Aterúe: the singers from elsewhere is a feature length documentary filmed in 2013

“Aterúe” follows four American singers on their journey from a weekend of vocal experimentation in a Brooklyn apartment into the arms of the throatsinging quartets of Sardinia. From their unfolding series of first encounters emerges a tale that is, at turns, surreal, funny, sonically stunning, and deeply intimate


Cantu a tenòre

Sardinian cantu a tenòre is a form of polyphonic singing performed by a group of four singers using four different voices: bassu, contra, boghe, and mesu boghe

The deep guttural timbre of the bassu and contra voices produce ringing overtones, which are expanded by the mesu boghe. This rich aural texture is essentially a canvas for the boghe, who is the main soloist and sings almost all of the text.

The song form is typical of the region of Barbagia and other parts of central Sardinia. Performances are often spontaneous and done in local bars, but also at more formal occasions, such as religious festivals.

The lyrics are sometimes ancient, but may also be contemporary poems on present-day issues such as emigration and politics, and they are connected to the island’s rich poetic tradition.

The film follows the Americans as they learn the unique styles of just some of the towns in Barbagia


Bitti songs are crisp and straight-forward. In contrast to other regions, the boghe tends to almost always be intertwined with the tenore, rarely sung in isolation.


Fonni has an array of very complex (and usually fairly improvisitory) song forms. The sound is generally strident, with a “fuzzy” quality to some of the vowel production.


In the film, the Orgosolo sound is referred to as a "velveteen mack truck". They are known for incredibly powerful and biting low end, opening up through wider vowels like "ae" /ær/, but an overcoat of velvety smoothness delivers the sound elegantly.


Songs in Orune are very improvisatory, with the boghe often mixing, matching, and chopping up the words for musical effect, treating them almost like jazz scat. The bassu in Orune tends to be very restrained, almost muffled, with a more prominent contra sound and an almost trumpet-like mesu boghe.

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The Tenores de Aterúe


The group formed in 2008 when they first attempted to sing cantu a tenòre. At first, all they had to learn from was a video on YouTube. They reverse engineered this music based on what they knew from studying other forms of polyphonic folk singing and overtone singing, and started performing casually in New England. Not long after that, the Sardinians caught wind of what they were doing. In 2013, they journeyed to Sardinia along with a filmmaker to study this musical tradition face to face with the singers they had been obsessed with for so long and to document this unique adventure. There was only going to be one time in history that the first people outside of Sardinia to sing cantu a tenóre would be going to Sardinia, so they figured they should capture that on video.

The songs on this album reflect our journey as a quartet. In many ways, that journey has been like an incredible feast. It started with the "appetizers": our experience of listening to CDs and YouTube videos of cantu a tenore. After posting our first YouTube video showing what we'd learned, we were contacted by Sardinians who seemed as excited about our group as we were about their music. “Try this! Listen to the incredible boghe on this song! Here are lyrics for this gem,” said the emails and Facebook messages. In 2013 we traveled to Sardinia for the first time, feasting in good company. We were overwhelmed by an epic muttos jam session with over twenty singers in the town of Nuoro. We wept at the beauty of the astonishing boghe ‘e notte songs sung by our hosts in Orune, Fonni, and Silanus. We danced in piazzas with grandmothers, teenagers, and middle-aged men. It was a life changing experience for us all. 

Our hearts and spirits are filled with the memory of those exciting nights (and sleepy days between) that plunged us deep into the living world of cantu a tenòre. We look forward to our next visit, at which time we hope also to visit Sardinia's stark and majestic neighbor, Corsica, whose music and traditions have similarly enchanted us. We've included two Corsican liturgical songs on this album, with more to come! And now, we invite you to join us at the table. 

A chent’annos!

released December 20, 2016

Recorded at The Old Meeting House
in East Montpelier, VT.

Engineered, Mixed, and Mastered
by Devin Greenwood at the Honey Jar
Audio Editing by Gideon Crevoshay

Cover Painting - Doug Paisley
Design & Layout - Gideon Crevoshay & Carl Linich


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Over many years, we've put a lot of hard work into making this film, and now our project is to share this amazing story with you all. An essential part of that challenge is creating a community around the film, and connecting with as many enthusiastic people as possible. We want to show the film anywhere and everywhere we can! So if you are interested in seeing it in your town, or are curious about where it is playing next, join our mailing list or send us an email and would love to connect with you.

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Rufus Paisley

4425 Maplewood Ave Apt 7

Los Angeles, CA, 90004