The heart and soul of Italian music can be found at the 'Festival della canzone italiana di Sanremo
'. The Sanremo Music Festival is a popular Italian song contest that was the inspiration for the Eurovision Song Contest. It is held annually in the city of Sanremo, in Liguria, Italy, and consists of a competition between a variety of Italian artists performing previously unreleased songs. It is immensely popular in Italy and in 2013 it was watched by a record 17 million television viewers.
The origins of Italian popular music can be traced back to a mixture of classical music and folk music, both of which have strong traditions in Italy. Like many other things, the folk tradition varies dramatically from region to region, each fiercely proud of its own identity. The strongest and most influential styles come from Naples, Sardinia and Sicily.
The 'Canzone Napoletana' or 'Neapolitan song' is a traditional form of music sung in the dialect of Naples, usually about love, and usually by a male singer although there are many famous female singers from Naples as well.
Some of the best known examples of this type of song are 'O Sole Mio', 'Funiculì, Funiculà' and 'Santa Lucia' which are famous around the world. The musical tradition of the 'Cantautore' or singer/songwriter has been extremely popular in Naples for many years and there are a number of contempory artists, such as Pino Daniele, who continue in that tradition.
Sardinia, one of the autonomous regions of Italy, is very protective of its cultural heritage which is probably the most distinct of all the regions in Italy. The tradional folk music of Sardinia has two main styles: The first is traditional singing accompanied by guitar, called: 'Cantu a chiterra'. One of the most loved exponents of this style was Maria Carta. The second style is a type of rural polyphonic chanting, known as 'cantu a tenore' which is sung 'a capella' with four voices. The best known example of the 'pure' traditional style is the group 'Tenores di Bitti'. Other, more modern exponents of 'La Musica Sarda' or Sardinian music are Andrea Parodi and Elena Ledda.
The folk music of Sicily was heavily influenced by its position at the heart of the Mediterranean. Influenced by the Italian, Greeks Arabs and Spanish, its culture developed into a fascinating mix which is evident in its musical traditions. Two of Sicily's most popular folk singers are Rita Botto and Carlo Muratori.