Friday, October 3, 2014

Creuza de mä:
    'Â pittima - The Debt Collector

Cosa ghe possu ghe possu fâ
se nu gh'ò ë brasse pe fâ u mainä
se infundo a e brasse nu gh'ò ë män
du massacán
    Cosa ci posso fare
    se non ho le braccia per fare il marinaio
    se in fondo alle braccia non ho le mani
    del muratore
e mi gh'ò 'n pûgnu dûu ch'u pâ 'n niu
gh'ò 'na cascetta larga 'n diu
giûstu pe ascúndime c'u vestiu
deré a 'n fiu
    e ho un pugno duro che sembra un nido
    ho un torace largo un dito
    giusto per nascondermi con il vestito
    dietro a un filo
e vaddu in giù a çerca i dinë
a chi se i tegne e ghe l'àn prestë
e ghe i dumandu timidamente
ma in mezu ä gente
    e vado in giro a chiedere i denari
    a chi se li tiene e glieli hanno prestati
    e glieli domando timidamente
    ma in mezzo alla gente
e a chi nu veu däse raxún
che pâ de stránûä cuntru u trun
ghe mandu a dî che vive l'è cäu
ma a bu-n mercöu
    e a chi non vuole darsi ragione
    che sembra di starnutire contro il tuono
    gli mando a dire che vivere è caro
    ma a buon mercato
mi sun 'na pittima rispettä
e nu anâ 'ngíu a cuntâ
che quandu a vittima l'è 'n strassé
ghe dö du mæ
    io sono una pittima rispettata
    e non andare in giro a raccontare
    che quando la vittima è uno straccione
    gli do del mio

'Â pittima © 1984 Fabrizio De André/Mauro Pagani

In ancient Genoa, the pittima was someone hired by creditors to get insolvent debtors to pay up. Dressed in red, their main approach was insistent and loud public embarrassment of the debtors. In modern usage the word has come to mean someone who complains without end about unimportant things. In this song, De André takes a sympathetic look at a socially marginalized person and how he came to his unpopular line of work.

British singer/songwriter Allan Taylor recorded an English version of 'Â pittima' with the Göttinger Symphonie Orchester.

What can I do
if I don’t have the arms for being a sailor,
if at the end of my arms I don’t have the hands
of a bricklayer?

And I have a hard fist that resembles a nest,
I have a torso the size of a finger,
just right for hiding myself, in my suit,
behind a thread.

And I go around and ask for money
from whoever has it and whomever they lent it to.
And I ask them for it timidly,
but with people around.

And to him who doesn’t want to give a reason,
who seems to sneeze against the thunder,
to him I'll send word that living is expensive,
though a good deal.

I am a respected debt collector -
and not going about spreading stories -
who, when the victim is a bum
I give him some of mine.

English translation © 2014 Dennis Criteser

Creuza de mä received both critical and popular acclaim upon its release. David Byrne told Rolling Stone that Creuza de mä was one of the ten most important works of the Eighties. The album grew out of a deep collaboration between Mauro Pagani, founding member of PFM, and De André. Pagani had been studying Mediterranean musics - Balkan, Greek, Turkish - and De André suggested that they make a Mediterranean album together, partly as an act of identity and a declaration of independence from the strains of Anglo-American music that were then dominant: rock, pop and electronic music. De André once stated that "music should be a cathartic event, but today's music is only amphetamine-like, and enervating." While granting that Americans made great music that he too was influenced by, he felt there were different ways and different roots that were being smothered by the mass commercialization and success of American popular music; Creuza de mä was to be a synthesis of Mediterranean sounds, and it was indeed a stark contrast to the music of the time. De André's lyrics are in Genovese, a dialect that over the centuries absorbed many Persian, Arabic, Turkish, Spanish, French and even English words, and Pagani's music combined folk instruments (oud, shehnai, doumbek, bazouki, bağlama) with contemporary instrumentation, including Synclavier, creating what might be called an ethnic/pop masterpiece.

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