An Italian Studies Scholarly Blog

SIS Interim Conference 2012 – Voices

An interview with Gianmaria Testa

The concert at the Trasnational Italy conference was your first ever  performance  in the UK.  Do you think that it is important to promote Italian music and culture and to familiarise foreign audiences with it? What are the benefits for  Italy  especially during the difficult times we are facing now?

Songs have a power to communicate that goes beyond conveying meanings with their lyrics. In this sense, I think, songs can reach even those who don’t understand the language, the words of the singer. But I don’t do concerts outside my country to make its music and culture known. This may be a “collateral damage”. Wherever I play, at any latitude, my intent is always the same, to express something that I wouldn’t be able to express otherwise.  With regards to Italy, I have the impression that our country has suffered so many injuries from the hands of those who have the task of governing it that any good and responsible Italian citizen can only contribute to improving its image and reputation around the world.

In your career you have been mainly singing of migrants, displaced people and boundaries. Do you think that music (and the arts in general) can influence people’s perceptions of these issues?

I do not think that my work is deserving to be labelled “art”; I don’t know if it makes any lasting impression on the audience. However I know, as everyone should, the damaging effects of creativity when it is unable to speak about present concerns or, and this is even worse, when it tries to please current political powers. The large majority of television channels have enormously amplified the most superficial aspects in all of us by giving them role models and a voice . Those who have acquired, over time, a small but significant right to talk in front of an audience must acknowledge that they have responsibilities such as for instance the responsibility not to lie and not to keep silent. The issue of migration has a long history and it has been addressed by many. In my case I wrote about migration to lessen the unbearable weight of the fact that Italy, after supplying the world with migrants (more so than any other country in Western Europe), has passed inhuman laws such as that authorising the right of entry refusal at sea. A country that forgets the meaning of the word “hospitality” is a poor country.

What is it like to play in front of an audience composed mainly of academics?

Of course I’ve never been interested in my listeners’ CVs; if I did that I would never go on stage. I write and sing folk songs ; and I treat the adjective “folk” with all the respect it deserves.

Academics too are part of the folk unless they want to dissociate themselves from it. For these, whom I might call “primi inter pares”, every one of my concert venues has an emergency exit.

Can you please tell us something about your future plans?

I usually write when I have something to say, mainly to myself. At the moment my future plans are not very clear. My next publication project will probably be a children’s book including a lullaby.

Photo by Pietro Vertamy


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This entry was posted on August 21, 2012 by in Voices.
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