My birth and family
I was born on the 19th December 1973 in Viareggio, 14 months later my sister Maria Chiara was born and in 1978 my brother Daniele arrived. We are a very close family, even if we are rather boisterous: each of us has our own timetable and we all meet up for meals only once or twice a week! My father is the corner stone of the family ....Calm, quiet, rational....but prone to occasional outbursts of artistic temperament. As a young man he painted and acted. Now when his friends organise jazz concerts he is the lighting designer, because he is always out of tune and cannot play any instruments...Maybe this is the reason that he encouraged me to sing!
The Bar/ Trattoria and "Deda"
My mother had a restaurant and worked as the cook: therefore from an an early age we (myself, my sister and brother) were looked after all the time by babysitters or by our grandparents. Up until the age of 5-6, when I came home from nursery school my nanny was my cousin Teresa (who was nicknamed "Deda"). She took me around on her red moped and taught me to sing Miele from Il Giardino dei Semplici.
Deda was a waitress in our restaurant and in the late afternoon, before starting work, she took me to my cousins where we sang the songs of Cugini di Compagna, Homio Sapiens, Umberto Balsamo or Collage.....and then when Happy Days started on the T.V. we would go down to watch it in the Bar. I was too young to understand the dialogue of Fonzie and Co, in fact I was only really interested in the theme tune (Rock around the clock) so that I could dance rock and roll with Deda.
The rubbish dump
The areas where I played in my childhood were the rubbish dump in the hills behind the Restaurant and my uncle's chicken house/ pigsty. Around the rubbish dump there was a wood, which was the set of many of my imaginary adventure films...What a wild childhood!
During my first days at school I was sent out every morning by the teachers for continually disturbing the class. I had no trouble understanding the lessons and I soon became a model student, of impeccable conduct.
After my first infatuation for Bruce Lee (for some years after which I continued to practice martial arts), my big love was, without doubt, Elvis Presley. I saw some of his old films on T.V. and I was given a double album of his hits. In the meantime I went to live in a large house in the hills near the rubbish dump (around it was a beautiful garden with pine trees and mimosa and a vineyard, but you could always smell the dump!) and I had my own record player, placed in front of a large window from which I could see the garden and vineyard and on down to the road lined with lime trees. In this place I listened to Don't be cruel, I want you I need you I love you and Viva Las Vegas, whilst dreaming of the day when I would meet him and spend the rest of my life with him.
When one of my babysitters told me that he had been dead for many years, I was ill all day. But I recovered and turned my affections to Little Tony (!) and Bobby Solo (!!), whom I saw in the films from the 60's on local T.V. and always believed where still as young as they were in the films!! Joking aside, Elvis was a fundamental discovery for a girl of 8 who had previously listened only to Italian songs such as Anima Mia, and so, partly to be able to sing his songs and partly to to be able to talk to an English boy (Dante McIlwayne-Gray) with whom I was in love, the next year I started a taking English lessons. The last of the infatuations that filled my years at primary school was real hero worship. My family had bought me up as a Catholic and after I saw Zefferelli's film The life of Christ I fell madly in love with Jesus. Then I realised it was the actor (Robert Powell) who had stolen my heart and I threw in the sponge!
In secondary school I discovered that the lack of affection I had received when I was a young child resulted in my idolisation of certain people with the desire to win their affections. For example there was a very charismatic classics teacher there, Lilli, who was full of infectious energy and was exceedingly likable. She was 50 years old and in spite of her respectable position used to swear and behave crazily, but behind all this I could sense that she had a sound character and a great deal of common sense, which I tried to adopt for myself.
My first film
In my third year at secondary school we made a short film with the help of the art teachers: it was called Difficult moments(!) and told the story of a girl who took drugs. The teachers found out about it and arranged a meeting with the girl's mother at the headmasters house, the girl fell in love with the headmasters son and was persuaded to go to a rehabilitation center. I had the leading role (since I was at nursery school I had always wanted to be the protagonist!), but I didn't make a very credible character with my rounded figure and ruddy complexion! Maybe there is still a copy of the film in the archives of the "Festival del cinema dei ragazzi di Pisa".
My new adulation in secondary school was for Madonna. In these years the girls divided their allegiance between
Duran Duran, Spandau Ballet and Wham!: I followed Wham because I believed that not only were they better looking but that they were also more talented, but Madonna was highly superior in my eyes..........and also, after my passion for Elvis had ended badly, I realised that it was useless to believe totally in the young and unreachable male stars: I would do better to study in depth female singers not only to improve my vocal abilities but also to discover what was needed to become a star.
So in 1986 I bought the album True Blue and, after days and days glued to my stereo, I learnt it all by heart. This time my religious infatuation was for St. Francis: also after seeing the film by Zefferelli, but this time the infatuation wasn't for the handsome actor: I was fascinated by his love for all living creatures and his distance from everything in the world that was mundane and superfluous (it was at this time that I became a member of WWF!).
I went to an experimental college founded by the Cavanist priests specializing in Scientific studies to study mathematics and computers. In spite of their often bigoted religious emphasis they didn't always succeed in converting their students: for example Tinto Brassi was an ex Cavanis pupil! Some of the teachers belonged to the religious order, but of all the highly qualified teachers the best was Father Bruno: halfway between Pasolini and Gian Maria Volontè, he taught art and art history but spent most of his time in the enormous grounds of Villa Borbone a Le Pianore (Lucca) surrounding the school, surrounded by the ancient trees and tropical plants, he tended the garden. He was a poignant figure, most especially when he was explaining the art of Fidia or Mantegna, but he also possessed a sharp irony.
A year after True Blue in '87 I got Solitude Standing by Suzanne Vega: and so discovered a different style of feminine music, less brazen and more discretely subtle, outlines of emotional states where pain and courage find themselves amongst those who cannot always manage their lives become poetry and motivation for social awareness. The records on my record player at this time were Solitude Standing by Suzanne Vega, Tracey Chapmans debut album, Short, Sharp Shocked by Michelle Shocked and Farewell Angelina by Joan Baez from my fathers record collection.
Thanks to Barbara, who came from Cremona and looked like Kim Basinger, and who sat next to me at school I discovered the Eagles Hotel California and Led Zepplin's Stairway to Heaven. Barbara died on the night of her eighteenth birthday in a car accident: both these songs reunite me with her, like a sad prophecy. I passed long afternoons in front of the stereo, almost believing that a magic door would open and lead me to another world where everything was possible, like Alice who followed the white rabbit with the watch...
The first group
In the summer of 1988 I arrived at that magic door, I joined my first rock'n'roll band. We were called Modellio Allipari (unpronounceable!), the band (all 17-18 years old) rehearsed in the cellar of the drummers house in a little village in the province of Lucca and I used to go there every Saturday afternoon by bus. We played things like Jailhouse rock, Blue suede shoes, Tutti Frutti, Be Bop a Lula, Twist and Shout and also some numbers which were a bit more r'n'r such as Two Young Lovers and Walk of Life by Dire Straits. We didn't forget Bruce Springsteen; and my strongest numbers were Bobby Jean, No Surrender and I'm on Fire. Singing in a group changed my life, it made me more extrovert and I began (VERY slowly) to accept myself.
Now I was nurtured and protected by the boys in the group, most of all by the bass player, Nico, with whom I was secretly in love and had the most important friendship of those years. I was the Patti Scialfa of the Luccans. When I sang I was filled with a surprising and all-encompassing energy (fuelled by the bitterness that I had swallowed and the rejections that I continued to receive from the few people that I had become fond of regardless of the many admirers that I had begun to acquire, I had many more reasons to be angry than the experienced Morisette).
The final years at College
To conclude the story of my time at college I want to mention amongst the most important events my study/holiday in Scotland, Cornwall, Devon and Yorkshire, and another strong infatuation for a figure of authority: Franco Battiato. I wanted to marry him (until I heard that he preferred Middle-Easterners because he found northerners too "wooden"!), I knew everything about him even his experimental years with Fetus and Sulle corde di Aries, I read everything that he mentioned (Fleur Jaeggy, Renè Guenon, Gurdjieff...), it took me by storm and I became a know-all to all the poor people who found themselves talking to me about him.
In '93 I met him and talked to him three times. After the last conversation at "Caffè della Versiliana" conducted by Romano Battiglia where he was a guest because he was performing there that evening, he turned to the interviewer and said "It's fantastic...You see why I go on tour? To meet people like her who follow, who carry out research..." oh, what consecration! Through Battiati I got to know and appreciate Alice and Milva, two laudable people. I loved Mèlodie Passagère, Il Sole nella Piogga (in which I discovered Peter Hammil) and Mezzogiorno sulle Alpi (from which I got to know Tim Buckley, from the cover of Blue Melody) by Alice. Milva was a lively character, she has sung nearly everything known to man, from Brecht-Weill to Piazzolla, from Berio to Jannacci, and she insisted, at the age of 60, on dying her hair red, laying out her singers character but showing her fragility talking of her depression, reading Thomas Bernhard...
I graduated with 56/60 even though I was a candidate at 70. I took the oral mathematics exam simply as a challenge because I hated it but I wanted to fight through to the end, I wasn't interested in passing and I didn't need the qualification, mentally I had already left this subject and couldn't wait to begin studying philosophy.
At Pisa university I had lectures from 8 to 6 in the evening, I followed seven courses and seminaries with unprecedented enthusiasm. I now feel that I wasted a lot of time following courses only out of curiosity or spending 4-5 months on an exam and treating it as a mission in which it was imperative that I knew every comma..in particular I studied nearly everything by Wittgenstein, the philosopher with whom I was most impressed. Never mind, that is what happened, and now I still have not done the exams whilst most of my friends have had a degree for a while.
Eight groups that I was with and...
I have to admit that I "lost" a great deal of time in singing with various groups. With the old group we revived all our repertoire which now concentrated on the soul classics ( I saw The Blues Brothers and The Commitments and we did many of the songs) and Janis Joplin, who I admired and imitated, so much so that I copied her dress and hairstyle and thought that I was her reincarnation! I remember one evening, after Kozmic Blues, a biker dressed in black leather and studs (who looked like the wrestler Hulk Hogan) kneeled in front of me, held my hand and said "May I kiss it? You have given me fantastic vibes" ... ..WOW!
Second group - Bad Experience - With them I had a repertoire which I liked better: Melissa Etheridge, Sass Jordan, Mother Station, Jimi Hendrix, Ann Peebles, Move over by Janis..But I didn't get on very well with the other players so, after a year, I moved on.
Third group - Funk A.A.- their repertoire was a bit more "juvenile", but very useful for developing a certain finesse: George Benson, Rebecca Tornquist, Sting, Cyndi Lauper, Noa, Sade....Being used to shouting rock and roll singing these new songs was like a vocal retraining, and gave me the chance to develop good vocal control and increase my vocal agility. After that it was the sweetest of pleasures to sing Path to Follow and Time after Time...
Fourth group - Senza Freni - I began to sing with them in May '95 because their singer, Petra Magoni, had signed a contract to make her own C.D. (and in fact performed at San Remo twice, in '97 with E ci sei and the following year with Voglio un dio, in which I was in the chorus.) They were booked to perform at Arezzo Wave that summer and as well as Petra they wanted me to go too. It was the first time that I had sung with a group who performed their own songs, and I also participated in the making of a song by writing the text of Lo Strano. After a year I left the group because rather than singing I had to performed Cabaret. We would go n stage dressed as "Thrash" as possible and to choreograph their funk-hard-core-crossover I had to do dance steps and expressions that were frankly embarrassing.... Tabitta, the bass player from SuperB, also from Pisa, was a friend of the drummer and often came to see us at rehearsals.
Fifth group - Rosso Acido - The nicest group: playing with them was great fun.The style we played was acid-jazz: Incognito, Jamiroque, Count Basic and ... Pino Daniele! I tried to put into practice the techniques I had learnt the previous year from lessons with Tiziana Ghiglioni. I managed to pass as "acid" two funky numbers by Sheryl Crow Solidify and Love is a good thing. We also wrote two songs ourselves Datami da bere and L'unica cosa viva, in the style of Irene Grande. It was in their style, not mine, from the moment that they made Sheryl Crow my alter ego, but they are sweet songs, and I enjoyed singing them. We played at the "Anfiteatro Jazz" in Lucca in 1996, supporting Enrico Rava, Funky Company and Jestofunk.
Sixth group - Ikebana - this was the beginning of my involvement with Livorno jazz players. In fact the guitarist bass player and keyboard player play on the C.D. of Malina. Our repertoire was more or less Funk A.A. with some rearranged jazz classics. As a five piece band we didn't last long, more often than not playing as duos or trios.I continued training my voice but by now was dreaming of my own songs, and I missed rock and roll.
Seventh group - Gruppo Elettrogeno - I sang with them for a few months, temporarily replacing their singer Lobna Youssef, an Eygyptian friend of mine with an incredible voice and feeling for music......... an excellent singer even though she was only 18. I sang songs by Little Feat, Joan Armatrading, Steve Miller, Portishead, Red Hot Chili Peppers.....new songs that I learnt with voracity. But most of all it is thanks to them that I discovered Joni Mitchell and Rikki Lee Jones: what class!
8° gruppo - Plisdebill - Basically Ikebana with a different drummer and keyboard player (the latter also played on my CD.) With them I did Chic, Earth, Wind and Fire, Sister Sledge and Dance from the '80's. It was fun for a while but after a year I even got fed up with singing Disco Inferno.
Taking into consideration all the New Years eves spent singing Romagna Mia, the marriages with the classic "what women don't say" (see "Tre uomini e una gamba", "Three men and a leg", - a comedy recently released in Italy,) my participation with Traditional Irish music, and my unsuccessful attempt to set up a country group, Bonnie Riatt-style, and all the nights spent risking my neck driving in cars full of instruments, I have completed my long apprenticeship. Now, at 25 years old, I feel too weary to start tiring myself out travelling around the world, simply to gain more experience. I do it now because I have something to say about myself, and if someone, like the bike-rider mentioned above, comes and thanks me for giving him good vibes then my satisfaction is immensely greater.
The C.D. "Gently Hard" by Malina
In September '96 the guitarist and pianist from Ikebana, Marco Baracchino and Andrea Pellegrini, took me to Castagneto Carducci(LI) to Filippo Gaetano's recording studio "Le Bozze" with the intention of recording some previously unrecorded songs of mine. The project started out in Italian (the first recording was on 19/12/96, my 23rd birthday, and was of an Italian version of "I'm Gliding"), but in spring Fillippo went to London to buy a mixing desk from John Oram, and took a test tape on which I sang Roxanne by the Police.
John commented that I could sing very well in English as I didn't have a trace of an Italian accent; so I rewrote the text and by May '97 we had our first demo tape of three of my songs, a cover of Joni Mitchell's, Help me and So Far away by Carole King. For a variety of reasons this project slowed down, but in the summer of '98 thanks to the trust of members of CIS records we restarted work and in March of the following year we produced a C.D. of 14 songs. From this point on my biography is still to be written...
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