A Man's Game? Engendered Song and the Changing Dynamics of Musical Activity in Corsica

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The chapter begins by explaining how, in traditional Corsican society, male and female singing practices were clearly differentiated with respect to genre, social context, function and motivation. The chjam’ è rispondi (improvised sung debate) and polyphonic paghjella as still practised by men celebrate community and contribute to male bonding. Women’s laments perpetuated the vendetta and challenged male honour. I go on to outline how, in the 20th century, women’s singing traditions declined as lifestyle and mentality changed, whereas men’s traditions were actively preserved. The final part of the chapter describes how, in the 1990s, the fashion for world music offered women a new stage. Claiming polyphony for themselves and embracing the role of creative artist as well as that of cultural ambassador, groups such as Les Nouvelles Polyphonies Corses/Soledonna have extended the boundaries of the polyphonic tradition to international acclaim, even if in Corsica itself male voices retain their primacy.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationMusic and Gender
Subtitle of host publicationPerspectives from the Mediterranean
EditorsTullia Magrini
Place of PublicationChicago
PublisherUniversity of Chicago Press
Number of pages34
ISBN (Print)0-226-50165-5 (cloth), 0-226-50166-3 (pbk)
Publication statusPublished - 2003


  • Corsica
  • Music and gender
  • Donnisulana
  • Michel Raffaelli
  • E Duie Patrizie
  • Les Nouvelles Polyphonies Corses


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