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The Befana comes at night: history, origins and celebrations of the Epiphany

In a few days arrives the Befana, the old lady so beloved by all children and also by Ocarina! Toys, sweets, chocolates – onions and charcoal are never lacking so – the Befana flies over the rooftops with her broom and, descending into the chimneys, fills the stockings with all kinds of surprises. As the song says: “La Befana comes at night with her torn shoes, she flies over all the rooftops, carrying dolls and candies. On her shoulders, she carries a lot of gifts and she puts them on the fireplaces, smiling she brings sweets and gifts for children… ”.
The ‘Befana’ tradition   
The ‘Befana’ history begins in the dawn of time and descends from magical pagan traditions, linked to the seasonal cycles of agriculture, and relating to the harvest of the past year, ready to resume its cycle every year. Indeed, on the twelfth night after the winter solstice, the death and rebirth of nature is celebrated through Mother Nature.
In Roman times, the Befana embodies one of the female figures who fly at night over sown fields to promote crop fertility. His broom represents the symbol of the purification of evil spirits, in anticipation of the season rebirth. According to some, it is Diana, the lunar goddess of wild game and vegetation, who led these nocturnal walks, followed by figures similar to those that were called, in the Middle Ages, witches.
From the 4th century AD the Church will condemn pagan rites by trying to absorb them in its own tradition. Thus the Befana becomes an affectionate old woman, represented on a flying broom with a knotted shawl of thick wool and not with the black hat, who flies in the sky riding the broom upside down.
His character also becomes closely related to those of the Three Kings. The Legend tells that on a very cold winter night, Baldassare, Gasparre and Melchiorre, on the long way to Bethlehem to see the Child Jesus, unable to find the way, asked for information from an old woman who showed them the path. The Three Kings then invited the woman to join them, but, despite the insistence, she refused. Once the Three Kings were gone, she wished she had followed them, so she packed a bag full of candies and started looking for them, but to no avail. The old lady then knocked on every door, giving every child she met candies, in the hope that one of them was the Child Jesus.
La Befana in Italy
Epiphany has always been a religious holiday in Italy, although it is also celebrated as a secular holiday. Today, after a period when it had been somewhat forgotten, Befana has come back to life, especially in the regions of central Italy. This nice old woman is therefore living a second youth, linked to the rediscovery and enhancement of roots and the most authentic cultural identity.
In Urbania, in the Marche region, the ” Epiphany National Day” has been celebrated for twenty years and there is the official House of Befana.
In Florence, Epiphany is celebrated with the traditional Cavalcade of the Magi, a reconstruction of the arrival of the Magi of the Holy Family in the streets of the historic center, on horseback, dressed in Renaissance costumes of great splendor.
In the province of Grosseto there are the Befani (on the island of Elba, they are called Befanotti); men who, on Epiphany day, accompany the Befanas in the streets of the villages to interpret some Maremma traditional songs.
But even outside of Tuscany, Epiphany is celebrated on January 6. In Veneto, there’s a symbolic bonfire called “panevin”; it is a fire that erases all the negative things from the past year. In Venice, takes place the characteristic Befana Regatta which has reached its forty-second edition in 2020, during which contenders dressed in Befana, Marantega in dialect, compete with oars in the Canal Grande, dressed in skirts, woolen shawl, hat and handkerchief on the head.
La Befana in the world
Unlike Italy, in France, on January 6, children do not receive sweets or stockings, but the tradition tells about a special cake, the “Galette des Rois “, with a surprise bean inside. The dessert is divided into as many slices as there are guests at the table, plus a part reserved for a poor person in case he shows up at the door. The lucky one who finds the bean becomes the king or queen of the party!
No stockings, no old brooms, no charcoal either for kids in the UK, where the Twelfth Night is celebrated with a performance of characters from English folklore, like the Holly Man, a green elf decorated with green leaves, holly and flowers. The typical dessert is the Twelfth Night Cake, a delicacy filled with almonds and candied fruit. Inside are hidden a bean and a pea to elect the king and queen of the party!
Instead, Spanish and Germans follow a celebration more similar to Italy. The little ones on January 6 wake up very early to run to see the gifts that the Three Kings have left them. The day before, they leave some water in front of the door for the thirsty camels, along with something to eat.
Thirteen Santa Clauses arrive in Spain from December 11th to 25th, one per day, and from Christmas on, they leave one per day. January 6 the last Santa Claus leaves the town and marks the end of the Christmas holidays. The Epiphany is celebrated with a torchlight procession, to which, in addition to the thirteenth Santa, also participate the king and the queen of the elves. The torchlight procession ends with a bonfire and fireworks.
In Russia, on the other hand, Orthodox Christmas is celebrated on Epiphany Day, January 6. On this anniversary, children anxiously await their gifts, brought by Santa Claus, called Father Gelo, accompanied by Babuschka, a kind old lady…

Today Ocarina is listening to: La Vida Tómbola – Manu Chao

Today Ocarina dedicates our listening tip of the week to the Pibe de oro, Diego Armando Maradona, who died a few days ago and cried around the world. “If I were Maradona, I would live like him”, begins the song sung by French musician Manu Chao, entitled La Vida Tómbola. One of the most moving pieces that has never been dedicated to the Argentinian champion and which is part of the soundtrack of the documentary film ‘Maradona’ by Emir Kusturica. La Vida Tómbola will then be sung by the French artist who, with his group Mano Negra, in 1994 had already dedicated to Diego the piece Santa Maradona in the album La Radiolina.
And the day of the footballer’s death, Manu Chao resubmitted the song on his Instagram profile, going with it all around the web. The text traces the unique parable of the ‘hand of dios’,  honoring positively and negatively all his excess: “If I were Maradona / I would live like him / Because the world is a ball / Who lives on the surface”. In the video – taken from the Kusturica documentary – that we feature below, an emotional Manu Chao appears in front of his idol Diego Armando, satisfied wearing sunglasses. And the emotion is also evident on the face of the champion.
Here you can buy La Vida Tómbola

Today Ocarina is listening to- Comptine d’un autre été: L’Après Midi – The Fabulous Destiny of Amélie Poulain

Today, Ocarina is a little melancholy and listens to  Comptine d’un autre été: L’Après Midi, a famous song and recurring motif in the film  The Fabulous Destiny of Amélie Poulain, a French cinema milestone. Directed by Jean-Pierre Jeunet, the film was released in 2001, making millions of viewers fall in love with its original, visionary and also colorful way of looking at the world. A modern and old fable at the same time which tells the life of the unforgettable character of Amélie Poulain with a poetic and ironic sensibility.
The soundtrack is also very famous, written by the French multi-instrumentalist Yann Tiersen and composed of 20 tracks. Full of delicacy and reverie, it was created with a predominance of piano and accordion and with playful instruments – the toy piano, the music box or the mandolin – a perfect reflection of the dreamy and fluctuating mood of the protagonist.
Comptine d’un autre été: L’Après Midi is one of the songs of the original soundtrack performed entirely on the piano, very delicate and relaxing, which suggests freedom and hope for better days. In fact, in the film this song accompanies the moments of uncertainty (but also of despair) of Amélie.
Here you can buy the song
Here below the video

World Lullabies – Ninna nanne dal mondo. The new OcarinaSound audio project

For Christmas 2020, Ocarina presents the playlist World Lullabies – Lullabies of the World, a new OcarinaSound audio project which aims to stimulate children to explore and become familiar with different cultures, through gentle ‘lullabies of peace’ sung around the world. We start from the European tradition to reach the Middle East with lullabies in Hebrew and Arabic.
The playlist contains 6 lullabies from 6 different countries: Italy, France, England, Spain, Israel and Palestine. The World Lullabies production saw the participation of 5 singers and 3 musicians engaged in the use of a rich range of instruments; from piano, xylophone and guitar to oud, ukulele and sitar to name a few.
The Playlist can be purchased and downloaded from Ocarinadj, the audio section of www.ocarinaplayer.com
The project sees the collaboration of the Maternity of the Saint Joseph Hospital of Jerusalem (known locally as the ‘French Hospital’), where both Muslim and Jewish women go to give birth. And precisely to this very particular structure, a place where harmony and tolerance reign between different cultures and religions, Ocarina has donated some players which will be offered to new parents to make their children listen to lullabies and many more other pieces dedicated to relaxation and sleep.
World Lullabies project starts from the assumption that the ‘lullaby’ is an instrument of peace, of sharing: all children, wherever they are born and whatever language they speak, share the universal language of poetry through music. Everything is now codified, homologated, but lullabies are part of all civilizations, crossing the borders of time and nations.
Recent is the discovery of a lullaby from 2,500 years ago, the text of which is engraved on a digital board that was recovered 160 kilometers from Baghdad. One of the earliest examples of a lullaby sung most likely by a nanny (although often sweet songs were also sung directly by one of the parents and sometimes by both together). The words used are poetic and wish the little one the same “sleep of a tired gazelle”, asking him to doze off like “the shepherd in the middle of his watch”. Examples from nature or rural life that help the little ones to relax and find a peaceful sleep.
As the years go by, customs and traditions change, but it seems that lullabies and parents’ desire to rock their children remain stable with their love.

Feel with the body. Sophrology to help children relax

Sophrology is a relatively recent discipline, born in the early 60s, which helps the mind and body relax. Alfonso Caycedo, Colombian neuropsychiatrist, considered the founder of sophrology, defines it as a ‘pedagogy of happiness’, precisely because it aims to help each individual to develop his own consciousness and psychophysical harmony through relaxation techniques, physical and mental, as well as deep bodily and respiratory movements.
In recent years, Sophrology has also been widely used with children: in the educational field to develop attention and memory, and in the sports to increase concentration, motivation and manage forms of stress.
In this regard, Melanie Butruille, French sophrologist, specialized in supporting children, who uses Ocarina in her work, tells us about her therapeutic experience with children. A work which, in this period of strong emotional stress, is becoming more and more known and necessary, even for the little ones. Parents often ask for her help for several reasons, such as helping their children to learn to relax, to concentrate, to manage anger, to promote falling asleep …
If up to 8 years old, a playful sophrology technique is preferred, with exercises and dynamic games, for the older ones we are starting to offer relaxation tools that require a greater ability to remain passive and focused longer.
Music is certainly a very valuable tool to help children relax, such  that Mathilde Butruille uses it in each of her sessions, favoring the sounds of nature, such as rain, wind and waves, able to transmit security and tranquility.
She asks children to choose the sound of nature that evokes positive memories in them, and then perform breathing exercises.
For the little ones, the first approach is always with the game: the child chooses a music and from there they are offered games aimed at stimulating concentration, for example.  
Music is essential during therapeutic sessions but also at home, to promote relaxation and falling asleep. Mathilde Butruille tells us that she often records a session or a sophronic story directly on Ocarina so that the children can listen to it again at home.
Among the tips she gives parents to help their children relax, one is to record their favorite story with their own voice, so that the child can continue to listen to mom and dad voices independently, directly in his bed. In this sense, Ocarina is an ideal instrument, capable of giving authentic moments of serenity.
We would like to thank for her contribution Melanie Butruille, sophrologist, specialized in ‘child support’.

Oarina listen: Speranza – Gianni Rodari

The 100th anniversary of the birth of Gianni Rodari has been celebrated on October 23d, 2020. An important date that Ocarina also wishes to celebrate to commemorate the great master whose intelligence, imagination, creativity and extreme topicality never get tired.
Many times on The pOnd, Ocarina’s blog, we have spoken about Gianni Rodari, we have listened to his rhymes, his stories, and told about events and exhibitions dedicated to him. In the Ocamerone section of our web site it is possible to listen and download stories from Fiabe al telefono, read by Ocarina’s friends.
In these days marked by waves of fear and uncertainty, we want to commemorate him with a rhyme, taken from the collection Filastrocche per tutto l’Anno, which conveys his positivity: Hope, conceived as something extremely precious , should be distributed to everyone!
Hope which, as Rodari writes, should be ‘affordable’. This is because it is a feeling, a real ‘spring’ of life, which pushes to do more, to move forward. And all of this is certainly something that even the poorest deserve to have.

Se io avessi una botteguccia

fatta di una sola stanza

vorrei mettermi a vendere

sai cosa? La speranza.

“Speranza a buon mercato!”

Per un soldo ne darei

ad un solo cliente

quanto basta per sei.

E alla povera gente

che non ha da campare

darei tutta la mia speranza

senza fargliela pagare.

Here you can buy the rhyme performed by Stefano Panzarasa, Head of the Environmental Education Service in the Lucretili Mountains Regional Natural Park, who conveyed Gianni Rodari’s eco-pacifist message to schools (with his inseparable guitar).
Below the video

Ocarina listen: It’s a Long Way to the Top – AC/DC

Ocarina celebrates the back to school by listening to the soundtrack of the legendary musical School of Rock! For the occasion, we choose the AC DC’s version of It’s a Long Way to the Top, which Jack Black and the group ‘School of Rock’, formed by his students, sing at the end of the movie.
Directed by Richard Linklater in 2003, School of Rock was written by Mike White specifically for Jack Black, as the protagonist Dewey Finnche, the reckless and plump guitarist. Expelled from his group No vacancy, Dewey obtains the role of teacher with cunning and just for a living, but unexpectedly he will be a real eye-opener for his students, accustomed to classic and boring lessons. He will not only teach them the history of rock, but he will push them to found their own groups, to perform and to compete, overcoming obstacles and doubts put forward by parents and educators not convinced of the effectiveness of the rock as a teaching subject.
Craig Wedren’s soundtrack is a celebration and tribute to the many rock hits of bands like The Who, The Clash, AC / DC and Led Zeppelin.
The original version of It’s a Long Way to the Top (If You Wanna Rock ‘n’ Roll) was released by Australian band AC / DC. In 1975, the song was the first track on the T.N.T. and of the international version of High Voltage.
Here below is the final scene of the film with the performance of Jack Black with  the students’ group

Music and the sound dimension as an educational experience

Listening as awakening to sound and music can be an educational experience that promotes self knowledge, of the others and of the world. The sounds that we perceive affect our emotions, our imagination, our behaviors and certainly also act on the cognitive level. In this perspective, any activity and any educational path involving sound stimulation can be very useful in the school environment, helping children to learn as well as through relationships and socialization.
School and listening   
Unfortunately, music is not always integrated into school activities. In particular, a teacher who does not consider himself as a professional musician and neither a “genius” of the subject, ends up refusing to use any sound experience or sound listening as a way of raising awareness on listening in general.
In fact, many educational theories say that sound and music listening is not meant to educate young musicians, but that it is essential to stimulate in each one many perceptual skills, such as concentration, attention to detail, sense of order and discipline, attention to breaks, analysis of sound and of oneself as a source, including of sound.
It is a listening attitude that “precedes” formal musical listening.

The pedagogue Maria Montessori as well as the Japanese violinist Shinichi Suzuki, founder of the homonymous method whose value is recognized throughout the world, support the centrality of musical learning for children, and especially that we cannot distinguish between gifted children or not: everyone at birth has innate talents that can be developed during growth if the environment allows it.

The Effects of Music on the Human Body: Studies   
Beyond the musical development of the child, recent studies show how music affects our body. The researchers measured several parameters during listening activities: breathing rate, blood pressure, arterial flow in the brain, heart rate. We can deduce that musical pieces have a constant and dynamic influence on the cardiovascular and respiratory system. In fact, the heartbeat and breathing are synchronized with the music, regardless of the subjects’ knowledge and musical preferences. Fast-paced music speeds up breathing, heart rate, and increases blood pressure, while calmer, more rhythmic music has the opposite effect of general relaxation which slows the pace and lowers pressure.
A German study from the Ruhr University of Bochum, published in the journal Deutsches Ärzteblatt International, found that the music of Mozart and Strauss lowers blood pressure, heart rate and the level of cortisol, the so-called hormone of stress. The same can’t be said for the pop group Abba, which seems to have no significant effect on blood circulation.
These data were confirmed by a study carried out by Professor Luciano Bernardi (2018) of the University of Padua who wanted to understand whether listening to music, especially classical and lyrical music, produced particular effects on the human body. Bernardi says, commenting on the results of his work: “Music generates continuous and dynamic changes, and quite predictable, in the cardiovascular system; it is not only the emotions elicited by the music that influence cardiovascular changes, but also the opposite, that means in a bidirectional way, the cardiovascular changes induced by the music can be the substrate to elicit new emotions ”.
Sound and Music Listening could therefore not only constitute a didactic tool available to teachers, but if used systematically, it could also help to create emotions and moods that promote a children predisposition to learning.

Maria Montessori: “the great narrator of truth”.  Ocarina pay homaget o her 150 years after her birth

Maria Montessori was born on August 31st, 1870: educator, child neuropsychiatrist, scientist, philosopher, creator of the method bearing her name, mother of a timeless pedagogical thought, which has become a legacy for generations of teachers from all over the world. These days many are celebrating the 150th anniversary of her birth and Ocarina also wants to pay homage to her by talking about her beautiful cosmic lessons.
How was the universe born? How did life on earth begin? How will man become? Who invented the letters? And the numbers? These are all great questions that often children aged 6-7 years – when they enter primary school – begin to ask themselves and ask their parents and teachers.
Starting from the evolutionary needs and psychological characteristics of children in this developmental age, Maria Montessori in 1935 developed an educational project called “Cosmic Education”.
The aim is to educate the child to realize and satisfy curiosities of all kinds, which arise in him when he begins to become aware of the things that surround him and to want to know the causes and effects, that is when the mind feels the need to deepen the reality.
With her cosmic vision, Maria Montessori tries to answer children’s questions about the connections and relationships that characterize our Planet. According to his thought, the world and the Universe represent a great order, in which each element is interconnected and has a cosmic task.
The primary objective of every educator is therefore to generate a sense of belonging to this great world and to provide the necessary keys to be able to interpret and understand it. Only by developing an ecological and responsible vision of the world, it is possible to grasp its complexity and beauty, and feel part of it as an active subject.
The five great cosmic lessons
In her educational project, Maria Montessori proposes five cosmic lessons: compelling and engaging narratives for the first primary school classes that children are invited to listen sitting in a circle on a carpet or on cushions.
These tales are a precious didactic tool and still widely used today by Montessori masters; a tool that inaugurates the journey of children in the exploration of the cosmic order and harmony of the universe, as well as the study of history and geography, biology, language and mathematics.
The first lesson introduces the child to the theory of creation of the universe, speaks of the origins of the Everything. Although known by the historical name of “God who has no hands”, in many Montessori schools it is preferred to replace the word God with the word Nature, or with the creative force of the universe. One or two weeks after reading the first lesson, it’s the turn of the story that tells how life was formed on the planet, then of the one about the advent of the human being and the others to follow.
The storytelling enables children to contextualize the present between the past and the future, while looking at their origins and the responsibility to contribute to the safeguard and development of our planet.
Telling the Truth
Mario, son of Maria Montessori and her close collaborator, liked to define his mother as “the great narrator of Truth”. It is not a coincidence, in fact, that cosmic lessons have the character of reality and are inserted within the natural order of things.
The imaginative and sometimes allegorical language of Montessori’s narratives therefore builds a tool to strike the interest of the child. In this context, according to Maria Montessori, fantasy represents a way to explore the world and reality, and it is absolutely important that it is not relegated to the world of “reverie” and fairy tales. The imagination world, on the other hand, must be a reinvention of the child’s daily life; similar, but not exactly the same, some details or settings must differ, otherwise the child would feel too involved and could exchange reality with fantasy.
It is precisely with respect to this issue that Maria Montessori, defined as “the teacher always against the current” criticizes the educators who, in her opinion, while recognizing the importance of the imagination, tend to cultivate it separately, independently from the intelligence, just as they would like to separate this last one from manual activities. There is therefore a clear separation between the reality, that is taught with arid notions and complex subjects, and the fantasy, that is cultivated by fairy tales, which speak of a wonderful world, which is not the world around us, the one in which we live.
However, there are tales that are an exception, in which fantasy is confused with reality, but they are so beautiful and contain such precious teachings that it is overlooked that the protagonist can be a child or a talking rabbit. In these cases, we should try to explain that rabbits do not actually speak and do not have human attitudes.

Today Ocarina listens: Ennio Morricone

This month the great musician and composer Ennio Morricone passed away. His name will forever be inscribed in the history of music and cinema for his soundtracks: the most beautiful of Italian and world cinema.

Ocarina wants to pay homage to him by listening to For a Fistful of Dollars, the main track of the soundtrack of the homonymous film, directed by Sergio Leone with whom Morricone has had a long-standing friendship and working relationship.
Despite hundreds of scores (more than 500 melodies) that have made history, it is undoubtedly the partnership with Leone that acts as an acronym for Morricone’s cinema. The two have met  fir the first time on school desks, in elementary school, and then in 1964 the Director asked him to collaborate on For a Fistful of Dollars, the first film, together with For a few more dollars (1965) and The good, the ugly, the villain (1966), of the so-called Dollar trilogy, directed by Sergio Leone and played by Clint Eastwood. Despite being forced to work without orchestra and with little money, Morricone will arrange a real masterpiece by transforming a whistle, a trumpet and a shot into a soundtrack that will be described as the most “formidable synthesis of the Western era”. Thus the song For a Fistful of Dollars was born, featuring a famous trumpet solo, played by the italian Michele Lacerenza and also published on 45 rpm. Also, from the same soundtrack, the whistled piece, performed by the maestro Alessandro Alessandroni, will also become famous.
Since 1946 Morricone has also written a hundred classic pieces. Pop music is not missing either, just remember the success of Se Telefonando by Mina (music by Morricone, text by Maurizio Costanzo). Few composers also enjoy the esteem that Morricone has among rock lovers, despite never having written rock music. A music – that deserved many Oscar – that everyone likes, which he himself has defined as simple, folk, easy to listen to even for the little ones.
Here you can buy the song
Below is the video of the live at the Arena di Verona

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