March 30, 2014 by Italians in Chicago
by Valeria Fanelli –
Italian troubadour and Calabrian cantautore Peppe Voltarelli returns to the US for a pair of concerts on April 6th in Chicago and April 9th in New York City.
These performances mark the release of Voltarelli’s new studio album “Lamentarsi come ipotesi” (To Complain as Hypothesis) and follow his critically acclaimed two-night stand at last summer’s Montreal Jazz Festival.
The album provides a metaphoric soundtrack to a Southern Italian way of life where a culture of complaints becomes a source of pleasure, empowering people to reach into their ancient roots to overcome the challenges of modern life.
Voltarelli takes the listener on a cinematic journey to a unique crossroad of traditional Italian song where Spaghetti Western meets Gypsy and Klezmer intersects with Balkan beats.
The tradition of a troubadour singing and telling stories has been with us for eons. Whether it’s griots in West Africa, bluesmen in Mississippi or Moroccan gnawa players, these traveling musicians inform and entertain with a mix of political and social satire, love songs, comedy, praise of a deity or whatever else inspires them.
Italian singer-songwriter Peppe Voltarelli comes out of this tradition, putting a distinctly modern and Italian twist on it. Hailing from Calabria (that’s the toe of Italy’s boot), Voltarelli sings his tales with a distinctly Calabrian point of view and dialect, pointing out the hypocrisy and deep political corruption in one of Italy’s most troubled regions, but balancing that with a dash of humor and catchy melodies often delivered on acoustic guitar.
“I think its kind of Mediterranean blues,” Voltarelli said of his music. “I’m a modern songwriter looking at the culture that has dominated our land and then creating imaginary place where a tribal African rhythm meets the sweetness of Greek serenata.”
This restless soul brought his Mediterranean blues with a touch of babalu to Germany, Argentina, the U.S. and elsewhere, settling down for a while before moving along to the next country or returning home for another major concert, television appearance or collaboration with noted Calabrian film director Giuseppe Gagliardi.
“It is an escape,” Voltarelli says of his time away. “The people of other countries help me to understand life from different point of view. It’s a never-ending exodus and Italian emigrants are my mirror, my music is like blotting paper that preserves the memories of my peoples.”
While Voltarelli cites such Italian artists as Pier Paolo Pasolini, Roberto Saviano and Domenico Modugno -composer of the standard “Volare”- as influences, his music moves well beyond its Italian roots. This is a performer that transcends his bloodlines with a swagger that recalls fellow global pop iconoclasts like Gogol Bordello’s Eugene Hutz, Billy Bragg, Manu Chao or Shane MacGowan, delivering his message with a dynamic intensity and singular style.
“The basis of my music is the Calabrian dialect and the place itself,” he explains. “Then I translate everything to the present, but not to succumb to the stereotypes (mafia, corruption, etc.) associated with it. This, for me, begins the challenge write the song and become a better person for doing so.”
Like all great satirists there has to be strong element of humor to help the message along. Voltarelli takes this tradition into the digital age, making hilarious YouTube videos often directed by Giuseppe Gagliardi that feature the singer goofing around with people he meets on the street, in restaurants and bars, or at his shows.
Beppe Voltarelli will be in Chicago on Sunday, April 6, 2014for the 4th Annual Neighborhoods of the World at Navy Pier Crystal Gardens.