The Cialome, from the Greek language kéleusma (scream) are songs sung during bluefin tuna fishing through the ancient technique of “mattanza”, practiced in various locations in the Mediterranean. The tuna fishing involved the creation of an obligatory path for the tuna that were trapped in a series of chambers, up to the last called “death chamber”. When the tuna arrived in the death chamber, a series of small boats arranged themselves in a circle around the net and pulled it up to bring the fish to the water where they were hit with harpoons by the fishermen of the main boat. The operation of pulling the nets (several kilometers long) required a massive effort of energy and a great deal of coordination of the movements, which were juggled by “Rais”, head of fisheries. It was precisely in this phase of fishing that the fishermen, guided by a cialomatore, intone the cialome, which had the dual eurythmic and propitiatory function and a responsorial character. The cialomatore intoned a verse of the song, and the fishermen answered in chorus. This aspect makes the songs similar to real litanies and confers, together with numerous other elements, a very strong rituality to the action of fishing, also confirmed by the content of the texts of some cialome. The cialome’s lyrics are mainly composed of devotional expressions, but there is no lack of profane contents, sometimes also characterized by explicit erotic references, and untranslatable expressions deriving from Arabic words.

Usually the cialoma began with a slower progression, which grew in intensity as the effort required to pull the nets increased.

Among the cialome songs, Ajamola was one of the best-known as opening song, because it had a less cadenced rhythm that accompanied the initial movements in the circulation of the networks; according to some interpretations, the expression aiamola derives from the Arabic ai ya mawla (O my Lord), according to others, from the expression “Come on strength!”. Then followed other cialome such as Lina, Lina, Zzá Monaca and Gnanzù, which had a more pressing trend, useful for coordinating the movements of all the tuna fishermen and inciting them to the effort.


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Guggino, Elsa, Pagano, Gaetano, La mattanza, Nando Russo editore, Gibellina, 1983
Guggino, Elsa, I canti della memoria, in Consolo V., La pesca del Tonno in Sicilia, Sellerio, Palermo, 1986
Guggino, Favignana. Aiamola, in Nuove Effemeridi anno IX, n. 34, Palermo, 1996
Guggino, Elsa, I canti e la magia, Sellerio, Palermo, 2004
Pitrè, Giuseppe, Usi e costumi, credenze e pregiudizi del popolo siciliano, vol. I, Biblioteca delle tradizioni popolari siciliane, vol. XIV, L. Pedone Lauriel, Palermo, 1889

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