The Bottari, ancient players who chase away evil

by Francesca Horse

The Bottari are figures that have very ancient origins linked to agricultural traditions. Their percussion hand down a music rich in folklore, let's discover together the history of these musicians.

Who are the Bottari?

The origin of the Bottari is traced back to the area of Macerata Campania as far back as 1300, although they have existed for centuries throughout the region. Since the communities were mainly agricultural, many tools were forged for working in the fields. The proof of their efficiency and solidity was given by continuous percussion of these tools.

I Bottari, antichi suonatori che scacciano il male
Bottari di Portico with Enzo Avitabile and their instruments

The "barrels" generated create a deafening but enveloping music, almost attributable to the fascinating rites of Dionysus and the achievement ofhedonism, or to the ancient indigenous tribes. In fact, typically a ritual is always accompanied by a rhythm marked through the percussion, and the more the rite reaches high stages, the more the rhythm presses.

Indian ritual

What rites and traditions are the Bottari tied to?

Macerata Campania is famous for pastalessa, that is pasta with boiled chestnuts, and it is from this typical dish that the figure of bottari would derive. In fact, agriculture paid particular attention to the cultivation of wheat and chestnuts.

I Bottari, antichi suonatori che scacciano il male

The figure of the Bottari has a profound meaning and esoteric, in fact some legends affirm that the deafening and engaging sounds of the "barrels", of the blows of agricultural tools, have the purpose of chasing away the evil forces in the long winter nights. When, on the other hand, the rite was done outside it was used to do thrive the harvest.

The feast of Sant'Antonio

The music they produce is called music in Pastallessa and is played above all on the day of St. Anthony. Placed on a chariot in the shape of a vessel, because legend has it that Saint Anthony came from Africa with a boat, the Bottari perform along the entire procession tied to a fort apotropaic function, to drive away evil.

The Bottari today

The best known Bottari at present are perhaps those of Portico, which they perform with Enzo Avitabile. Together they contributed to the creation of some songs contained in the album “Festa farina e forca”, and “Salvamm o 'munn”. Even today the musicians play representing Campania folklore in the bosom of ancient legends and magic linked to their rites.

Enzo Avitabile


Secret Naples book. Short esoteric journey in the city of mysteries between legends, miracles and magic - publisher: Intra Moenia - 2011

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