Italian Music: Look at This Guy’s Zampogna!

A good friend of mine runs a charity organization based in Milan called “Associazione Giuseppe Bigi ONLUS”, dedicated to promoting the work of young researchers in the areas of Immunology and Hemotology.  It’s a wonderful association that hosts a lecture series and also sponsors research with the “Giuseppe Bigi Memorial Reward”, in collaboration with the American Society of Hemotology.  They also do quite a bit of work with the European Hematology Association.

During the year they organize various fundraising events.  One such event took place a couple of weeks ago here in Milan, near Porta Venezia.  It was a classical music concert presented on organ and zampogna.

If you’re like me, you had this reaction: “Zampogna?! It sounds like a dessert…”  In fact, it’s an Italian bagpipe.

OK, so that may be simplifying it a bit, but it gives you the general idea.  Really, the term “zampogna” covers a variety of instruments from Central & Southern Italy (as far north as Le Marche) that are all very different, yet fundamentally the same.  Traditionally, the “bag” part of the zampogna is made from a goat or sheep’s hide that is removed in one piece, sewn together and turned inside out (with the hair still on it).  A particular number of hollow, wooden “pipes” are attached to the bag by means of a singular round stock. The number of pipes depends on the region, but can be anywhere from two (a “chanter” and a “drone”) to… well, I’ve read about one that has two chanters and three drones, but I don’t know if that’s the maximum.

Zambogna are measured in terms of “palms”, as you would measure a horse in “hands”.  Most of them are the size you think of when you think of a bagpipe but there is also the GIANT zampogna, which (along with the more standard size) Alberto Bertolotti played during the charity concert.  Check it out:

There’s a great documentary called, “Zampogna: The Soul of Southern Italy“, that goes on a journey through Southern Italy to discuss the history and culture of this musical tradition.
The zampogna is also traditionally associated with Italy’s only real Christmas carol (at least, from what I’ve been able to discover, it’s the only one – the others are translated), “Tu Scendi delle Stelle” (”You Descend from the Stars”).  Since it’s almost the holiday season, I thought it timely to post the video – Enjoy! :)




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