Franco Fabbri

Nowhere Land:
The Construction of a 'Mediterranean' Identity
in Italian Popular Music.


Domenico Modugno at the San Remo Festival

The notion of Mediterranean-ness has been circulating in Italian popular music for decades. Since Domenico Modugno's success at the 1958 San Remo Festival with Nel blu dipinto di blu, the idea of juxtaposing new songs inspired by cosmopolitan models and the traditional models of national popular music began to establish itself. The problem arose as to how to reinterpret references to the Southern (especially Neapolitan) musical heritage which at first seemed to be completely confined to the traditionalists and preservationists, with the exceptions of Modugno himself and Renato Carosone.  
It was not until the Seventies that we find the trace of a new and explicit integration of Neapolitan-ness into the corpus of modern Italian popular music, and it was only in the Eighties that the idea of a more general membership of a 'Mediterranean musical culture' began to appear. Fabrizio De André's album Creuza de mä is exemplary for two reasons. It is a deliberate project to reconstruct a new Ligurian dialectal folklore based on retrieved elements (without any particular rigor but following certain distinct aesthetic criteria) from the various traditions of countries surrounding the Mediterranean. 

Creuza de Mä

It also, unadvoidably, contains references to the work carried out in those years by musicians such as Brian Eno, David Byrne and Peter Gabriel. Subsequently, the idea of Mediterranean-ness wove its way through the Arabian fantasies of musicians such as Franco Battiato, and became particularly entangled with the new buzz word 'contamination' that had become commonplace among the critics and the popular music community in the 1990s, after the definitive establishment in Italy of the generic-stylistic model of 'World Music'.

The study of the development of this abstract idea of Mediterranean-ness, as contrasted with the concrete instances of its implementation, presents a very good opportunity to reflect further on how musical categories are elaborated.

  1. The Mediterranean and Naples
  2. 'Urlatori' and 'melodici'. And 'cantautori'
  3. The eclipsing of the Neapolitan song  
  4. A tradition to be invented
  5. Creuza de mä
  6. Ideology and musical categories
  7. Bibliography
  8. Notes

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