We are in Comiso, one of the capitals of Sicilian Baroque. Here it is the nice Natural History Museum.
Who brings the lullabies?
Everyone knows that Santa Claus comes with a sleigh on the roofs of the houses and then he goes down the chimneys with his bundle full of presents.
Everyone knows that children are brought by the stork that leaves newborns behind their doorstep.
This also happens in Sicily, of course.
But, who brings the lullabies?
We have toured the island in over thirty years to gather testimonies from the elders.
She Eooo ooo ooo you sleep child and others don’t. And if you don’t want to sleep, who knows how many spankings I have to give you!
She: And if my little brother didn’t fall asleep I got angry and spanked him. Because I was little and I got tired of swinging and singing all the time.
Well … we don’t know in the rest of the world, but here in Sicily the lullabies bring women: mothers, sisters, aunts, neighbors who, often exasperated by these children who never wanted to go to sleep.
“They were ” delirious singing,” practically, inventing meaningless verses, as long as they ended up in a rhyme and had a lanky, almost Arabic-like melody, like a rattlesnake of the fakir, which should have hypnotized the child’s mind and muscles.
She: Sleep comes and comes near here, a little angel is waiting for you in the cradle.
She: And you sleep until morning, ooo ooo o, sleep child and do the o.
Rita Botto introduces us to this wonderful world
In this adventure in the Sicilian world we are accompanied by the folk singer and composer Rita Botto, who dedicated to the lullabies a beautiful album entitled Ninnao
(Rita sings: Fly fly, who speaks will get hit, fly blowfly who speaks gets a slap. Nicula your hat flew off , it flew over the houses, Nicula eats cherries. Four plus four makes eight and you hear a big bang. The Bird with wings downloads channels; The bird with the fins, unloads and leaves. Fig milk, I’ll tell you tomorrow. It rains, look how it rains, the cat is rehearsing, the mouse marries with the silk coppola)
RITA BOTTO So I dont know how it happened maybe because my grandmother was a midwife and used to bring children to the world in the house, as they used to once. And I don’t have any children . It’s funny that I dedicated myself to the Lullabies
She: What do you have Salvatore that you cry? I want the cradle among the oranges. And what do you have Salvatore that your laughing? I want the cradle among the olive trees
RITA BOTTO There is a tradition to pass on. The lullabies are not only a very important component of the Sicilian culture but they are also beautiful! The important thing in lullabies is the rhythm, because with it we try to hypnotize them, to induce them to sleep
This you are seeing is a naca, a very important object here in Sicily!
It is an ante litteram cradle and here you see it rebuilt it on an ancient bed of a Sicilian family.
It works in the following way: swing and sing for hours and hours.
Children, you know, are as spiteful as dogs, and so you often spent hours and hours rocking that baby who didn’t want to sleep.
And then you were forced to formulate threats like:
She: Eooo ooo ooo mom’s beautiful child. And If this child does not want to sleep, who knows how many spanking in the butt he will get.
Or even worse: (Rita sings: N’talalò, nana ta ninna, this baby cries that wants the breasts. And if this child does not want to, sleep,drop him on the floor and let him go)
An ally of lullabies, here by us, was opium!
Yes, you heard right: the poppy
She: In those days some mothers gave them paparina, that is boiled poppy leaves: they stun them and slept great
RITA BOTTO I hope that children can still fall asleep to the sound of ancient lullabies, told by fathers, mothers and grandparents. Because it is from the voice of a loved one that children want to be lulled
(Rita sings: The semolina with salt my buddy will eat it and the one with the vinegar my husband wil eat it. It rains, look how it rains, the cat is rehearsing, the mouse marries with the silk coppola. And this wheel turns, the sliced bread, the Mass was recited and the angel came. Fly fly who speaks will get beaten, fly blowfly who speaks gets a slap. Nicula your hat flew off , it flew over the houses, Nicula eats cherries)
And so, dear spectators, I hope you feel like hosting Rita and her splendid Sicily made not only of lullabies.
A plunge in our land with our songs and our traditions.
To Contact Rita Botto: firstname.lastname@example.org