"coro a tenores CULTURA POPOLARE di Neoneli" was founded in September
1976, the initiative of Tonino Cau, the only one of the remaining founders who
is still conducting his quartet.
The group was founded to save the only form of atavic tenor singing, or cuncordu
a sa neunelesa that risked disappearing from everyone's memory, since even the
old cantadores hardly sang anymore.
Thanks to the indispensable old cantadores guide it has been possible to rebuild
exactly the most traditional forms, the technical originals of "su cuncordu
neunelesu". Culturally speaking the group has channelled itself into a
stream which in the sixties inaugurated the various Orgosolo choirs which gave
an enormous contribution (thinking of people like Peppino Marotto, Pasquale
Marotto, Giuseppe Rubanu, ....) to the revival of traditional tenor singing.
Giving it back it's lost dignity and making it rise as a cultural and
spectacular element capable of drawing attention to a vast and heterogeneous
It has always been said that group's formation thrives from these oral
traditions (it has always been this way) of elements that find a starting point
in daily life, in real society, therefore the traditional hereditary songs have
to be protected and sung, especially if they are of poetic, stylistic value. But
none the less it seemed, and seems more so today, that the best way to retain
and bring to life the millenary tenor singing tradition is to put new and up-to
date content into the songs' text, using musical forms codified throughout the
That is why i made reference to the Orgosolo choir: we have continued and
developed this matter along these lines in perfect autonomy. Initially, the
Neoneli choir prepared pieces written by the solo Tonino Cau, along with some
traditional texts which they continue invariably to sing. This was already an
innovation in itself, but afterwards all the members of the choir composed some
texts attracted by the desire to write: for this reason, today the quartet is
called (the poets choir) "il coro dei poeti".
Our songs talk about the environment and emigration, of drugs and discrimination,
of pyromania and false balentes, of coastal havoc and charge of abuse, of peace,
violence and old age, love, natural beauty, and so on.
Therefore to synthesise: traditional unchanged singing forms, some traditional
text which we attained from oral traditions of unvalued beauty, and above all
present texts written by us on the above mentioned subjects.
The group doesn't limit itself to re-proposing musical themes of historical
memory: it has also invented happy melodies, tied to are etnophonic labyrinth,
sometimes enriched by acoustics produced by traditional instruments (launeddas,
trunfa, solitu) but also by modern instruments (guitars, mandolins, banjos,
percussion instruments) played by artists who time after time take part in the
concerts: This has allowed the group to beable to distinguish themselves, to
hold concerts of two hours or more, varied and articulate, during which the
tension drops only for an instance by virtue of the availability of multiple
musical themes and melodies.
In 1979, the coro dei tenores di Neoneli, was the first choir to make a record,
with a multinational ARION of Paris, which went round the world. Thanks to that
record, today a CD, we have become known in id nations, as it can easily be
In that record are pieces already talked of present events, even though they
were sung with ancient sing-song. But we have since carried on, convinced that
tenor singing could be enjoyed not only by fans, but by a more vast public of
youngsters. So, slowly, slowly we have flanked our ancestral forms: su ballu
tundu, su ballu torrau, su passu'e trese, su ballu tzopu, sos mutos, sa seria,
sos gocios, and also, other musical forms interpreted singing accompanied by
traditional and non-traditional instruments, obviously always within our choir.
The remind me of our processions and the prayers which we then sang, wedding
accompaniments, shepherd songs, typical rhythms of leuneddas etc.
It is in this way that even traditional, complimentary and other songs of
present flair, may be accepted and appreciated by all kinds of public.
These credentials have made it possible for us to travel the world, presenting
our traditions with great esteem, meeting different kinds of artists, giving us
exceptional contamination (although if sometimes seemingly "daring").
Which, we can honestly and proudly say, we have never passively undergone or
accepted without giving our contribution of ideas and creativity.
Those who know us, know very well our concerts, our projects, our "contamination"
don't come about by change. Our choices are made gradually by wise, prudent
people seeking for new ideas. Today, whoever listens to us understands that we
have a rich and varied background, with a sound base and frequency. In fact, the
Neoneli choir most attentive supporters won't find it difficult to remember our
dated artistic collaboration with other Sardinian colleagues, above all the
previously mentioned Peppino Marotto with whom we collaborated for 10 years,
taking our songs round the world. Then it was Duo Puggioni's turn, who among
other things sang many songs written by us, and then again Luigi Lai, of the
Trio Cocco and Orlando Mascia. It has been a question of collaboration brought
with enthusiasm and knowledge, which in the Sardinian's opinion have proved us
to be an extremely versatile group, whilst still a strict guardian of authentic
traditions. We have continued in this direction, pushing ourselves towards a
contamination beyond suspicion, that has turned up the noses of some
absent-minded observers. This is this case for example, of the meeting with Elio
of the "Storie Tese" ("stretched stories"), going back to
the summer of 1992.
We planned the first song to be sung, Amazzonia, together with Elio, the first
non-Sardinian singer who sings in Sardinian, in quite a dignified manner, and
then we even rewrote his ingenious "Terra dei cachi", which became the
Sardinian Sa terra 'e su entu (the land of wind).
Obviously, in both the songs the choir doesn't exceed it's traditional canons:
it result is that the choir is legibly included in a plot, restoring it with
artistic dignity and making it appreciated by Caltanissetta in Bolzano, as
happened during the ten concerts already held with Elio.
Another case of contamination with regards a project already brought to light by
Oslo in 1996. A question of a musical idea in which three jazz musicians (Töre
Brunborg, Arild Andersen, Paolo Vinaccia - an Italian percussionist who has been
living in Oslo for more than 20 years, where he is a popular favourite of public
fans) who were famous mainly in their circle (they have played and collaborate
with the best jazz musicians in the world) after having studied for a few months
concentrated the text and form of 10 Neoneli choir songs inventing the musical
ceremony in jazz clef. The result was a concert in which the tenor singing came
over enframed by a surely effective musical covering. This was enjoyed above all
by the Norwegians, during our live concerts, then enjoyed at Polygram, the
biggest record company world-wide, who produced the CD internationally. Thus,
the CD 'MBARA BOOM (this is the title) is the group's second CD sold world-wide.
If Paolo Vinaccia hadn't come across our second CD (brought out in Paris 1979)
during one of his U.S.A. tours the 'MBARA BOOM project would never have existed.
Vinaccia found and bought our "Choeur de Neoneli, chants et musiques des
bergers de Sardaigne", in a record shop in San Francisco. Then things
sprung in to action, the desire to make a project, a concert. That is 'MBARA
BOOM, the CD which has been praised by many nations.
Not bad for four chorists who way back in 1976 started timidly make their way in
the world of the so called "folk-reproposal", to use a definition dear
to poor old Franco Coggiola who died recently, he who was the first to foretell
that the Neoneli choir would have a rich, satisfying artistic future, and the
first to contribute to our achievement on an international scale.
Really not bad if one thinks of the stages performed on, the people met, the
applause we received half way round the world, all starting from a kitchen in a
small house in Carragu, an old district of Neoneli, where in summer 1976, we
practised every day before to debut at the baptism of fire which was held on 25
September at Samugheo.
When one speaks of "performance" in singular terms, to refer it to the
Neoneli choir's concerts would be degrading. In fact every so often the quartet
puts forward different proposals, different performances, depending on the
occasion and on the organiser's needs. Those who are fans of unchanged and
ancient traditions may listen to the Neoneli choir in it's smallest form, or
rather just the tenor singers quartet.
In this case, as well as tenor singing, we propose Su ballu cantau accompanied
by the rhythm of the Jew harp (sa trunfa). Having said that the group also
performs on it's own, confirms that to give one's best may avail oneself to
other artist's collaboration. Artists who contribute into making the concerts
more interesting, should it be necessary. Musicians who play Launeddas, guitars,
mandolins, percussion instruments, mouth harmonicas, benas, with first class
techniques. Such artists also, accompany some of the groups polivocal songs,
making them harmonically attractive and new, and therefore appreciated both by
the young and the old. Songs in which the tenor singers' peculiar timbre is
strictly unaltered, but enjoys the presence of different harmonies which make it,
without a doubt, richer. These internal "contamination" tentatives
arose from the fact that nowadays even tradition can and must be influenced by
that which is made available by techniques and possibilities in comparison with
other artistic expressions. Moreover, our concerts are never short of invented
songs, that follow fashion, making the purely traditional pieces more enjoyable.
The Neoneli choir concerts provides traditional text but above all texts
composed by us which speak about diverse subjects, which people appreciated very
much: piromancy and environment, drugs, old age and childhood, love, bandits,
exaltation of our naturalistic and touristic pearls.
Of course there are also both famous and less well-known songs included in our
performance. The choice and placing of these songs during our concerts makes the
public pay attention throughout the entire performance for example: "Su
ballu 'e su fogu", "Barones sa tirannia", "Unu sonnu",
"Anninnia", "Amore lontanu", "Finas a cando",
"Nanneddu meu", "Su inu", "Epuru andat", "Amistade",
"Fulanu", "Maumone", "Ite cheres chi ti cante",
"Deus ti salvet Maria", "A ballu a ballu", "Ma comente",
"Bella mia non bandes...", "Mutos", "Gocios a sa
natura", "Tziu meu", "Mamma non cheret...", ecc..
When possible slides related to the songs being performed are shown during the
concert, making "the Neoneli folklore tenor choir" more interesting
Neoneli choir’s solution to the performance depends substantially on the
number of people involved. One can say: the more musicians involved, the richer
Neoneli Choir in concert
quartet sing tenor songs with some monodic songs accomplished with the
accompanying triangle (triangulu) and the Jew harp (sa
trunfa). A performance in which all the traditional rhythms of typical
Neoneli tenor singing, together with other songs readapted by the group are
presented. The group holds concerts alone, with this small formation, or
otherwise participates in evening performances with other artists groups and tenores.
The concert lasts about one hour and three-quarters.
group avails itself to the precious collaboration of polinstrumentalist Orlando
Mascia, an excellent Launeddas
player, and also an able trunfa,
diatonic organ (organitu), solitu
(shepherd’s flute), Sardinian tambourine (tumborro)
and guitar (chiterra) player.
As a quintet, the formation is able to present some songs accompanied by
Orlando’s instruments, but above all to perform others which are impossible to
perform in four, this richens surprisingly the concert’s artistic
The word “Cunsònu” in
Logudoresian means tenor singing but also harmony. What more are our solo voice
songs, accompanied by the many instruments mentioned, if not but a harmonic sum
of capable of intercepting the tastes of the old and the young?
is an extremely varied concert in which different sounds, cadenza, rhythms and
melodies alternate. The performance lasts about two hours.
A bogh’e ballu
those who know the Sardinians and the tenor singing, the definition bogh’e ballu (literally: we dance with our voice) is refereed to
as a “danceable” singing rhythm, and the adjective makes one immediately
think of traditional dances, and that is to say passu torrau, ballu tundu,
passu 'e trese, ballu tzopu,
The concert is richened by artistic contribution, besides Orlando Mascia, a duet
the Cocco brothers of Narbolia, expert musicians and masters of the
“plucking” guitar sound.
Obviously the choir, always presents classic songs from it’s repertoire. It
begins invariably with the most pure tenor singing, but this time the concert is
definitely richer and more varied. With guitars, mandolins, benas,
launeddas, accordions, Jew harps and
so on, we are in possession of a practically complete sample from the vast
collection of the most widely known and used musical instruments.
The three hours fly by as we listen harmony in it’s pure state, yet the
typical tenore a sa neunelesa songs
come over as exciting and concise.
It is evident that with the variety of instrument used, the strongest parts of A
bogh’e ballu are the dances, the Sardinian dances, capable of stirring
the public warm enthusiasm.
(breccia, entrance) production confirms a rule which suits the Neoneli choir.
When it met Nuoro “Istentales”
group, the choir wanted to intercept the young public who support such a band,
but at the same time propose variety to it’s fans, variety in which tenor
singing, far from being mortified, was proposed in a more modern frame.
However, at the same time the Istentales rock music was placed in a container,
and, since it was full of modern and old sounds, offers a varied public three
hours of a real entertainment.
The name àidos means exactly
“breccia”, “entrance”. Breccia
relative both we and the Istentales intend to open a breccia, to go along a
piece of road together. A road where we will come across very different
experiences but which are united by the same love of our island’s culture and
Fans of traditional singing: don’t worry!: the classical songs will
not change. The novelty of àidos
is above all in the songs sung together, full of unusually energy. Furthermore,
the presence of the polinstrumentalist Orlando Mascia, who plays the accordion
and launeddas, shepherd’s flute and
Jew harp, guarantees the severely ethnic trademark of the àidos project.
The last part of the concert is dedicated to contamination,
of a pleasant and overwhelming kind. The launeddas
will duet with the sax, the jew harp with the drums, the accordion with the
electric guitar. A set where a series of well-known and admired folk dances are
sung in traditional style, but where the musical accompaniment is a mixture of
traditions and modernity, performed to the most heterogeneous public that one
1996, as proposed by the Neoneli Choir, the original production named NeonElio,
Neoneli+Elio, has become part of the
performance. NeonElio based on the
contribution of the ingenious Milanese singer “Elio delle Storie Tese”, who by now believes to be an acquired
Sardinian, and can be considered to be a kind of “fifth element” to the tenores
di Neoneli. Elio joins the A
bogh’e ballu’s seven artists dressed in Neoneli costume, and
interpreted over a dozen songs in excellent Sardinian Neonelesian and
Logudoresian. In this way the concert changes significantly, but jealously
maintains the prerogative to “always start with the uncontaminated, classic
tenor singing”. NeonElio begins
exactly in this way, with forty-five minutes of original Sardinian music without
changing the kind. On the contrary, the second part provides a series of songs
sung with Elio, with rhythms and sounds, that although coming from tradition,
allow space for a contamination and a revival which are somewhat appreciated by
For this reason NeonElio is always available as a production: we will offer it
for as long as the public asks for it. Obviously, even the NeonElio project is
enriched by some new songs every year, so as the privilege of being continually
up-dated and revived.
With this project we have managed to “enter into” the passion of many
adolescents who now support us and know everything about us: boys and girls not
yet born when our adventure began. Apart from being an artist on his own, NeonElio
has represented an absolute novelty in the sphere of Sardinian choirs: it’s
the first time that a tenor singing group has planned a concert, lasting nearly
three hours, based on the participation of many musicians and furthermore
revolving on the contribution of a non-Sardinian artists. The figures that have
accompanied the NeonElio Project
during 1996-1998 are available for the statistic curious-minded. Hundreds of
articles dedicated to production, thousands of CD’s solo in Italy, dozens of
radio-television reviews, a concert, for the Guinness book of records of the
records in the mines (10 August 1996) recaptured by all the national newspapers
and on all the national TV news, and by thousands of people at each concert.
it always has to achieve new objectives, new ideas to offer to the public and to
it’s fans, one may come across the Neoneli Choir, whilst it opens a Francesco Guccini or Elio e
le Storie Tese concert, or on stage with Francesco Baccini or together with Mauro Pagani, mythical violinist of the likewise mythical PFM, maybe
with Angelo Branduardi or together
with the legendary Irish Chieftains,
or maybe with the Cuban Pablo Milanès,
or even together with Tibetan singers
or singers from the republic of Tuva
or with Norwegian jazzists and others,
without excluding, obviously, subsequent original production with real Sardinian
In any case whichever of our productions you have seen us and seen us as leaders,
in the past and in the future, our intention remains the same, to
exalt and frame the canto a tenore,
leaving it unaltered in it’s atavic and passionate beauty.
But if nothing can make us betray our original passion, nobody will be able to
stop us from being artists, in the strongest sense of the term, and that is to
say to also create songs with rhythms and timbres, sounds and zest decisively
revolved around the third millennium. A certain man, named Diego Carpitella, who died a few years ago, distinguished researcher
of folklore traditions, told us: “If you always present your traditions, if you have studied them and
invented them, and if you are capable of creating new ideas, it’s your duty to
do so. In this way the traditions maintain and gain new fans ...”.
We have studied them, recuperated them, invented them and recorded them. We
always sing them, whatever the production which we star in, in that moment. This
is exactly what the tenores do. As an extra,
we invent new ideas: What’s so strange, why is it anomalous?
Doesn’t being an artist mean to create?
That’s it, we have always liked creating, both texts and music. At first we
only used our texts for singing songs musically anchored to the most antique traditions, then spreading out, going elsewhere, inventing
new songs to accompany those of classical tenor singing.
We like to be this way, like this we interpret our role and for this reason
people like the coro
dei tenores di Neoneli too.
Otherwise we would not have been in fashion uninterruptedly since 1976. And we
will continue to follow this road.
in 1955. Founder and group organiser. He still composes most of repertoires
texts. He his co-ordinator of the ANAP professional formation school at Santa
Giusta. In the choir he plays the role of the bass (su
basciu). Author of the book “VERSOS
DE CUNCORDIA, Storia e canzoni del Coro di Neoneli”, “ISTEDDOS,
Rimas e logos amenos”, “VITE
FUORI, Storie sconosciute di sardi lontani” (with
Paolo Pillonca) and of the videocassette“TERRA
NOSTRA, Coro di Neoneli: un contributo per l'ambiente”.
in 1958. He has been part of the group since 1977 and plays the role of
contralto (sa contra). He is a builder by profession. He plays the Jew harp (sa
trunfa) with exceptional skill and is author of some of the choir’s
in 1954. He teach physical education. He his the mid-voice (sa
mesu boghe) of the group, which he has been a member of since 1979. He, also,
is a skilful trunfa and triangle (triangulu)
player, author of some of the choir repertoire’s songs.
in 1942. He’s a builder. Gifted with a warm intense attractive voice,
pre-eminently Sardinian, he is in fact the soloist voice, sa
boghe, determinant role. He also plays the sheperds flute, su solitu. He passes gracefully from classic tenor singing to songs
to controalto. Some of the choir repertoire’s songs are his.
presenting the “BARONES Project”,
as an national preview at Sanremo, on the occasion of the Tenco Award 1998,
together with Elio e le Storie Tese, Francesco Guccini and Francesco Baccini,
which aroused enthusiastic critics, we will bring to light the homonymous CD,
presently in phase of pre-production. Other already mentioned Francesco Guccini,
Elio e le Storie Tese and Francesco Baccini, the mythic rocker Luciano Ligabue
and the minstrel Angelo Branduardi will appear on the recording. They will all
sing in Sardinian with the Neoneli choir, on a CD that’s already forseen
to be extremely interesting and original.
will record another anthological CD which will include a synthesis of the dozens
of texts which we have sung from 1976 until now. There will just be songs
written by members of the Neoneli choir.
the two videos dedicated to environmental themes produced in 1994 and 1998,
it’s time for an anthological video which will include the synthesis of our
repertoire and of our rich artistic experience, from the beginning until now. It
will not be short of testimonies on the Neoneli choir, expressed by important
people who have collaborated with us over the years at different levels, from
Peppino Marotto to Elio, From Guccini to Branduardi.
book, Balentìas, dedicated to
false myths invented from the unspeakable and dangerous behaviour towards
nature, could come to light. It will focus on degenerative aspects which cause environmental
problems. On the wrong use of fires, revenge towards perpetuate persons striking
nature (setting fire to an opponent’s pasture, cutting off an adversary’s
plants, cutting the enemy’s beasts hocks) from poaching, from the habit of
diffusing rubbish and carcasses (of cars and mopeds, household appliances, of
every kind) all over the place. Tales and poems.
tours are foreseen which should allow us to perform in Cuba, in Canada, In
Australia, Island, In Norvegia, in Finland, in Svezia, in Austria, In Latin
America, in Italy.
But it’s not
initiatives and collaboration are in the pipe line, journeys and publications
which we will arrange to exalt the magical beauty of the traditions of this
enchanting island, which has more to sell than sea and sun.
Sardinia is truly
a continent to visit and discover,
feel and admire with absolute respect, throbbing with marvels, which possesses a
nature almost uncontaminated, of historical expression unique to the world, a
folk patrimony of sounds, colours, dances, exceptional costumes which are envied
everywhere. If tenor singing is among the expressions of the most singular and
dazzling folk cultures. We will do are best not to lose everything to oblivion
more than that, we will do our best, so that tenor singing is always able to
provide more and more reasons and subjects to be studied analysed and
interesting to an increasing number of people who take to heart the future of
our dream island, which still so many beautiful things to offer to it’s
inhabitants and visitors.