other voices form an accompanying chorus with “nonsense” words that will replicate the sounds of the sheep, the cow and the wind.

The beautiful thing about this type of music is that, it is improvised, like the american blues. The canto a tenore is almost a way to spread poetry, where the solo singer will combine verses from know poems from the Sardianian followed but the other 3 singers.

The other particular thing is that every small village will have their way of singing, their poetry and the singers from one place will always sing with their people. When presented you will always hear people saying the name of the group and the city they come from.

The museum

The museum is really small, but they have a interactive way to show how the Canto a tenore works. With 4 big screens in circle, you stand in the middle listening to the music. You can also select which voices do you want to hear.


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