In the series of songs I’ve chosen to cover so far, I’ve concentrated on songs sung in the English language. For the next edition I wanted to try my hand at singing in tongues other than my own native language. I’ve listened to music sung from around the world since my late teens and over the years these different tongues have become familiar despite not always being to understand the lyrics. At a recent gig, I sung a cover of Boubacar Traore’s ‘Santa Mariya’ although I had the benefit of Vieux Farka Toure being on hand to help me obtain a passable pronunciation of Bambara.
I speak Italian and I was familiar as a child with the Neapolitan language from the cassettes my parents used to play of the old classics from Napoli. I must admit that I wasn’t always as enchanted by these songs as I am now. As a teenager and as a fan of the Smiths, their sentimentality and romantic nature couldn’t have been more alien to me but time plays strange tricks with the way we listen and feel things.
So ironically, many years later, I ended up falling in love with the music from Napoli when I heard Roberto Murolo’s recordings from the 60’s. In his sparse arrangements, these wonderful songs came to life balancing the bitter and sweet into a delicate marriage to woo the senses. At the time I was listening to Joao Gilberto and Caetano Veloso, reveling in the intimacy and poise between voice and guitar. When I heard Murolo sing, I realized that, closer to home and closer to my ancestry, there was someone doing everything I had come to love in music.
Curious to know whether there were any contemporary singers in Napoli today who could enchant me in the same way, I came across the singer Pino Daniele and although I’m not always enamored of the arrangements in his early albums, the quality of the songwriting is of the highest order and cuts through the fog of 80’s production.
So rather than choose an old classic from the sublime repertoire of Canzone Napoletana, here is a beautiful song written in the late 70’s by Pino Daniele.
It tells the story of a widowed old man walking in the moonlight by the sea.
More than a song, this is a heart stopping poem put to music.