Friscalettu: Sicily’s Reed Flute

Sicilian music is punctuated with the sounds of the friscalettu or reed flute, pictured. Traditional tarantellas (folk dances) are colored with motives from this instrument, often hand carved by the player using the wood from fig or olive trees or the oleander shrub. Like the harmonica, a friscalettu (friscaletto, in Italian language versus Sicilian) player carries with him or her multiple lengths of this flute and decides which one to play according to the key of the song. Like a recorder, the carved holes (7 generally on front, and 2 on the back) when covered by the player’s fingers determine the pitch sounded when steady breath flows through the canal.

You’ll be able to hear some friscalettu this weekend at the Frazzanò Folk Fest, an ethno world music festival in the town of Frazzanò, in the hills of the Nebrodi Mountains. A global village has popped up in at the Monastery of San Filippo Fragalà where performances of southern Italian and Mediterranean folk music are being featured alongside food, music, and arts and crafts from Sicily and other parts of the world.

7 Comments Add yours

  1. Kathy Mackenzie says:

    Where can I purchase a Sicilian Flute or Friscaletto and how much would I expect to pay ? Kathy

    1. I’ll have to research this for you. I’ll ask my favorite Friscalettu player, when I see him next week. Are you going to Sicily anytime soon? Where are you located?

  2. Tiana says:

    Yes, is there a place to buy Friscalettu online? Thank you.

      1. Tiana says:

        Thanks Allison! Crazy question: do you know the man selling them? And also is $80 too much? <3 x molti grazie x <3

      2. Allison Scola says:

        Tiana, for a good one, no. It is hand carved. I have a couple of tourist ones (very inexpensive that I purchased in Palermo), and they are not so good for playing. They are fine to display, but for one that is intended to be an instrument, here in the US, because they are not easy to find, that’s what you’ll pay.

      3. Allison Scola says:

        Tiana, I don’t know him. For a good one, I’m not sure about this price. It is hand carved, and technical. I have a couple of tourist ones (very inexpensive that I purchased in Palermo), and they are not so good for really playing music. They are fine to display, but for one that is intended to be an instrument (which I hope these that you are looking at are). Here in the US (because they are not easy to find), you’ll have to pay more.

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