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San Vito and Launeddas

It was a must the meeting of the il cammino dell musica with one of the key symbols of the Sardinian culture: the launeddas. It is an instrument as simple in its structure as complicated in its execution technique. Its origins were lost in the ancient nuraghic  period; the discovery of the famous Sardinian small bronze representing a man playing the launeddas certifies the origin. In order to learn more about this ancient instrument that still fascinates generations with its hypnotic sound, I went to San Vito (CA) to meet one of the most talented and popular launeddas living players: the great Luigi Lai.
Thanks to him this tradition is still alive. When he returned to Sardinia from a long emigration period in Switzerland, he began to reintroduce the instrument that disappeared during the holidays. "I recommended it instead of the accordion that had taken its place, but people gave me the cold sholders and they even didn’t give me advice, then I started to propose the launeddas on my own initiative, and so people began to realize that it was worth to listen to this instrument and to take it into account. " Nowadays Luigi travels all around the most prestigious theaters and festivals in the world collaborating with internationally renowned artists from the most different musical trainings  (Angelo Branduardi, Paolo Fresu ...). Among his many students he says there is certainly someone who will inherit the responsibility to continue the tradition: "The launeddas are an instrument that steals your life, only dedicating much of your time you can reach good levels. Today there are people who think to become launeddas players after a few lessons, just because they can manage to play a song, but in reality they are just destroying a tradition. If my students want to stay with me, they must do what I tell them to do and trust me, only then they can become real players, with great dedication and sacrifice.

I know that once this instrument was used at the parties for people to dance, as it was for the Tenor in the area of Nuoro and I ask Luigi what is left today of this custom. To this question the master loses his gaze towards the sea, which can be seen from his house in Portocorallo (where I was invited for lunch during another meeting) and his face puts on a nostalgic expression. "Once there was nothing, there was no television and the player was the theater. He had an important role in the society because he made people dancing during parties and the dance was the only opportunity to get closer to a girl. The campidanese dance was very complicated, and everyone could interprete it wisely and with respect towards tradition. Today, unfortunately, it seems that the Sardinian dance, in all its styles, is often relegated to just folk phenomena and that during the time it has been so schematized to become acrobatic and "spectacular" certainly suitable to be performed in front of an audience or a group of tourists, but emptied of its true sense of ritual celebration and of "introspective sharing." (This is a leitmotiv that I've experienced in many areas of Italy: from my experience during these months of research in Italy I found that often the traditional dance unlike music seems no longer part of a present and spontaneous social shared expression, but it is comparable to an museum piece exhumed and schematized following supposable remote techniques, but at the same time adapted to the present days with purely performative show oriented techniques).
The launeddas continue to be played in processions, such as San Vito one, which I had the opportunity to follow during my stay in Sardinia. Rocco Melis and Sandro Frau told me the stories about this festival. They are two former students of Luigi Lai who participated to San Remo Festival with their group "Isola Songshowing to the public sound integrations of tradition and pop music. They also think that the dance has lost its importance, in fact the tradition would require,after the procession, everybody meet outside the church to dance, but the times are changing ... the important thing is that launeddas remain!
 
Thanks to: Luigi Lai Maistu, his wife, Vittorio, Tatiana and the little Riccardo (the future launeddas heir of his grand father Luigi), Rocco Melis, Sandro Frau, Fabrizio Ledda, Isola Song. 
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