Italian singer-songwriters are not popular in Europe. Apart from few exceptions such as Bocelli, Laura Pausini, maybe blues singer Zucchero, you rarely hear the Italian language in global pop.
It is quite hard for a rock artist to sing in Italian and become famous outside of Italy. Latin America can sometimes be a safe harbour, but forget the US or the UK. But that has more to do with the power of Anglo-American music industry than its aesthetics. Moreover, English is perfectly suited for rock music.
Italian is harder to mould, it needs more words, but on the other hand it offers space to experiment and push the language. One artist that filled this space is Max Gazzè, active since the 1990s and part of a very prolific scene in Rome.
With language comes a way of being. To understand it fully, one needs to understand the culture. His ironic gaze and philosophising over life are intriguing. The way he masters the language makes me feel both nostalgic and longing for new meanings. For instance in one song he invents ‘Cuore scalzo’ that would translate to ‘barefoot heart’ so I just about image an unprotected heart really feeling life and inevitably bruising itself.
Max and his band have been touring Europe in small venues, thanks to ever-growing communities of expats living abroad. He played in Madrid, Barcelona, Paris, London, Dublin, Brussels, Amsterdam, Luxembourg, Cologne, Hamburg, Berlin, Munich, Stuttgart and Zurich. They took funny snapshots in each city and posted them on Instagram.
I saw him at the intimate Sugar Factory in Amsterdam few weeks ago and really enjoyed listening to familiar lyrics of past summers. Here is a short video I managed to record singing a song he normally performs with fellow singer-songwriters Daniele Silvestri and Niccolò Fabi.