Monday, November 2, 2009

Blues and other things Italian

Halloween in Bologna is surprisingly festive. The setting accommodates with winding medieval passageways laid in cobblestones. College students in vampire and zombie makeup pack bars and clubs in the town center Saturday night. I met a friend studying at Johns Hopkins' campus here and we biked through the city center to meet my boyfriend the Italian bluesman. The three of us went to a cafe where a garage band played Italian and American movie hits with surf guitar and an audience of Halloween freaks. It was the last of a full month of good live music in Central Italy.

Thursday night I played with my band of Argentines. We're called Super Turista, we played acoustic versions of dance hits from the 80s along with originals and Manu Chao favorites in French and Spanish. I played rhythm guitar and juggled languages during songs and with banter between.

It wasn't Super Turista's first public venture. We hit the main square, Piazza Maggiore, a couple weeks ago playing Billie Jean and What is Love to loiterers and shoppers on the steps of Neptune's fountain. I tried to disguise myself in my turista shame, donning scarf, sunglasses, and a beanie. The hat look was a keeper, we went with it on stage at Arteria, where the whole master's program showed up and then stayed on to dance to the Taranta band afterwards.

Thank You for the Drum Machine played the same spot a week earlier to a packed house blown away by fake Brit cool.
It was one in a series of good live music including shows by Italian Blues Brothers "Lazy Step" in Tuscan inns, restaurants and town squares. Who'd have thought Muddy Waters could sound so good with a foreign accent? Riding down back roads of the Emilia-Romagna region and listening to singer and guitarist bicker in Italian made for comedic moments while I got to see some countryside and pretend to be a local.

On a visit to Florence with my Argentine roommate we met this friendly family from Calabria. They adopted us for a dance and a photo on the Ponte Vecchio where Hari Krishnas took over the Sunday tourist parade. They were 3 generations traveling together and the grandparents were the rowdiest of the group. The toothless octogenarian grandfather twirled Fer around to Krishna drums and called her bella.

Italian hip hop cheered me up earlier in the month when I was overwhelmed by the language and general tight quarters in my grad school world here. Getting to study is a luxury but there was an adjustment phase when I wanted to snap. Lucky for me, I found out I could bike across the neighborhood to the local community center where live local hip hop happens. Giovanni, in the video below, is also from Calabria and is a big Boot Camp fan. He told me he moved to Bologna because it's a center of Italian rap.

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