The Italian Almanac

traditional story singer

Italian Music - March 15

For 46 years, Franco Trincale has been chronicling Italian history through song. From the riots that accompanied the postwar Sicilian land reforms, through decades of terrorism, political corruption and the reopening of La Scala opera house, Trincale has strummed outrage and satire from his ersatz soapbox in the Piazza del Duomo downtown here, becoming a local institution in the process.

Now nearly 70, Trincale is looking for an heir to take over as Milan’s last cantastorie, or ‘‘story-singer,’’ a distinctive figure that crossed folk singer with town crier and was a fixture in country fairs and town squares, belting out the day’s news in rhyme. The once thriving profession has seen its numbers dwindle rapidly in the era of mass communications. So to thwart the extinction of this tradition, Trincale began a course this month to teach a new generation the art of spinning a tale to music.

"He's got the ability to interpret the moods of the populace," said Geppino Materazzi, the organizer of the course, whose point, he explained, was not to resuscitate nostalgia for a dying art but to stimulate "a dynamic approach to express the present."