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linguistic minorities and militant music

Linguistic minorities and militant music in the peninsula and Sardinia

First of many digressions on the connections among minority languages, contemporary music and political activism

Alessandra Kersevan, about Aiello’s “Canzoniere popolare”: “With the Canzonir we started singing in Friulian dialect because this was the language of farmers, blue collars and partisans […] Going on we realized even more that the language itself was in slavery and needed liberation. Also for this reason it needed to be used in music and communication.” (from “La me lenghe e sune il rock” by Marco Stolfo).

On PCI’s (Communist Italian Party, N.d.t.) weekly journal a young Friulian marxist efficiently summarized the opinion that: “a serious hystorical-materialist class analysis” absolutely can’t “reduce itself to a pure and simple abstract contraposition between bourgeoisie and proletariat because, in the epoch of imperialism, not considering the categories of nationality and colony, not to mention all that regards feminism, the private-public relation etc., is anti-historical and anti-scientific.Therefore class war must be seen as a struggle inside dominating and dominated nations and nationalities, otherwise the risk is to do bad service to the creation of socialism, which would bring with itself unresolved historical knots (minorities and oppressed nationalities) that would easily be exploited by the right-wing and revived as nationalistic conflicts […]” (from “Patria e Matria” by Sergio Salvi).

Unfortunately most formations that use so called minority or local languages are not interested in using their instrument’s notes as vehicles for social change and limit themselves to a folk revival of songs from the popular tradition of the respective territories.

However, it should be added that many of these songs of the past were lively forms of protest, which played today are not dated as they should (society has not progressed as intellectuals and neoliberal leaders would like to believe and indeed the most recent legislative formulations of many States detract from the rights of the weaker sections of the population). More importantly, the very decision to use languages long banned and opposed by bourgeois institutions and used by the poorer sections of the population is already an act of resistance. For centuries the colonialism of the so-called “great nations” has attempted to eradicate and destroy these languages, in particular but not exclusively the most reactionary regimes (just think of Fascist Italy and Francoist Spain, but has democratic France perhaps used better methods towards the Bretons and the Courses? And the sticks on the hands of those who spoke Sardinian or Friulian at school until some time ago?). For the avoidance of misunderstandings, as the author of this article I emphasize the recognition of these “minorities” in a framework that does not refer to that ethnic-localist vision much appreciated by the hunters of demonstrations of the old days and even less to that of nationalism.

First of all, the undersigned considers it an abomination to define these populations as minorities (for example, compared to whom would the Basques be a minority? To the Castilians? But who is the minority in the Basque Country?), Secondly they are real peoples fighting for the right of self-determination, just as much as the Vietnamese during the French and American invasions or the Kurds nowadays. The right to self-determination is a principle to be considered fundamental both for Marxism (or did you think that the Soviet Union was formed in a federation of republics because it was fun to create the flags of Turkmenistan and Armenia?) and for the anarchist movement (see Bakunin’s support for the Slavic liberation movements or the Basque Felix Likianiano, among many examples). The Italian constitution’s affirmations do not interest us at all, phrases such as “Italy is unique and indivisible” we consider them antics written by the bourgeoisie who with these territories, peoples and idioms in most cases had nothing to do.
What is Italy if not an imperialist program based on colonialism to the detriment of the peasants of Sicily and the South, who since the unification have fought against this state of affairs, giving rise to the first uprisings against the post-unitary bourgeoisie ( following the obvious betrayal of most democrats and reformers of high social backgrounds)?

In general

Before analyzing the musical situations, a brief summary of the languages ​​historically spoken in the peninsula (although it would be interesting to analyze also those present from more recent times and their impact on pre-existing musical traditions). Italian in the strict sense at the time of unification was used by a small section of the population and was spread through schools and later on television. There is an open debate between linguists on the recognition or otherwise of those linguistic identities recognized by the State as dialects (we speak of Ligurian, Lombard, Piedmontese, Veneto, Emiliano, Romagnolo, Sicilian and Neapolitan, all recognized by UNESCO as true idioms as they evolved from Latin parallel to what is now called Italian). Most of the others are Indo-European and officially recognized and more or less protected. Often less. On the Rhaeto-Romanic side there are Friulian and Dolomite Ladin; in Sardinia the Sardinian language; in the south there is the Arbëreshë community, spoken by communities of Albanian origin; several Germanic languages ​​as well as the German of Südtirol and some small areas of Friuli, such as the Cimbrian, the Mocheno and the Walser; the Greek islands of the south; Slovenian in the border areas and the ancient Croatian of Molise; romaní; Catalan in the city of Alghero; Occitan in Piedmont and Franco-Provençal / Arpitano in Valle d’Aosta. Most of the musical scenes that use the aforementioned languages ​​refer almost exclusively to the folkloric tones, as already mentioned. Fortunately, several artists have managed to go beyond this aspect and there are numerous formations that use more contemporary tones (metal, rap, punk, blues, jazz, reggae, dub, electronics, pop rock, etc.).

In detail


The richness of Sardinian music is known all over the world and has been studied in its popular and historical meanings by ethnomusicologists and anthropologists from all over Europe (Edouard Fouré Caul-Futy and Andreas Fridolin Weis Bentzon among others) and boasts its particular instrumentation ( launeddas, pipiolu, trimpanu, serraggia, etc.). Nowadays ethno-pop and tenor singing formations like the Istentales are not lacking and proliferate. In the sixties, apart from the Salis related to the Stormy Six, it is necessary to remember the Rubanu Group, which introduced the political lyrics within the tenor area following the revolt of Pratobello (which gave birth to one of the best known Sardinian songs of revolt together with “Moderare Procurre”, “Sa lottata di Pratobello”) and the meeting with nothing less than the Inti-Illimani. They also had the merit of being the first group of tenor singing to merge with experimental jazz. In addition to these, the famous Maria Carta can also be considered a committed artist who made use of the mother tongue and the Canzoniere del Lazio, who recorded some pieces in Sardinian.

In the eighties there was no shortage of hardcore punk groups born in the wake of Crass and Discharge such as P.S.A. (just as there is no shortage today), but most of these used Italian or English. For combat rock in Sardinian it was necessary to wait for the arrival of Kenze Neke, the spearhead of militant island music. Born in Siniscola in 1989, the name in the Baronese dialect means “without fault”. These words were chosen in memory of Michele Schirru, a Sardinian anarchist shot in 1931 for planning to kill Mussolini, who ordered him to be assassinated by a special platoon. They have disentangled themselves in various themes such as anti-militarism, anti-colonialism, anti-fascism, the independence of peoples such as Basque and Irish, immigration and the life of the Sardinian proletariat and sub-proletariat. The obvious source of inspiration is Clash, and in fact their combat rock has incorporated sounds of all kinds, such as punk, reggae, metal, ska, traditional Sardinian music (including instrumentation, such as the accordion, the launeddas and the trunfa). Several of their works have been published by Gridalo Forte Records (Banda Bassotti’ s label) and have developed into different projects over time. The first derivation was the acoustic one of KNA (“Kenzaskra”) in 2006, born from the fusion with another important red and militant formation like the fellow villagers Askra, with whom they previously shared a mini-cd. Following other important projects continue a story made of music and militancy, the Tzoku and the Soberanìa Populare. Also interesting is the hip hop scene (Balentia, Menhir, Malos Cantores, Sa Razza, Funtana Beat), in which the Stranos Elementos and Dr. Drer & CRC Posse stand out for the topics covered. The first more recent (they also recorded an anti-fascist song with Acero Moretti), the second have held out since 1991 (they are part of those formations born in the parades and influenced by the Red Wave Posse, rather than listening to black music or hip hop concerts). To share the aversion to a permanent state of “bombs and tumors”, self-production and support for the most disparate causes. Also noteworthy is the independentist Futta of Sassari. Other recent musical upheavals are represented by Dr. Boost‘s reggae / dub, the post-folk of Boghes de Bogamundos, the borderless ska punk reggae of Ruja Karrera, the militant punk of C4 Combat Rock (which at the moment use Sardinian only partially, just like the first Kortatu with Basque), the anarcho punk A Fora De Arrastu and Keret Korria (still red punk). Unfortunately I found the example of an oi! band nominally independentist, but actually affiliated with the neo-fascists of CPI. I do not name it because reactionary propaganda, even when wearing the mask of alleged artistic ambitions, must be eliminated without doubt.


Moving on to the north-east, the first outbursts par furlan of political resistance in music are related to the phenomenon of songbooks, namely the Canzoniere Friulano and the Canzoniere Popolare di Aiello (or Canzonir di Dael, which also includes the researcher Alessandra Kersevan among the founders) . Although the texts do not refer to Friulian language in their own language, they meander between the poems of Pasolini and the revolutionary Giovanni Minut from Friuli, social rights, workers’ and peasant struggles, emigration, anti-fascism and anti-militarism (much felt both in Sardinia and in Friuli because of the military easements present in both places). In the early eighties the first politicized punk and experimental groups appeared in Friuli (Eu’s Arse, Warfare, Detonazione, Soglia del Dolore), while in the nineties we can find a hardcore punk band singing in Friulian, the Inzirli, and rappers in Marilenghe ( like the DLH Posse). Furthermore, Radio Onde Furlane, the Premi Friûl and the Usmis magazine (close to the self-managed social center of Udine) also developed in this period. Unfortunately there are no bands that can be considered analogous to the Basque Kortatu or to the Kenze Neke.

On the other hand, in Friuli, it is necessary to add, the autonomy organized into parties has always been fairly bland, almost always bourgeois in character or even tied to the old school Northern League, if not to the Front Furlan which has a footprint worthy of Forza Nuova as far as social policies are concerned (it’s no coincidence that it was founded by leavers from the mother party), Sardism instead had and still has examples of organizations ranging from the vaguely progressive Left to the more combative far left (like A Manca Pro S ‘Independence or anarchists). In any case, in the Nineties the phenomenon of Gnove music furlane was born, which brought together very different groups. In this sense, interesting patchanka or modernized folk formations, such as Sedon Salvadie, the Mussels FLK (leading exponents of Friulian music; the acronym stands for “Furlan Liberation Kongress”), Bande Tzingare, Kosovni Odpadki, Zuf de Žur (who have recorded a disc on the partisan resistance with Ivan Della Mea, Moni Ovadia, Giovanna Marini and Vlado Kreslin), Povolâr Ensemble, Furclap, Lino Straulino (who rearranged the texts of Victor Jara and collaborated with the organizations of relatives of the Argentine desaparecidos) and important Arbe Garbe. Many of these bands share an authentic passion for the southern hemisphere and cultural diversity, have recorded songs against military servitude and war, on the anti-fascist historical memory, but it would be incorrect to define them as militants or underground, in many cases the approach is more similar to lighter Modena City Ramblers or songwriters. A couple of curiosities: the bluesman (or bluesom) Fabian Riz boasts a song with the heirs of Kina, the Frontier, and the Francis and the Phantoms are a darkwave group in marilenghe with nihilistic and socially oriented lyrics.


Even the “Italian” Occitania can boast several very interesting formations, which combine the most traditional and medieval sounds with the most modern ones (punk, ska, reggae, jazz, etc.). The spirit is often combative and between live covers of “Bella ciao” and the proximity to the No Tav movement, it is inevitable to mention at least the most important formations such as Gai Saber, Lou Dalfin, Lou Seriol (dedicated to self-production) and Lou Tapage.

As for the other linguistic “minorities”, most do not present formations interested in the political struggle (or devote themselves to rather bland forms of commitment), with the exception of the Canzoniere Grecanico Salentino. Nowadays it does not retain any of the original members, but was founded by the writer Rina Durante whose musical approach stemmed in the first place from a need for political militancy and denunciation towards the overpowering that the peasant and working class had suffered throughout their existence.

Alessio Ecoretti

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