Al Qantarah:

the bridge

Since ancient times, Sicilian culture has been shaped by the multiple influences of foreign powers which often co-existed: those of the Hellenic world, the Italic civilization, the Arabic presence and finally, the Norman Conquest. Thus Sicily has been a crossroads of intertwining cultures for many centuries, from the earliest ages through the medieval period. With the passing of the years, these cosmopolitan and often exotic foreign traditions have turned Sicily into a unique bridge between diverse civilizations, In fact, the aptly designated "Al Qantarah" is not only the name of a river in eastern Sicily, but is also the word for "the bridge" in Arabic.

The musical tradition of Sicily has absorbed suggestions coming from Arabic, Byzantine, Provenšal and Normand expressions: it still preserves cultural habits of all of them together with its native elements.

 

 

Frederick II

 point of

 reference

When one considers the musical abundance of medieval Sicily, it is natural to examine the epoch of mighty Frederick II (1194-1250) and the great stimulus his reign gave the sciences and arts. The Sicily of Frederick's time incorporated both tolerance and intellectual ferment. This was accomplished by both the lively and progressive scientific and philosophical climate left by the Arab community after the Norman Conquest and by the refined and invaluable literary works written by the residents of the court. Frederick II was the natural point of reference of all this.

   
The sound of

multi-ethnic

Medieval Sicily

In each muical project Al Qantarah restores the sound of this multi-ethnic medieval Sicily with vocal and instrumental music belonging to both  sacred and secular repertoire or coming from both genteel and popular tradition. In reconstructing the fourtheenth century “Siciliane”, as well as the sequences included in the Troparium de Catania and the traditional poliphonies of the Holy Week, although we start from certain points of reference using both oral and written sources, we often draw on our aesthethic taste. The instruments openly confirm this: in keeping with the multi-ethnic  repertoire we use copies of “learned Middle Ages” intruments beside instruments coming from Sicilian, Arabic and Persian tradition.

   

Tradition

and

topicality

It is interesting to note the topicality found in the musical expressions of Al Qantarah. It is enough to visit any part of Sicily to have this impression confirmed - to discover how ancient melodies still play an intrinsic part in the daily life of many people. The symbolic imagery evoked by the name of the group suggests a temporal interpretation as well; in this case the oral tradition becomes a "bridge" to the present.