Ciucciu Bellu, My search for a Naples Folk Song.
When I was a child I remember watching a TV programme starring Danny Kaye.
Danny Kaye was a UNICEF Ambassador in the late1950s, travelling over 10,000 miles and visiting 10 countries.
The programme may have been shown in the 1960s.
The world was still in a terrible state after the war, with thousands of sick and malnourished children forced to live on the bomb-damaged streets.
In Rome, a child with polio taught Danny Kaye a Neapolitan folk song. Its haunting notes have stuck in my head since then, but I had no idea what it was called.
Recently I visited Naples and I remembered the programme and the lovely song, so I researched it.
Sylvia Fine, Danny Kaye’s wife, wrote an English version of the song, slowing it down and calling it Ciu Ciu Bella.. It had nothing at all to do with the original, except the tune!
It’s pretty awful.
Then I accidently discovered that the spelling was wrong too in the Danny Kaye version. The Naples folk song is called Ciucciu Bellu.
This version is from an old LP of traditional Calabrian songs sung by Angelo Macri, called Calabria Mia.
Try this one, on an LP called Santupetru Canzone, recorded in 1960 by Placido Mancuso.
At last I’d discovered the sad, haunting song.
Here’s a great version.
If you think a Dancing Dad at a party is embarrassing, watch this totally out-of-tune Italian Dad who has obviously been celebrating!
I love the musicians beside, him, all playing seriously as though there’s nothing wrong! It brings tears to the eyes – tears of laughter!
But something wasn’t quite right and I wasn’t sure what it was……..
It’s not a sad little love song after all!
This is by Angelo Macri.
Here’s a jazz version. By Saverio Schettini.
This is another traditional version.with some lovely old photos.
I Nicastrisi Folk Group
So, after all these years, the sad little haunting folk song turned out to be a comical song, dedicated to a mule!
Am I disappointed? Not really. But the sadness was watching the little boy with polio singing it, and hearing the heart-wrenching music afterwards.
I can’t find any recording of the programme.
The BBC used to wipe tapes clean and use them again. They destroyed loads of memorable programmes.
But surely the Americans wouldn’t have wiped out wonderful programmes like that?
In one programme, Danny Kaye was dancing with lepers in a Nigerian leper colony.
If any of you can throw any light on this, please let us know.
Meanwhile, here are the lyrics of the song.
I suspect that it’s in a Neapolitan dialect, but I could be wrong.
Avia nu sceccareddhu ch’era na cosa fina si la facia ragghiandu da sira a la matina Cu ragghiu chi faciva pariva nu tenori ciucciu bellu di stu cori comu ti pozzu amà Quandu ragghiava faciva ia ia ia ciucciu bellu di stu cori cu ti po’ mai scurdà Mino Reitano
Ciangitilu ciangitilu ch’è mortu u ciucciu miu cussì ha vulutu Ddiu e chi ‘nciavimu a ffà Cu ragghiu chi faciva pariva nu tenori ciucciu bellu di stu cori comu ti pozzu amà Quandu ragghiava faciva ia ia ia ciucciu bellu di stu cori cu ti po’ mai scurdà.
Quandu m’è morta moglima ciangia senza duluri senza suspiri e lacrimi l’avia a sutterrari Mò chi m’è mortu u ciucciu ciangiu cu gran duluru ciucciu bellu di stu cori comu ti pozzu amà Quandu ragghiava faciva ia ia ia
ciucciu bellu di stu cori comu ti pozzu amà Nu iornu immu a spassu ‘nci misi a brigghia d’oru e ammenzu a ddhi signori si misi poi a ragghià Cu ragghiu chi faciva pariva nu tenori ciucciu bellu di stu cori comu ti pozzu amà Quandu ragghiava faciva ia ia ia
ciucciu bellu di stu cori comu ti pozzu amà. Quandu ragghiava faciva ia ia ia ciucciu bellu di stu cori cu ti po’ mai scurdà