Genoese trallalero is a form of traditional polyphonic song performed a cappella by men gathered in ensembles named squadre (teams). The number of singers varies from eight (the ideal) to twelve or thirteen. Each squadra comprises 4 soloists and a group of bassi (basses). The soloists are the contralto, aka contraeto (countertenor), the tenore, aka primmo (tenor), the baritono, aka controbasso (baritone) and the chitarra vocale, aka a chitära (vocal guitar).

There are no written scores. Yet as diligent study during rehearsals reduces improvisation to the strict minimum, one could talk of orally-passedon-and-learned scores. The tonality of trallalero oscillates between G and A. Other tonalities can be used in more ancient repertoires, but only on an exceptional basis.

The term trallalero refers to an anonymous traditional piece. Verses, usually in Italian, are speckled with dialect terms. The rare and certainly more recent trallalleri sung in dialect have similar criteria. The lyrics of old trallalleri were gleaned here and about amongst texts of even older origin. Such facts can still be observed in other traditions. Once pieces were shorten and adapted, spaces between sentences were filled with “la-la-la” sounds, following the singers’ imagination and interpretation skills.Songwriter pieces represent a major part of the repertoire. These songs in the Genoese dialect were integrated into the squadre repertoire in the 1920s.


The origin and the way trallalero came about have yet to be elucidated and the issue still intrigues and captivates. Singers born in the early 20th century remember that this tradition was passed on to them by their elders, who had started to sing it in the second half of the 19th century.

In the definition of a social context that could have brought about the trallalero and helped it develop, one of the most likely hypotheses opts for the land rather than the sea. It is said to be a “feet under the table” song that developed in the convivial, women-free environment of taverns. The disposition in a circle probably derives from that of singers around a table. Still widely followed during rehearsals, it is essential to see the others’ eyes and observe their lip movements, as well asfor the general synchronisation resulting from the synergy between singers.

Trallalero is therefore a song that has no function but recreational. It has had time to make progress and be studied in length by people with a good ear for and a solid knowledge of music.

The trallalero virtuoso-instrumental trend that consisted in modifying and reducing originally long texts (such as were found in the hinterland) can be explained by a yearning to urbanise traditional music and turn it into concert music.

For further information read the guide on the left.




Other publications about Trallalero on issuu