The Ballarò babble

by Rudston Steward

wingding 500 x 30 px


T bodonihe street vendors of Ballarò speak a distinct market-language: incantations and incitements and implorations, slung dismissively into the morning air like cutoffs flung from a butcher’s block. A covert language, deeply shrouded in Palermitano slang, utterly inscrutable to outsiders.

Ostensibly, as with any street market, the vendors are there to sell their goods, to court potential customers, to outsmart and undersell each other. But, as I stroll through Ballarò, tuning in to its language, winding my way between the bellowing market-criers, I realize they are not, in fact, addressing me at all: their dialogue is with each other.

They grunt and cajole and riff, call out from stall to stall. They snigger and holler at wisecracks across the way, conversing both literally and figuratively over the heads of the steady stream of veggie-bagging punters. The sale of produce is almost an afterthought, a by-product, a sideshow to the main event: linguistic bravura, musical diction, cutting delivery.

Ballarò is equal parts poetry slam and griot gathering. And, as you’ll gather from the soundbite above, you can even buy bananas for a buck a kilo…


wingding 500 x 30 px