Friscalettu Duo

Agrigento’s annual Sagra del Mandorlo in Fiore going on this week attracts groups from all over the globe, who display their traditional costumes along with exhibiting their culture’s beloved traditional music through performances and processions through town. Photographed in 2016 at the Festival by my cousin Filippo Buttitta, these two young men are playing the friscalettu, or Sicily’s reed flute, which is featured in tarantella folk dance music.

Friscalettu is often carved by from fig or olive trees or orleander shrub by the player. 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. The player’s embouchure (mouth cavity, tongue, lips, chin, and facial muscles) also determine the quality of the pitch. Like the harmonica, a friscalettu (friscaletto, in Italian language versus Sicilian) player carries with him or her multiple lengths of this flute and determines which one to play according to the key of the song.

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