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Resiano carnival, the carnival of soul

I have driven for 350 km all in one go to get back to Friuli and arrive in time to the resiano carnival. I can just park the camper in Spilimbergo and straight after Andrea del Favero (see post: Music friulana) arrives to take me to Resia. In a short time we leave behind the “Italian Friuli "and suddenly, delighted by the landscape, we enter the resiana valley that seems to be one thousand miles away from home.

Once in San Giorgio di Resia, we see colourful and strange phantoms placed in different positions. There are two "making love" in front of the church of the village. They are "babaz", the inanimate protagonists of resiano carnival. In a few hours one of them will be burned on the stake, after being mistreated, beaten and insulted by the impetuosity of the people.

All around there is a total silence, nobody in the street, no sign of celebration. We open the doors of the only tavern in the neighbourhoods and we are overlooked by a wave of cries and garbled words that break with decision the outward peace; Andrea makes me a sign with the eyes and says: "It begins". In the background some string instruments scream in the rhythm of feet beating on the ground. It is the typical resiana music played with a violin named cïtira with strings pulled to the limits of endurance, a bass called Bünkula, similar to a cello, with two metal strings and one of animal fiber, the third instrument are the feet whose beat accompanies all the music. The cïtira players alternate them using the left foot for the acute part of the piece and the right one for the low part. The Bünkula is played with empty strings and the left hand is used only to rotate the instrument in order to match the strings with the bow; a madness of beautiful music.


This music is hypnotic, pressing, frantic, apparently it seems always the same, but listening carefully you understand that the melody of each piece, which plays on a scheme of two chords, is different, and musicians who play "by ear" can distinguish it with very specific names. The fact that this music is not written but  handed down from memory, means that it is constantly evolving and renewing.  Some transcripts of '800 and several recordings of '50 and'60, are completely different from what we listen today, a sign that the tradition in Resia is now! On the contrary the dance is always the same, simple and minimal. There is not physical contact in the couple demonstrating that this is a very ancient dance.


The Resiano Carnival ends today on the Ash Wednesday, after a period of celebration started several days before, through Sunday with the parade of lipe bile maškire (beautiful white masks) and the madness of Shrove Tuesday. Tomorrow, the beginning of Lent will mark the end of revelries and music.

I sit down at a table with two old men who drink wine and talk in resiano, a dialect of Slovenian roots incomprehensible to me. They tell me that once the carnival was a great feast to which they devoted a very large period of time, when Resia counted 4,000 inhabitants there was serious noise. Now, due to the fact that people are just about 1000 and the young people leave the village to find work, the carnival has lost energy. " One of them tells me that I arrived late but considering what I see, the young people playing and dancing and the energy spreaded all around I can be very  satisfied.

The night falls and some screams attract the attention. The babaz sitting on the toilet and placed as a trophy at the end of the room, was dragged outside and beaten by the people. Thus it begins the procession that will lead it to the centre of the square to be burned. A parade of musicians and masks of all kinds, without any logic, made of cloths pieces and accessories collected together, accompanies the screams in the streets of the village that is full of people eager to light the fire. The ritual foresees a sort of funeral for the poor predestined babaz, which now seems to show, behind his straw face, a soul in pain who cannot do nothing but smile. The resiano people gather around it, some words spoken in a whisper for the few intimate closer to the gallows, then the flames rise to heaven. The people triumphantly praise and dances begin.

That night the few foreigners were around the fire trying to decipher the funny codes of this carnival. Nothing to do with the sophisticated carnivals of Venice or Bagolino (see post: The two sides of the bagosso carnival) this is the carnival of the people who show themselves in their whole damn soul, spontaneously and honestly. If you can "go inside" and let yourself go, fun is guaranteed and the resiano people, apparently closed and isolated, are ready to share their culture with everybody. I would say that in the centuries this closure has made the resiano character so spontaneous and over the top. The resiano people are not interested so much in the presence of tourists, but if there are, they will be more than welcome.

Gigino di Biasio (see movie) is the owner of the tavern "Alla speranza", where I am. Himself and his tavern are the centerpiece of the resiano carnival. He tells me that he left his land, but then he returned due to blood ties, in fact in the village they say that without him the resiano carnival and the culture in general would have been already lost long ago. Thanks to a few days spent with Gigino I’m able to understand the distinctive features and problems emerging from this community. He says that the preservation of music and dance does not run great risks because young people still love this trend because they identify with it. In fact I personally think that resiana music is very young with its reiterated and schematic "hammering". It creates attraction and, in the long run, a sort of trance (like pizzica to understand). However, the aspect in danger seems to be the resiana language that, as Gigino says, "it is the determinant of the three peculiarities of the resiana minority: language, music and dance"




Thanks to: Gigino di Biasio (filmato), Andrea del Favero, Giulio Venier, Marisa Scuntaro

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