Today’s journey is short but under the clouds and a furious wind. I cycle a few kilometers and stretch the route to find the village entrance sign. A gust of wind moves me and forces me to stop. I get back on track.
I get into town and head first to the Town Hall, then to the tobacco shop where Pitano (nickname for Sebastiano) Perra awaits me, a launeddas builder, who will host me for the day. After a coffee, Pitano takes me for a tour of the village. In the main square there is the church of the Holy Virgin of the Angels. The exterior is made of a beautiful yellow sandstone that incorporates some carved piece, and a statuette that resembles a mother goddess. Inside are the remains of St. Stephen, a Christian martyr. During the procession the skull, pierced by the nail that killed the saint, is kissed by the faithful.
Going from a narrow alley behind the church we take a walk to get to the church of Madonna d’Itria. Pitano defines it as ‘reversed’ because the entrance was moved to the back and what was once the beautiful facade is now the back of the church. Returning for lunch at Pitano’s we stop at the Magazzini Grafica, graphic studio of Mirko and Sandrino. The latter makes beautiful images of women in Sardinian stylized costume, and gives me a postcard of one of these images.
In the afternoon we visit the Pitano’s workshop. This is located in a beautiful Campidanese house. Fruit trees grow in the courtyard. I am struck by an orange grafted with another variety of orange, with mandarin and lemon … the same tree with 4 different fruits! Not far from it, a myrtle plant with white and black varieties. And then many reeds. Pitano uses them for the construction of launeddas. I am explained the difference between the male reed, which grows by the Flumini Mannu and is used for the melodic reeds, a rare reed, and the female reed for the drone, the common reed that is found everywhere.
In one wing of the house there is the launeddas construction workshop where Pitano leaves me to work on my blog. Halfway through my work, I take another walk in the village and visit the courtyard of a beautiful Campidanese house with a well and some stone sculptures. Back in the laboratory, Pitano shows me the rooms upstairs with the exhibition of launeddas built following all the models noted by Bentzon, the Danish scholar who came to Sardinia on a motorcycle, who did a huge amount of studies on launeddas. In another room other traditional instruments, flutes, rattles, cowbells.
In the evening we are joined by two other musicians, Giorgio Murtas with whom I have already played in Sarroch, and Giampaolo Ibba, a launeddas player. After a good pizza at Secondo’s, we retire to the laboratory for a night jam where we also meet Vladimir, a Russian who moved to Sardinia. The atmosphere is warm and the music of the launeddas accompanies me to the bed!
SHORT SARDINIAN STORIES
With self-irony Pitano defines himself as a “smoke seller” (he works in a tobacco shop but “smoke seller” in Italian means also “spin doctor”) and a maker of reeds (the word “reed” in italian means also “spliff”!) Besides building instruments, he has been learning to play launeddas for years and years, with excellent results. Today with him I took my first lesson in launeddas. Actually, it would have been his lesson with Maestro Stefano, in Sinnai, but today Pitano wants to donate his lesson to me, so when I arrive at the oratory of the church of Sant’Isidoro I was put a reed (not a spliff!) in my mouth for the first exercise … the circular breathing! Stefano lets explain this part to Pitano “no one explains it as well as Pitano does” and I try to make the first unsuccessful attempts. But we move on. Now is the moment of the right hand on the holes, very tight, to articulate the fingers up and down. This gets me a little better. First some timid sounds come out (“full cheeks!”) Then they slowly become louder. After twenty minutes I already have the basic elements for a life of study! Not only has this experience been given to me, but at the end of the lesson I am also given the reed, with the recommendation not to practice circular breathing while I ride a bike!