Italy is not just about pizzas! No, savoring the cheesy delight is often accompanied by lively music bringing out the showstopper in you. Italy does peppy, Italy does spirited. A spirited amalgamation of diverse cultures, Italian music is deep-rooted in traditions and history. There are several famous Italian songs which make the chart every year, but how well do you know Italian music?
Tracing the Roots
Italian music has heavy influences from the folk culture and the coming together of ages and region. Revered for its rich musical taste, Italy stands out with the classical Opera. The classical spectacle is more than just high notes; it is a way of life. Before delving further into the many musical genres of Italy, it is important to know the origins.
Italian folk music stems from a long and multifaceted history. Before the national unification which made Italy as we know it today, the peninsula was home to hundreds of diverse cultures and races. A single unit of fusing cultures, Italian folk music beautifully reflects the heterogeneity of the different states and their inhabitants. Look closely and you will observe a positive influence of Arabic and African music with a hint of Celtic, Slavic and Persian. Seemingly, southern Europe and the Mediterranean basin also have had geo-cultural commands over Italian folk music.
Alan Lomax, a famous American ethnomusicologist devised a classification system to identify Italian folk music based on its geographical influence. When Lomax arrived in Italy, he found a dire need of classifying Italian folk music suffering from a sense of unique identification. This helped to strengthen Italian folk music by lending it a distinct identity that would stay for years to come.
Famous Italian Folk Songs
Some of the famous Italian songs by region are:
Quel mazzolin di fiori from Friuli, La bergera from Piedmont, La Madunnina, Dormi, dormi, bel Bambin from Lombardy, The Carnival of Venice from Veneto, Romagna mia from Emilia-Romagna, Firenze sogna from Tuscany, Arrivederci Roma, Chitarra romana, La Romanina from Latium, Reginella campagnola from Abruzzo, Funiculà, O Marenariello, O Mari, ’O sole mio, ‘O surdato innammurato, Torna a Surriento from Campania, Calabrisella mia, Riturnella, Vigna from Calabria and, Ciuri ciuri, Si maritau Rosa, Vitti na crozza from Sicily.
Rock through the Day
Band Spotlight: Modena City Ramblers
Italian folk music sees an interesting twist through the music of Modena City Ramblers. An Italian folk-rock band, Modena City Ramblers has sold over 500,000 albums making its place among the popular Italian artists. Your playlist of famous Italian songs will be incomplete without their chart-topping numbers. According to Spotify, here are their top 10 songs from various albums:
- In Un Giorno Di Pioggia from Riportando Tutto A Casa
- Quarant’anni from Riportando Tutto A Casa
- Le Lucertole Del Folk from La Grande Famiglia
- Fuori Campo from the self-titled album Fuori Campo
- I Cento Passi from Viva la Vida, Muera la Muerte!
- Al dievel from Appunti partigiani
- Mia dolce rivoluzionaria from Dopo il lungo inverno
- La Strada from La Grande Famiglia
- Ninnananna from Riportando Tutto A Casa
- La Banda Del Sogno Interrotto from La Grande Famiglia
Words of a Rebel
Artist Spotlight: Fabrizio De André
The rebel loved by Italians, Fabrizio De André is one of the most popular singer/songwriters. De André loved to make a socio-political commentary with his songs and was heavily influenced by the likes of Leonard Cohen and Bob Dylan. His songs borrowed deeply from Genoese folk songs and one could clearly see it from the number Creuz De Ma or Mule Track Of The Sea in English. The song talks about a sailor’s lonely life, a life of endless travels. He writes about the alienation faced by the sailors upon returning home and not being able to recognise themselves. De André writes, so they are strangers with fleeting lives and unrecognised origins.
A 20th-century genius, Fabrizio De André celebrated the laborious lives of prostitutes while attacking the deception posed by Catholic churches. The critically acclaimed and celebrated songwriter died on January 11, 1999. Even after death, he remains an icon of protest.
Fabrizio De André’s album, Hotel Supramonte comprises some of the most famous Italian songs which are regarded as cult classics till date. The songs from this album describe the struggles of De André and his girlfriend during their hard times at central Sardinia. The singer and his girlfriend were abducted for four months by a notorious gang of Sardinia bandits and imprisoned for ransom.
Artist Spotlight: Rino Gaetano
Yet another prolific artist, Rino Gaetano was a famous singer and, songwriter from Italy. Known for his rough voice that beautifully complimented his politically charged lyrics, Gaetano had several famous Italian songs under his kitty. The satirical numbers took the country by storm and Gaetano’s albums grossed highly. Even today, the artist enjoys 736,394 monthly listeners in Spotify. Some of his popular numbers include Ahi Maria, A mano a mano, Fontana chiara and Ad esempio a me piace il sud among others.
A free spirit, Gaetano’s Il Cielo è Sempre Più Blu, introduced him to the limelight with its sarcastic narration of Italian society. The singer met a tragic end in a car accident at the age of 31. His third album, Aida enjoys 100 percent likes in Google till date.
Popular songs from the album Aida:
- Fontana chiara
- Spendi spandi effendi
- Sei ottavi
- Escluso il cane
- La festa di Maria
- Rare tracce
- Ok papà
Mapping Italian Pop
Taylor Swift was recently announced ‘Woman of the Decade’ by Billboard. English pop music it seems is going places, with the pop queen recognized with a prestigious honor. The decade also saw the emergence of the K-Pop phenomenon taking the world by storm. However, little is known about European pop. You might be surprised to read that Italian DNA runs prolifically through contemporary pop music; that there are queens of Italian pop who will bowl you over with their powerful vocals and equally empowering lyrics. There is nothing that Madonna can do which Italians cannot do match up to. Incidentally, some of the most famous Italian songs are from the Pop genre.
Artist Spotlight: Laura Pausini
Taking Italian pop to the Billboards’ hot numbers, Laura Pausini paints an unforgettable picture with her stunning vocals. She is also the first to be recognised by Fimi (Italian Music Industry Federation) for her indispensable contribution to the circulation of Italian music on a global scale. The international sensation marked her debut at the ripe age of 18 and has sold over 70 million albums sold since then. Her first appearance was at the Sanremo Music Festival in 1993.
The pop singer belted out several famous Italian songs and is also known for her Latin and English hits. The five-time Grammy Award-winning singer/songwriter started her career with La Solitudine which also has an English version.
Here is a list of the best of Laura Pausini Greatest Hits:
- Strani amori
- Non c’è
- E ritorno da te
- Come se non fosse stato mai amore
- Dove Resto Solo Io
- In assenza di te
- Jamás Abandoné
- Tra te e il mare
- Primavera in anticipo
Italy Top 10 Songs for 2019
The coolest number-one hits from Italy’s Singles and Albums Charts as noted by FIMI for 2019 are listed below. So, celebrate the end of a grand decade with top Italian songs and stir up the party!
- Il cielo nella stanza by Salmo featuring Nstasia from the album Playlist
- È sempre bello by Coez and Salmo from the album Playlist
- Stamm fort by Luchè featuring Sfera Ebbasta and Salmo from the album Playlist
- TVTB by Fedez featuring Dark Polo Gang from the album Paranoia Airlines
- Soldi by Mahmood from the album Giovani per sempre Irama
- Con Calma by Daddy Yankee featuring Snow from the album Dove gli occhi non arrivano
- Calipso by Charlie Charles and Dardust featuring Sfera Ebbasta, Mahmood and Fabri Fibra
- Veleno 7 by Gemitaiz and Madman from the album Jova Beach Party
- Ho paura di uscire 2 by Machete, Salmo and Lazza from the album
- Dove e quando by Benji & Fede from the album Machete Mixtape 4
Behind the Meaning
If you have always wondered what Italian songs speak of, fret not! Here are three melodious and famous Italian songs to set the mood and help you understand the lyrics better, in a language you know better.
L’isola by Emma Marrone
L’isola which literally translates as The Island is a tale of escape. The song talks about fading away into the horizon, away from the clutches of everything and everyone.
Una Chiave by Caparezza
Una Chiave translates into The Key. The song seems to be an interview of the singer with his younger self. It discusses the key to solving the important mysteries of life.
Bengala by Lorenzo Fragola
A song of heartbreak and isolation, Bengala beautifully depicts the distance between two lovers. The song puts forward the agony of loneliness, even in the presence of a lover. It talks about the lingering feeling of hatred while being in love, making you tear each other apart.
The Great Italian Opera
An article on Italian music remains widely incomplete without the mention of operas. Remember Bianca Castafiore from Tintin? The fictional character is an opera singer, much to the distress of Captain Haddock.
Opera has its roots in Italian linguistics. The language with myriad vowels and no oxytones served as the perfect bed for the birth of the genre. ‘Lyric Opera’ as you know it took shape during the Renaissance with Camerata de’ Bardi. The Camerata de’ Bardi was a group of reformed intellectuals and artists operating in Florence, who tried to bring back the storytelling of the Greek drama. The first recorded Opera was Dafne by Jacopo Peri.
Opera during the Baroque Era
The second phase of Italian opera flourished during the Baroque era. Now, opera was put into two main categories, Opera seria and Opera buffa. While Opera seria dealt with the dramatics and the tragedy, Opera buffa was one for the laughs. Records state that the first public performance of the opera was in 1673 in a public theatre.
It was in the 18th century that Naples emerged as the heart of Italian opera and became the hub of opera production. Slowly, the Italian style of Opera was being accepted as the grammar for opera production worldwide. Soon, Naples, Venice and Rome emerged as an extensive network of opera production, setting irreplaceable standards.
Did you know that Mozart and Gluck were two of the most popular opera composers in the Italian style? Mozart worked closely with famous Italian poets Pietro Metastasio and Lorenzo Da Ponte.
So what are some of the famous Italian songs from operas? The powerfully charged vocals accompanied by technically perfect performances make this stand out from the rest.
Here are some of the most recognized arias from Italy that you can immerse yourself into:
- Der Hölle Rache from Mozart’s Die Zauberflöte.
- Casta Diva from Bellini’s Norma.
- La donna è mobile from Verdi’s Rigoletto
- Nessun Dorma” from Puccini’s Turandot
- O mio babbino caro from Puccini’s Gianni Schicchi.
- Largo al Factotum” from Rossini’s Il barbiere di Siviglia
- Habanera, better known as L’amour est un oiseau rebelle from Bizet’s Carmen
- Quando me’n vo, better known as Musetta’s Waltz from Puccini’s La bohème
- Non più andrai” from Mozart’s Le nozze di Figaro
- Toreador Song, popularly known as Votre toast, je peux vous le rendre from Bizet’s Carmen
Still confused about which genre to hit first to know more about Italian music? If anything can be said about Italian music, it can simply be summed up as wholesome melody for the soul. So, sit back and relax as you take a fulfilling step towards discovering Italian music, one genre at a time