Musical Mourning Rituals in Sicily. By Sergio Bonanzinga. Translated by Giacomo Valentini.

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Sergio Bonanzinga


This article surveys various vocal and instrumental performances (chants, laments, calls, sounds of church bells and drums, band music) connected to the ritual celebration and commemoration of the dead that are still characterized in Sicily by a manifest syncretism between Christian Church rules and folk customs and beliefs. These “sounds of mourning” are examined in terms of both their musical aspects and their social and symbolic functions, with special attention given to the changing dynamics between the present day and the recent past. The focus also extends to include celebrations in which “fictitious funerals” are performed, such as those for Christ during the Easter procession and for Nannu (“Grandpa”) in Carnival ceremonies.

Originally published in Italian as “Riti musicali del cordoglio in Sicilia,” Archivio Antropologico Mediterraneo 17, no. 16, 1 (2014): 113-156. Online at

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