Songs In The Key Of… Sicily

3 December, 2017 in Features, Interviews

Mount Etna and Catania

Sicily: Mount Etna, with Catania in the foreground. Photo: BenAveling/Creative Commons

The Italian singer songwriter Alessio Bondi introduces us to the magical and varied sounds of the Mediterranean Sea’s largest island

For the latest instalment of our ‘Songs In The Key Of…’ feature we are heading to the island of Sicily. Separated from the Italian mainland by the Strait of Messina, it is perhaps best known for Mount Etna, Europe’s tallest active volcano. With a diverse culture stemming from its Phoenician, Carthaginian, Elymian, Roman and Greek heritage, Sicily has influenced poems by both Homer and Virgil and is now the inspiration for our latest playlist.

Our curator today is the singer and songwriter Alessio Bondi. Based in Palermo, the importance of Sicily can be heard in full on debut album Sfardo. On each of the record’s ten tracks you will find the sound and influence of his homeland, intertwining stories from his childhood with the struggles of adult life. It’s a bewitching listen and casts Bondi in the role of a Sicilian Devandra Banhart. What’s more, it makes him ideally placed to introduce us to the sounds of this unique island…

To watch the whole 12-track playlist in one go, check out the Songwriting YouTube Channel.

BUTTANA DI TO MA – ROSA BALISTRERI
“Balistreri is not only an influence for all Sicilian singers, she embodies the essence of Sicily. Her emotional, intense voice reflects both her unlucky life stories and the ancient suffering of our people.”

E SI SFARDA LA NEGGHIA – OLIVIA SELLERIO
“Arranged as a southern Italian Morna, this composition leaves me speechless. Olivia Sellerio’s mellow and mysterious voice is my favourite betrayal of tradition.”

DI CU SI – ALESSIO BONDI
“In Sicily adults play at stealing the baby’s nose, pretending to hide it or eat it. ‘Whose is this nose right here?’ is a question that almost all Sicilian children know. I’ve always found this little game so poetic. This is my own composition and I’m thrilled to be including it on my album, Sfardo.”

SEI RINTOCCHI DI CAMPANE – OMOSUMO
“Check this out! Omosumo’s most recent live set is still shaking my soul. Magnetic blues for a space trip above Sicily’s triangle.”

CUMU E SULA LA STRATA – FRATELLI MANCUSO
“The Sicilian dialect does not have the future case; our most integral language doesn’t allow us to use the future when we speak, think or write songs. Quite punk, isn’t it? This is why the Sicilian dialect and culture contain frequent references to death. In Mancuso’s vocal lies what mustn’t get lost from our past.”

LAMENTATORI
“Go and check also these ‘Lamentazioni’, ancestral mourning compositions recorded in Butera during the Holy Week. Simply amazing.”

CIUSCIA – TAMUNA
“The damned groove of Tammorra’s skin dances, here with a bluesy guitar and a touch of melodic vocals all’italiana.”

STRANIZZA D’AMURI – FRANCO BATTIATO
“It’s hard not to include the most beloved songwriter from Sicily with the warmest song he’s written in our dialect.”

A FINESTRA – CARMEN CONSOLI
“Carmen Consoli wrote this sincere homage to her island after her more-than-a-decade success abroad in Italy and Europe. The lyrics are a perfect dramaturgic mechanism, stories exploding one after the other. Enjoy!”

U METIRI
“Alan Lomax’s travels brought him to Sicily in 1954. His recordings draw the depth of a Sicilian feeling in music.”

COLTIVERÚ L’ORTICA – IL PAN DEL DIAVOLO
“Folk’n’roll made in Palermo with an urban, bloody, caustic, poetic edge.”

TERRA CA NUN SENTI – ROSA BALISTRERI
“Every compilation focusing on Sicilian music should begin and end with Rosa’s voice. The first time I heard this ‘canto’ I was far away from home, I couldn’t help but cry.”


Alessio BondiAlessio Bondì is an Italian singer-songwriter based in Palermo, Sicily. Singing in his native dialect, Alessio brings his culture to life with poetic and intimate folk music. His debut album, Sfardo, is out now via Malintenti Dischi and 800A Records. Find out more at alessiobondi.com

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