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Five men stand outdoors in front of a door.
Spartimu, vocal polyphony ensemble from Corsica. Photo courtesy of Spartimu.

Homegrown Plus: Spartimu’s Vocal Polyphony from Corsica

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Welcome back to Homegrown Plus! We’re continuing to place the 2021 series of Homegrown Plus online, after pausing it to premiere the 2022 series right here on the blog. (Find the whole Homegrown Plus series here.) We’re continuing the series with Spartimu, a vocal ensemble performing the haunting polyphonic vocal style native to their home island of Corsica. Like other blogs in the Homegrown Plus series, this one includes a concert video and a video interview with the featured group, plus links and connections to Library of Congress collections.

Five men singing together
Spartimu perform in Chicago. Photo by Tipping Point photography; used courtesy of Spartimu.

The Spartimu ensemble is devoted to traditional polyphonic singing as passed on in the oral traditions of Corsica. Their style and repertoire are based on deep research into the practice of the singing tradition known as “cantu in paghjella,” which is recognized by UNESCO as an important and endangered tradition (“intangible cultural heritage in urgent need of safeguarding”). The ensemble’s projects also encompass the repertoires of several other countries, stretching from Mediterranean Europe to the peaks of the Caucasus. The encounters they create among musical traditions, repertoires, and practices that at first appear very disparate have become a trademark of the group. The Spartimu ensemble has performed at concerts and festivals in Sardinia, Lithuania, Georgia, Australia, and the United States.

Spartimu livened up their concert video with spectacular footage of Corsica as well as their beautiful performances of sacred and secular songs from Corsica and beyond.  Find their concert in the player below.

[Transcript of Concert]

In the interview, I spoke with Frederic “Fred” Vesperini about a range of topics relevant to the concert. We spoke about Corsican culture, the paghjella tradition, affinities with other musical traditions, and even sheepherding and Napoleon! See the interview in the player below.

[Transcript of Interview]

Collection Connections and Links

Here you’ll find links relating to Spartimu’s songs, as well as links to Library of Congress collection items connected to Corsican traditions and the others they drew upon in their concert.

First of all, you can visit Spartimu on the web at this link.

The Cantu in Paghjella style was inscribed by Unesco in 2009 on the List of Intangible Cultural Heritage in Need of Urgent Safeguarding—in other words, an endangered oral tradition. See Unesco’s Cantu in Paghjella page at this link.

For more about Unesco and Intangible Cultural Heritage, read Michelle Stefano’s blog series at this link.

The most famous person from Corsica is undoubtedly Napoleon Bonaparte, who dominated global politics at the turn of the 19th century. He also left his mark on folk music throughout Europe and America, and Spartimu mention him in their concert. At the American Folklife Center, our best-known Napoleon tune is “Bonaparte’s Retreat,” known in Spanish as “Marcha de Napoleon.” Find out all about “Bonaparte’s Retreat” at this blog post.

In addition to Corsican music, Spartimu perform a Croatian song. AFC has featured Croatian music in several previous homegrown concerts, which should be included in the list at this link

We also have many Croatian sound recordings online, from California, Michigan, Massachusetts, and Illinois; find them at this link.

Spartimu perform a beautiful lullaby in the concert. To explore more lullabies from AFC collections, follow this link.

L’Orme Sanguigne is an Easter hymn. After Spartimu, listeners might be interested in our videos of Georgian Easter hymnody. Find them in the blog at the link:

Tbiliso is a song in Georgian and Corsican, and demonstrates the affinity Spartimu feels for the Georgian tradition. We have featured several Georgian concerts over the years, and you can find videos in the blog posts at this link.

Dio Vi Salvi Regina is a traditional religious song that’s also the de facto “national anthem” of Corsica. It’s customary to end concerts with it! It even has its own English-language Wikipedia page, which you can see at this link.

Thanks!

As always, thanks for watching, listening, and reading! The American Folklife Center’s Homegrown Concert Series brings music, dance, and spoken arts from across the country, and some from further afield, to the Library of Congress. The idea of the Homegrown Plus series is to gather concert videos, video interviews with the musicians, and connections to Library of Congress collections together in one place for our subscribers. (Find the whole Homegrown Plus series here!)

For information on current concerts, visit the Folklife Concerts page at Concerts from the Library of Congress.

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