Petru Guelfucci, great voice of Corsican song, is dead

Petru Guelfucci, in Ajaccio, October 3, 2015.

One of the most beautiful voices in Corsican song is silent. Petru Guelfucci died on October 8 in Marseille from cancer, leaving the paghjella orphan, this polyphonic song of which he had been one of the ambassadors far beyond the island shores. He was 66 years old.

Before starting his international career, this child from Sermanu (Haute-Corse), in the Corsican center, had been a political and cultural activist, participating in 1973 in the creation of the group Canta u populu corsu (“Sing the Corsican people” ). In his repertoire, songs very politically engaged and supporting the underground struggle of the Corsican National Liberation Front (FLNC) cross others, older, inherited from the agro-pastoral tradition.

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At the end of the 1970s, as nationalist demands grew, the riacquistu, cultural reappropriation, intends to revive entire sections of Corsican song which was until then embodied nationally by Tino Rossi. “It was a situation of diglossia, the Corsican language had practically disappeared from life in Corsica”, remembers Christophe Mac-Daniel, composer of Petru Guelfucci and traveling companion for nearly half a century.

The collection recorded by Félix Quilici, from 1948 to 1963, a sound collection launched by the National Library of France comprising recordings of singers from various Corsican microregions, was one of the last remnants of this orality, which Petru Guelfucci, alongside d he other musicians of Canta u populu corsu, such as Jean-Paul Poletti, Natale Luciani, Saveriu Valentini or Minicale, wanted to save from oblivion.

“Corsica”, one of the most beautiful Corsican songs

If the south of Corsica is characterized by monodies, such as lamenti where the voceri, heartbreaking songs that accompanied the deaths, the Corsican center and the village of Sermanu in particular offered another variety with the polyphony for three voices, u bassu, a seconda, a terza : the second which sets the tone of the song, the bass which sustains it and the third which enriches it. Three vocal embodiments of wisdom, strength and beauty.

By giving a more lyrical orientation in the second part of his career, Petru Guelfucci decides to distance himself from Canta u populu corsu to advance solo and offer more intense and intimate interpretations.

“In a way, he made paghjella accessible to as many people as possible, he made it universal”, underlines Christophe Mac-Daniel, who wrote his flagship title, Corsica, considered one of the most beautiful Corsican songs, and which had inspired the ballet of the same name by the star dancer Marie-Claude Pietragalla.

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