A journey through the strings of the Calabrian lira and the melodies of the heart

22 February 2024

3 minutes

In the heart of Calabria, among imposing mountains and breathtaking coastlines, the melodies that tell the stories of a people who bravely faced the challenge of emigration resound.

Giving voice to this nostalgia is one of the most important Calabrian singer-songwriters, Otello Profazio, who succeeds thanks to irony in playing down the pain of those who leave and those who stay.


Among his most famous songs is “Mannaja a l’Ingegneri”, a  satirical poem of emigration that curses the engineer who built the railway, a symbol of the economic forces that forced emigrants to look for work abroad. This song, with its verses collected by the various Calabrian emigrants around the world, becomes a vivid testimony of the challenges and injustices they had to face.


Music is thus transformed into a form of resistance, a way to express frustration and at the same time celebrate the strength and resilience of those who have faced emigration with dignity. Otello Profazio, with his voice full of passion and indignation, becomes a  narrator of the stories and evils of the south, conveying the feeling of those who are forced to leave their land.


The  “Calabrian Emigration Songs” represent a precious musical heritage that, with its intensity and melancholy, tell the journey and nostalgia of those who left their homeland to seek a new life elsewhere. One of the most emblematic songs of this tradition is  the “Chiantu de l’Emigrante”, a touching farewell ballad, collected by the voice of an old peasant woman by Daisy Lumini in Cosenza, which evokes the pain of those who leave their land and the poignant invocation of those who remain, hoping for the return of the beloved emigrant.

This poignant hymn, which spans time and generations, carries with it the echo of painful departures and hopes placed in distant lands. The melody evokes the emotion of those who, with a suitcase full of dreams and melancholy in their hearts, have plunged into the unknown in search of opportunities and a better future.

At the center of this sonic narrative stands an iconic instrument: the Calabrian lyre.

An ancient stringed instrument, with a traditional shape and a sound rich in nuances, becomes the sound architecture that emphasizes the pain, melancholy and hope of migrants. An invocation to return, punctuated by the intertwined strings of this ancestral instrument.

The lyre, with its intertwined strings, manages to capture the essence of emotions, making tangible  the nostalgia, hope and inner strength of those who have embarked on the journey far from home. A symbol of identity and belonging, it expresses its strength through the mastery of the musicians.

The virtuosos of this instrument are able to transmit, with their talent, not only the musical technique, but also the deep connection with the land of origin. The distinctive features of the sound of the lyre, with its rhythmic variations and enveloping melodies, become the secret language that connects the past to the present.

Over the centuries, Calabrian communities have brought these melodies with them around the world, keeping the bond with their land alive through music.

In the places of destination, the “Calabrian Emigration Songs” have merged with other influences, creating a cultural bridge that connects distant roots to new experiences.

This musical heritage not only testifies to the challenges faced by Calabrian emigrants, but also celebrates resilience and the ability to transform suffering into art. Today, through cultural events, festivals and initiatives that promote the preservation of this heritage, the new generations can immerse themselves in the emotions of their ancestors, rediscovering the richness of a musical tradition that continues to vibrate in the hearts of those who bring with them the warmth and passion of Calabria in the world.

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