How Reggae has influenced Italian artists

Summer is fast approaching and the radio stations are beginning to timidly play summer-inspired songs with one genre in particular that is popular among most age groups, reggae.

 

Originally from Jamaica and formed during the 1960s, the style is a blend of West African traditional music, brought to the Caribbean as the result of the slave trade, rhythm and blue, and jazz. It is mostly performed in English and has had a world impact, including Italy.

 

In fact, the country is no stranger to the genre as many internationally acclaimed artists have embraced reggae and managed to personalise it by blending in local politics, protests, and traditions and thus giving Italian reggae its own distinguishable style. Furthermore, many have also performed in their regional dialects, such as Sud Sound System and Pitura Freska, with the former using Salentine and the latter Venetian.

The first Italian artist to be mentioned is a pioneering female artist, Loredana Bertè. Hailing from Reggio Calabria, in Southern Italy, and born in 1950, Bertè was among one of the first ever female artists to record reggae beats with using the Italian language with tracks such as “E la luna bussò” (roughly translated into “and the moon knocked”), produced and released in 1979 peaking at #8 in the Italian charts. In 2018, after a 6-year hiatus, Bertè released a summer hit “Non ti dico no” (“I won’t tell you no”) in collaboration with another reggae-inspired Italian bad Boomdabash. The song peaked at #8 on the Italian charts and at #1 on the Italian airplay charts.

 

Bertè dedicated many of her songs to failed relationships, including the divorce to the famous Swedish tennis player Bjorn Borg, her late sister, famous singer Mia Martini, and other life events that had an impact in her life.

Curiously, she partook in the 2019 Sanremo music festival for the eleventh time, finishing fourth.

As mentioned before, there were bands that saw reggae as a means of expression in their local dialect. Pitura Freska were among these. The band was originally from Venice, in the Italian region of Veneto and performed in both Italian and Venetian dialect. In fact, the band’s name is from Venetian and can be translated into “Wet Paint”.

With around one million records sold, and earning the right to perform in the 1997 edition of the prestigious Sanremo Festival, Pitura Freska are considered one of the most influential and popular reggae bands in Italian history. The main themes discussed were acceptance of diversity, pro-immigration, anti-racism and criticisms towards the government and the Catholic Church.

 

 

Another band that found success is Sud Sound System (South Sound System), which hail from Salento area in the Apulia region in Southern Italy. By using Salentine dialect and incorporating regional traditions such as the tarantella and pizzica dances to reggae, Sud Sound System successfully customised the music style rendering it a fully Italian product. With tours in England, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Ukraine, and Germany, the band can also be considered a successful Italian export.

 

With the ability to absorb any genre and personalising it, Italians can be considered masters in music production and adaptation. What do you think? 

 

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