“Musica dei Popoli”, born in Florence in
1979, was the first international gathering of ethnic and folk music in
Italy, and one of the first festivals of ethno-music in the world. The
festival’s goal is to share the knowledge of world’s musical cultures. For
this reason, it has been promoting and “giving a voice” to the most distant
populations, geographically and culturally speaking, inviting hundreds of
artists from all over the world. In its 30 editions, Musica dei Popoli has
been presenting more than 300 artists, coming from 80 nations and five
continents, among which soloists, and ensembles of vocal and instrumental
music, as well as evening of music and dance, or music and theatre.
The festival was the first of its kind to promote the musical heritage of
populations that were scarcely known to the Italian public, such as the
Uzbeks, the Tagiki, the Kazaks from central Asia (1985), or the Yacuts, the
Buriats and the Tungusi from Siberia (1987); moreover, it staged traditional
festivals and rituals by African ethnic groups which, thanks to their
geographical and cultural isolation, have been preserving traditional styles
and ways of life such as the Bafut from Cameroon, the Senufo-Fodonon from
the Ivory Coast or the Dogon from Mali.
The artistic program of the “Musica dei Popoli” features folk and ethnic
music, both from Italy and beyond. Throughout the years the festival proved
that “music” is not only classical music, Anglo-American pop/rock or jazz,
and that folk and ethnic music offers a rich cultural and artistic patrimony
which is not marginal or inferior to Western-made music.
The festival’s primary goal has always been the valorization of music in
its many forms of expression considered as an artistic and cultural treasure,
by promoting performances that are diverse and that support cultural and
musical relativism. The goal was (and still is) to promote traditional world
music (the title of the festival comes from here) performed by its best and
most appreciated interpreters: Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan, Alim Qasimov, Zakir
Hussain, Hariprasad Chaurasia, Dulce Pontes, Shajarian, Charam Nazeri, Mory
Kante, Caetano Veloso, Sainko, Dou Dou N’Diaye Rose, Luzmila Carpio, Peppe
Barra, Lokua Kanza, Mosalini, Oumou Sangaré, Angelique Kidjo, Urna, Lura,
Petrona Martinez, Lotfi Bouchnak, Anouar Brahem, Naseer Shamma, Toumani
Diabaté, Lucilla Galeazzi, Elena Ledda, Luigi Lai, I Made Djimat, only to
quote a few.
The festival has been presenting traditional music from all over the
world but to limit the festival’s activities as related only to ethnic or
oral extra-European traditions would not be appropriate. In its long history,
many artists coming from their own classical traditions have performed at
the F.L.O.G. Center. They came from India, Iran, Japan, and the Arabic
world: Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan for Pakistani qawwali, Alim Qasimov for
Azerbaijan mugam, Munir Bashir for Iraki maqam, Monajat Yultchieva maqam
from Uzbek, Mahwash for Afghani ghazal, Shajarian for Persian radif, Ernesto
Cavour for Andinian music, Luzmila Carpio for quechua, Hariprasad Chaurasia
and Zakir Hussain for classical Hindu music, Cinuçen Tanrikorur for Ottoman
classical music, Shivkumar Sharma for the sufiana kalam from Kashmir, Lotfi
Bouchnak for Tunisian maluf, Cheika Remitti for Algerian rai, Consiglia
Licciardi for the Neapolitan song, and so on.
The festival has been representing various styles, genres and repertories
that can hardly fit one category and that are hard to label merely as “ethnic,”
and even less so as “world music.” Let’s think for a moment about the
Pakistani devotional music qawwali, the sama of Turkish Dervish, the lila by
the Moroccan gnawa or the songs of the Holy week of the Sardinian or
Sicilian lay brotherhoods. Many of the evenings have not been concerts – in
the sense of a solely musical soirée – but performing arts events, weaving
dance, theatre and music and where sound and movement were one whole.
Eastern theatrical forms – like Kathakali from Kerala or the Beijing Opera –
are true forms of “total art”, including music, dance, acting and movement.
The music of the people have been the true goal of the festival,
classical and folk, European and extra-European, sacred and profane, and the
choice of this name for a festival that focuses on music from the world
“Musica dei Popoli” is strictly tied to the F.L.O.G. (Fondazione
Lavoratori Officine Galileo), the promoting and organizing sponsor of the
festival, financially sustained by public institutions such as the Ministero
per i Beni e le Attività Culturali, Regione Toscana, Provincia e Comune di
Firenze. The festival, moreover, benefits from sponsorship by the Ministero
degli Affari Esteri.
Initially the organization of the festival was “anthological” with the
participation of musical ensembles of different typologies and origins.
Later it became “monographic” with a theme connecting all the participants:
each edition is centered around a specific subject, represented by a
geographical and cultural area – AfricaMusica, AmericaMusica, Suoni
d’Oriente, Arabeschi Mediterranei, etc. – or by a thematic area – gipsy
traditions (Mosaico Zigano), dance (Suoni in Movimento), singing (Le Vie dei
Canti), etc. – which weaves a thread through the various artistic
presentations, giving the festival, year after year, a coherent and
homogeneous touch and a distinctive character.
In its 30 years history, the festival has respected its original goal, to
represent extra-European and European folk cultures through music and dance
performances presented as the cultural and artistic expression of the people
they belong to. The cultural politics of the FLOG Center are expressed
through intercultural activities of festivals and events of ethno-music and
cinema, and are aimed at the promoting of the knowledge and value of
cultural differences expressed through the language of sounds. It is in this
direction that the FLOG Center intends to continue its path.