Monday 19 21H30 (110/130F)
La Corse "au bout de la terre"


A tale of passion Muvrini's story is really a tale about a place, which is unjustly said to be "tranquil" when in fact it has been silenced by the ravages of history. Muvrini's story continues with a long voyage for several men who found each other while searching for their roots, despite themselves and despite everything. Muvrini's story in the end is that these men started out from nothing, with nothing, and set out with a few guitars, a sprinkling of notes, and a handful of friends...

They went out to face an ever-larger audience, with whom they generously shared their identity and the tolerance which is their hallmark. Today Muvrini, the Corsica issue apart, is the incarnation of a forceful resurgence of all-embracing universalism allied with love of one's native soil. Where they came from... Tracing the source of the Muvrini story means listening to the memory of stones in a little village in northern Galicia - Tagliu-lsulaccia. There, Jean-François Bernardini assures us, a people living by the sea and by the earth...peaceful shepherds, have watched as people from all over the Mediterranean trample past.

Over the centuries, Corsica has been invaded no less than twenty times. This inevitably leaves its mark, with outsiders seen as a threat and resistance the only possible response. In the 18th century under the Genoese, Corsica experienced a rare interlude of independence; enlightenment philosophers pay tribute to first modern day experiments in democracy, such as the granting of voting rights to women in 1755 (these were only established in France nearly two centuries later in 1945).

In 1769 the Genoese sold Corsica to France, but not without some local resistance... Over time centralisation policies have been applied strenuously here as elsewhere - in Brittany, or in the Basque region. Idiosyncrasies, tradition, and identity are eradicated and the local language suppressed. Two centuries later in a school in Tagliu-lsulaccia as in other Corsican villages the children are taught that their ancestors were Gauls. Happily a people's identity is not a fire that can be easily stamped out.

Underneath the ashes and in the shade of the olive trees and thick stone walls Alain and Jean-François Bernardini feel the heat of an ember left by their father, G. Bernardini which it will take time to rekindle - several years in fact. "We had no pride in our identity. We were ashamed of the Corsican language, as though we were exiled from ourselves..." How they moved on ... With time, the two brothers learned to listen to their father and to love the language and the lilt of the Corsican music. In the troubled period around 1975 they began to speak about their heritage of this land where men and their songs lived together : "It has sometimes been said that we were the cultural tool for just another political campaign. That's not true. There is no conspiracy.

The political resurgence of the 1970's occurred in parallel with the re-affirmation of identity. We are neither artists of the State machine, nor are we propagandists. From this era, an unusual image remains of a man with his two children perched on the stage delivering the group's first polyphonies in the quest to recover the true form of a nation's music. Following these first few steps and a co-production with Canta U Populu Corsu, they recorded a first 45T with Gérard Bernardini who was to die in 1977.

Under the name of I Muvrini ("Les Mouflons"), Alain and Jean François embarked on a long and arduous journey in a country stripped of all landmarks and signposts. "The Corsican culture was a culture without wings. There were no structures that could receive us - no concert halls, no recording studios - nothing." There was everything to be done at the end of the 1970's. Starting with economic choices that were often difficult. "It only worked because we agreed to eat black bread when necessary.

We were self-financing, and self-governing. The local authorities didn't believe it was possible. They thought our initiative and our music to be obsolete, and no-one would help us. They said "They'll give up eventually". In this culture-hostile landscape where the first cheque was paid towards a live concert in 1996, people preferred to close their doors on us.

They even prohibited our concerts on the pretext that they disrupted public order." To make a come-back, popular songs needed new words, new sounds, and different creative decisions to those of the syrupy songs that abounded before. "This sickening background spurred us on to be even more prolific. The musical event networks didn't exist, so we gave soap-box performances.

" Seven albums and hundreds of concerts all over the island later, their performances draw bigger and bigger crowds, and are really spectacular events, with moving moments when a people and their language rediscover each other. IMuvrini don't just sing - entry to their concerts is free for the under 15's and they have helped to set up singing schools for children, and made two albums with children participating.


Copyright Technopole Quimper Cornouaille France-Ouest 1999