Domenica Insieme – 2 hours of Pop Italian Musica and Fun!!!
by Annette M. Graebe
Make plans now for our favorite local circus — Circus Flora! (Yes, they’ve changed their season from a hot, muggy summer to early spring, and they’ve moved down the street!) Show dates: April 19 – May 13. Circus Flora beginnings go back to the Spoleto Festival more than thirty-two years ago. Under that red and white Big Top, they still continue that rich, Italian tradition incorporating original, new artists and techniques. This year’s show is “The Case of the Missing Bellhop” as the plot twists and turns to the delight of the audience. It includes a full cast of characters – including a troupe of trained pigs! For more information and tickets, visit http://circusflora.org. Tickets ($12 – $60) will be available at their new box office opening Monday at 10 a.m./phone: 314-230-9191, or tickets may be purchased through MetroTix (with a service fee). Look for the red and white tent at their new location at 3401 Washington Blvd. — not far from The Fox.
April 2018 | Tony Marotta
Ermal Meta è un cantautore, compositore e polistrumentista italiano di origine albanese. Cresciuto ascoltando musica classica, ha cominciato da ragazzo a suonare il piano e la chitarra insieme a vari gruppi prima di entrare a fare parte degli Ameba 4 in qualità di chitarrista. A partire dal 2013 ha intrapreso una doppia carriera da solista (pubblicando tre album in studio) ed autore scrivendo brani per molti noti interpreti italiani. In qualità d’interprete insieme a Fabrizio Moro di Non mi avete fatto niente, canzone vincitrice del Festival di Sanremo 2018, Meta è stato automaticamente designato come rappresentante dell’Italia all’Eurovision Song Contest 2018 a Lisbona.
What is sometimes lost among the roar of the crowd and the glare of the bright lights within the entertainment industry is the fact that behind some of those smiles, are people dealing with painful memories. The admonition of “one must walk a mile in another person’s shoes before judging them” holds true to this day. Take, for example, the story of Ermal Meta, a singer/songwriter and poly-instrumentalist who was born in Fier, Albania on April 20, 1981.
Ermal, whose name means “mountain wind,” grew up in a polarizing home setting; culturally nurtured by his mother, a professional violinist, but also suffered greatly at the hands of an abusive father. By age five, he began seeking refuge from his ordeal and gravitated toward music for solace and inspiration. The political climate in Albania during the nineties was a period of instability as communism had fallen and the country lacked direction, offering little hope and few opportunities for Ermal and those of his generation. At age 13, the difficult decision was reached whereby he, his mother, brother, and sister fled the country and relocated to the Italian port city of Bari in the southern region of Puglia to begin life anew. They were immediately welcomed with open arms and, within a few years, Ermal began his musical journey by learning to play both the piano and guitar.
He joined several fledgling bands in the process and performed publically throughout the region. He also enrolled in college during this time and began formal studies in foreign languages only to later abandon his education to exclusively pursue his musical aspirations on a full-time basis. He achieved his objective of forming his first band as he partnered with Fabio Properzi (guitarist/vocalist), Tullio Ciriello (bassist) and Luca Giura (drummer) to form the group “Ameba 4.” The outfit caught the attention of noted record producer Corrado Rustici with their demo tape. This fruitful relationship led to an invitation to participate at the 2006 Sanremo Music Festival in the “Giovani” portion of the competition. The entry “Rido forse mi sbaglio” was eliminated but would lead to the signing of a recording contract with legendary record producer Caterina Caselli on her “Sugar” music label. Their eponymously titled debut album in 2006 featured their Sanremo single along with 12 other original compositions.
After a brief tour in support of their release, the band would break-up in 2007. The recording and touring experience proved invaluable to Ermal and he used the opportunity to front his own group which he christened “La Fame di Camilla.” With complete artistic control, he developed and refined the group’s music catalog and sound production to his liking. The group participated in numerous public exhibitions and musical festivals all throughout Italy and Europe plying their trade and sharpening their performance skills for a couple of years. It was only then that he was prepared to release the group’s debut album, “La Fame di Camilla” (2009). The album was well received and the single/video “Storia di una favola” garnered awards and earned the band much-deserved notoriety. The group’s good fortune continued with an invitation to the 2010 Sanremo Music Festival as they submitted the song “Buio e luce.” Although the entry was eventually eliminated from the competition, the song would serve as the title track to their second album (2010).
The release entered the charts, enjoying a lengthy stay and found its way into numerous radio playlists earning valuable time in regular rotation. An extended tour throughout the peninsula exposed the group to new markets thereby generating increased record sales. The group eventually returned to the studio and released their third and final release “L’attesa” (2012). The single/video “Suzy e l’infinito” became another hit for the band. The recording was tabbed by the critics as the group’s best, as it reflected maturation in the band’s music and lyrics. Despite all the positive results, Ermal sensed that he needed to reach the next level of his personal development and that would require that he disband the group and embark on a solo career.
Wasting no time, he immediately began writing compositions for other established artists including Emma Marrone, Francesco Renga, Patty Pravo, Chiara Galiazzo, Marco Mengoni, Francesca Michielin, Francesco Sarcina, Giusy Ferreri, Annalisa Scarrone, and Lorenzo Fargola. Emboldened by the demand for his talents, Ermal made the difficult decision to leave his family in Bari and move to Milan. Once he settled in the music epicenter of Italy, he commenced work on his debut solo album “Umano” (2016). Ermal played the majority of the instruments on this recording and composed nearly all the music and lyrics. The recording was self-produced and yielded four hit singles including “Odio le favole,” which was entered into the 2016 Sanremo Music Festival in the “Nuove Proposte” (Newcomer’s Section), finishing in third place.
His momentum continued with his second solo release “Vietato Morire” (2017). The album achieved platinum sales and the title track was entered into the 2017 Sanremo Music Festival and finished in third place among the 20 other contestants in the “Categoria Campioni” (Champions Category). Ermal’s best was yet to come and his star burned brightest at the recently concluded 2018 Sanremo Music Festival as his composition “Non mi avete fatto niente,” co-written with and performed as a duet with Fabrizio Moro, captured first place at the prestigious annual Italian music competition. The hit single made its way onto his third solo album “Non abbiamo armi” (2018) which has already entered into the charts. Because of their victory, Ermal and Fabrizio will represent Italy at the 2018 Eurovision Music Competition in Lisbon, Portugal in May of 2018.
For more information you can visit his Facebook Page at
Photos courtesy of https://www.facebook.com/ermalmetainfo
Come travel with La Dolce Vita University (L◆D◆V◆U) to the heart of Italian culture in the seductive spirit of la dolce vita. Like a box of Italian sweets, L◆D◆V◆U is the perfect sampler to indulge anyone curious about—or already in amore with—Italy and its remarkably rich trove of cultural treasures. In dozens of entertaining yet authoritative mini-essays, L◆D◆V◆U lets you explore, at your leisure and pleasure, fascinating aspects of Italy’s cuisine, history, art, traditions, style, legendary personalities, and so much more. Even the most sophisticated Italophile will discover dazzling new facts and illuminating new insights in these pages. Charmingly illustrated, La Dolce Vita University brings Italy to life with wit, exuberance and joy—a celebration of why we love Italy.
Carla Gambescia’s passion for Italy began early – with her mother’s love of the Renaissance masters and her father’s discourses on Italian geniuses of every calling. In the ensuing decades she has toured every region of Italy (often by bicycle) and immersed herself in its astonishing array of cultural treasures. In recent years Carla has combined her passion as an Italophile with her skills as a career marketer and branding expert, acting as a consultant to and a collaborator with boutique tour operators. She conceived and co-lead the Giro del Gelato bicycle tour, winner of Outside Magazine’s “Best Trip in Western Europe.” In 2008 Carla founded Via Vanti! Restaurant & Gelateria, in Mount Kisco, New York, with the ambition of creating a unique environment and dining experience which would enable guests to feel as though they had stepped right into Italy. Via Vanti! quickly won plaudits not just for its innovative Italian cuisine, extraordinary gelato (named “Best Gelato Shop in New York”) and dazzling jewel box interior but also, under Carla’s direction, for its active program of culinary and cultural events. It is Carla’s conviction that all of us, regardless of our inherited ethnicities, share an “inner Italian” – that part of our nature which is most expressive, festive, spontaneous and fun – just waiting to be unlocked. La Dolce Vita University: An Insider’s Guide to Italian Culture from A to Z is the natural outgrowth of Carla’s work and play in both the restaurant and boutique travel industries, as well as a lifelong love affair with the land of her ancestors.
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During my 6 months exchange here at UKC, the thing I have probably missed the most was concert season for all my favourite Italian indie bands. So, to make up for it, I am going to tell you all about them and why I love them so much.
Fast Animals and Slow Kids – Also known as FASK, they are the band that first got me into Italian indie, because my Tumblr crush at the time really loved them, so I had to love them as well. They have been around for over a decade now, starting off in central Italy’s Perugia. They have released four albums, but never forget their origins and humbly start every live show stating the band’s name and where they come from, as if they were just introducing the main band and needed audience to remember them. Over the years their emo and punk rock sound has become even more gritty and hardcore. They are the band you want to go see live during exam season – scream from the top of your lungs, jump and push for two hours straight and get all your stress out. I have seen them live five times now and the best memories I made are losing a shoe, my bra constantly unclasping from how much I was jumping around, and drenching my shirt in sweat. Their music is pure energy, and you would not tell that they seclude themselves in the rural Italian countryside to write and record all their songs. The best part though – they go drink a beer with their fans after every show.
Favourite lyrics, from ‘Te lo prometto’: “We will be friend/ I promise you/ I already have a couple of ideas/ To make you unhappy/ I can ruin everything and I will/ It’s a tendency to distress* / That I can’t contain anymore/ I can’t contain myself anymore”
I cani – This was the second indie band I fell in love with. They cannot actually be called a band since they only have one member, Niccolò Contessa, though he never performs alone and he calls I cani – literally “the dogs” – a project more than a band. During their prime years, now gone, they were the epitome of hipsterdom, with songs titled ‘Wes Anderson‘ and ‘Hipsteria‘. Their sound is more mellow, and they mostly fall into synth pop and the electro/techno genre.
Favourite lyrics, from ‘Il posto più freddo’: “Cause now the night is gone and the drugs have come down/ Here for you is the loneliest creature in the world/ And the shivers come up from the legs to the chest/ The coldest place is right here in my bed/ Please stay with me another moment/ Please stay with me till I fall asleep”
Calcutta – Another one-man band, Calcutta is one of the newest faces in the Italian indie scene, with his first successful album Mainstream being released in 2015. He has a wide variety of influences, from Italian singer-songwriters of the 60s to tropical and Brazilian beats. What mostly stand out are his lyrics; apparently nonsensical, they mostly aim to evoke an atmosphere. He was also recently involved in a controversy, as he was paid €5000 by the city of Bologna for the playlist that was going to be played in the town’s square on New Year’s, but not DJed by anyone.
Favourite lyrics, from ‘Gaetano’: “I painted a swastika in the centre of Bologna/ But it was just to start a fight/ I didn’t want to party and I needed a pretext/ To let you go”
[Trust me, I’m from Bologna, it’s fine, we are not offended by the swastika thing. We actually have meme-events on Facebook about going to find that piece of graffiti.]
Willie Peyote – Guglielmo “Willie” is a rapper more prominent in the indie scene than in rap. When I first saw him live it was the first time he was playing in a venue that made Italian indie history, and he couldn’t believe he was performing there as well. If you saw him you would not think his stage name is of a psychoactive drug: scrawny and nerdy with glasses, but he can rap fast. He has a funky sound and his lyrics are smart and play with words and your expectations.
Favourite lyrics, form ‘C’era una vodka’: “I have had issues with alcohol in the past/ But now everything is fine/ We got back together”
Ex-Otago – They are my new love. Their style can only be described as indie pop, whatever that oxymoron means. What I most like about them are the very simple beats you cannot stay still to. Their lyrics are very simple as well, you will remember the chorus after the first listen and sing along every time after that. They are the band I listen to while making dinner, cleaning my room and folding laundry. They are even approved by my British housemate who only listens to grime.
Favourite lyrics, from ‘Quando sono con te’: “When I’m with you/ I feel inside me/ A racket, a music/ And I don’t know where it comes from/ And it probably doesn’t have a name/ But it caresses me and it invades me”
Italian indie can take on many different faces and sounds. So why do I like it so much? Well, firstly, it is not just me. I feel that this genre of music is what most of my generation back home listens to. It just gets us. They understand what being a 20-something in a messed-up country means. Recurring themes and lyrics in these artists’ songs are about not seeing a future for yourself, an inability to communicate and to create meaningful interpersonal relationships. There is an overarching feeling of instability and uncertainty, feelings that pervade everyone in their 20s but I feel are extremely prominent in my country, were people have not been able to see a future for themselves since the 2008 financial crisis. The one verse that I feel encompasses this feeling the most is from Fast Animals and Slow Kids and it says: “Hopes when you are 20 ears old, being still but feeling distant”. We do not listen to this kind of music to get even more depressed about our situation, but to connect with people from our generation that get it as well. It is a for of escapism from the older generations that screwed everything up for us and are now telling us to that we are not working hard enough.
My hope is to have widened your horizon of what is out there in the indie music scene, and to have showed you how other people can relate to music. Maybe you will pick up one of those bands, even if you don’t understand a word they are saying.
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