Sunday, March 1, 2015

How a great band unknown outside of Italy led me to Fabrizio De André and to making this website

I've been the Program Director of Blue Bear School of Music in San Francisco since 1982. I made eight albums between 1975 and 1993 as Diesel Cats. Some can be heard online:

Love, War, Crime and Commerce (1986)
History Club Minutes (1989)
In Search of Blue Treasure (1991)
The Meaning o' Life (1993, with Jim Peterson)

With fatherhood in 1993, my musical activities were put on hold. I began learning Italian in 2008 with my daughter, who chose Italian to learn because it was the language of Romeo and Juliet. In Skype lessons with Mirella Colalillo, Mirella sent some links to Italian musicians. I discovered a group that made me feel like I was in high school again and had just stumbled upon the greatest new band in the world!! Marta sui Tubi. Listening to their songs reawakened the musician in me. You should check them out - fantastic songs, even if you don't know Italian, and great videos. Here's a sampling:

L'unica cosa - "because you can become everything you want; the only thing you have to do is kill your fears."
Cinestetica highlights the unusual approach of the guitarist.
Cenere begins to show the broad dynamic range of their material.
Perchè non pesi niente - love the song and the video!
Cristiana - don't worry, nothing bad happens to the fish!
Via Dante - silly and fun.

With the excitement of Marta sui Tubi in me, I started exploring other Italian singer/songwriters. The ones that have most captivated me are Lucio Dalla, Giorgio Gaber and Fabrizio De André.

As a boy, I started off in music learning songs I loved. With my return to music, I began learning some Italian songs that drew me in, and found myself leaning towards De André's songs, to which my guitar skills and vocal approach were better suited. As my connection to his material deepened, I came to feel the incredible power of his lyrics and of his unaffected approach to singing and performing.

I now have a trio, Bella Strada, that occasionally performs De André songs at the Museo Italo Americano in San Francisco. For those in San Francisco interested in learning Italian, the Museo offers great classes. They also have regular presentations of Italian art and culture, many of which are free. Kudos to Managing Director Paola Bagnatori for her work there, and for the highly engaging conversation class she hosts every Thursday for Museo Members!

I have had wonderful input on my translations from Bianca Friundi, a teacher at the above Museo, and from Francesca Mazza, with whom I have taken Skype lessons.

I hope you can take some time to explore the music of Fabrizio De André, one of the world's great singer/songwriters.

5 comments:

  1. I would like to congratulate you on the terrific job that you have done in translating Faber's extaordinary body of work. I am a Greek fan of De Andre with only a small understanding of Italian, and I've been looking for years for decent english translations of his songs. While I have been able to find some quality translations for some songs, I always hoped for a complete translation of the man's corpus and I am delighted that at last I found it in your site. I just hope that you continue in the same vein with the work of other renowned Italian singer songwriters like Giorgio Gaber that you mentioned above or Francesco Guccini etc.

    Again, a million thanks.

    Aris,
    Greece

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  2. Wonderful work, Dennis! Really excellent. I'm a big fan of De André myself, and have also translated some of his works. I thought it was interesting to note some of the ways in which we diverged in translation. I've been studying Italian for 10 years, and music is my favorite way to interact with the language. Thanks for bringing De André to the consciousness of English-speakers.

    Have you looked at De Gregori? I'm a big fan of him too.

    Best to you,

    Raymond

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    1. Thanks, Raymond. I really like De Gregori's album Rimmel, but haven't listened widely to his other work. I'd enjoy seeing and learning from your translations. You can reach me through www.bluebearmusic.org if you're so inclined.

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  3. Love it! I'm a music aficionado from Italy and I always wondered why our artists are so little known abroad (except the worst ones, usually). I'm usually not so patriotic, but i genuinely think that at least the best among our singer-songwriters could stand the comparison with English and American ones (wich I obviously admire too). De André is surely the one who would deserve the most credit. Hopefully your extraordinary effort will help spread his popularity a little bit. Keep up the good work!

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    1. Thank you Alessio, and also for your helpful suggestions on my Ottocento translation. I made some changes, and I'm sure there are many more that could be made throughout this site since I am but a student of Italian and lack a lot of cultural context and everyday language savvy. I love learning more and slowly improving the translations. Grazie!

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