Fabrizio De Andre: poetry set to music

August 10, 2013  |  By Monica Cristini, Italy

Fabrizio De Andre: poetry set to music

Photo : emmalemma/sxc.hu

It's not easy to speak about Italian music and it's so only because of its unbelievable variety of facets and nuances. But there's something that is typical of Italian music and that is the difficult faced in translating it into other languages: we are dealing with the so called "singer-songwriters", kind of poets who set their poems to music, creating a really unique result. It's something that essentially dates back to the '60s and 70's, but that is still important also for new generations, like a real cultural heritage with which every Italian connects and embraces it as his own heritage. Among the most famous names, one I think can be considered particularly meaningful: that of Fabrizio De Andre.

Discovering Italy's different souls

Describing De Andre's music is really difficult: we can't speak of a particular sonority, of a specific topic or of a particular kind of public to whom he caters. The only thing that is impossible is to not recognize is his warm and deep tone of voice. About sonorities, we can say that he really tried every kind of sonority,  inheriting sounds from different Italian regions; about topics, he narrates a lot of stories, looking at very different realities such as  religion, legends, social classes and mainly also the hidden worlds that as a whole make what we generically call "Italy". So, in his discography we can find, for example, an album called La buona novella, telling about Jesus' life as it is portrayed from some apocryphal gospels, as well as a song entitled Bocca di rosa, speaking about the arrival of a prostitute in a small village and about the reactions of its inhabitants. He also wrote the album Storia di un impiegato, a poetic rereading the acts of violence that troubled Italy in1968, as well as the album Non al denaro, non all'amore ne' al cielo, nine songs inspired by Edgar Lee Masters' Spoon River Anthology. But we have also Volta la carta, a song which recalls Italian nursery rhymes coming from different regions, and La citta' vecchia, a song that tells us about the life of the inhabitants of the slums surrounding the Genoa Port.

Genoa: more than just a birthplace

De Andre' was born in 1940 in Genoa. He escaped from this place during the war, but he came back in 1945. Genoa will come a real refrain in De Andre's poetry. In 1984, the singer-songwriter composed a whole album in Genoese dialect, Crêuza de mä,

an album dedicated to sea, traveling and sailing, written in the language of one of the maritime Republics and that can therefore be symbolically considered the language of the sea. This is one of the most famous works by De Andre, one of the most important  international music albums of this period, but also a historical landmark concerning ethnic music.

A timeless memory

De Andre passed away in 1999 at the age of 59. But as an Italian, I feel proud to say that I am a great admirer of De Andre even today. Maybe what lets his music survive is exactly its richness, that lets different kind of people appreciate it. But maybe it's also the difficulty of the texts: each time you listen to a De Andre's song, you can always find in it something new: a new reference or a new suggestion. It's impossible to understand the real meaning of his songs the first time you listen. But this should not discourage you! After all, the beauty of music often lies in its own mysteries.

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