Venditti: ‘We lost our sense of history’
Politics has always infiltrated Antonello Venditti’s music – even unintentionally, right down to his Malta concert last week, which was postponed to this Saturday due to the death of Dom Mintoff.
“I’m surprised at the lack of coverage on the former Prime Minister in the Italian media; it’s strange,” says the veteran Italian singer-songwriter, before a concert in Sicily last Sunday.
“We’ve lost our sense of history,” Venditti says, visibly perturbed as he puffs long and hard on the first cigarette of a chain-smoking session during a hot and humid evening in Taormina.
When Venditti was informed his Malta concert would be postponed due to two days of national mourning, the first thing he did was check out the news... but he stumbled across “zero”.
He blames the oversight on the world’s distraction due to globalisation, the problem of the euro, the banks and the economic crisis.
“These have lowered the level of the culture of information, which is always hammering on the same subjects to the point of preventing us from honouring an important figure.”
On his part, Venditti, who knows much about Malta, thinks postponing his concert was the least he could have done.
“The truth is a historical cord has been severed; whether you loved him, or hated him, when a presumed enemy dies, he has to be honoured as a form of respect for those who believed in him,” he maintains.
Venditti, who is “absolutely left-wing”, allows politics and social themes to dominate the conversation – as much as they have influenced his music over the last 40 years.
He is renowned for injecting them into his songs and never refrained from publicising his position – even on the football pitch.
To date, he has released more then 30 albums, the latest, Unica, featuring the controversial Berlusconi-inspired song La ragazza del Lunedì (Silvio).
The singer is clearly disenchanted by Italian politics, which simply “does not work”, and he takes the opportunity to re-stress that point to a packed Teatro Greco later, telling his audience it would be a while before the Italians could go to the polls and that they first needed an electoral law.
“If I say ours is worse than Burundi’s I would be disrespecting Burundi!”
Looking back, he knows he has risked his life for what he stood for, how he behaved and what he sang, but he would do it again. “I can’t stay quiet!”
Maybe he should have entered politcs, but Venditti says he has in his own way – in the form of the free thinker.
And yes, alliances can be alienating and there has been a price for taking a stand in the form of criticism from every angle – and no friends.
But his fans have understood his message through the universal language of music.
“I love throwing bombshells, without being aware of the consequences,” he admits of a life lived on the edge.
But the tactic has also been to sing “for” something, not “against”; to avoid turning an issue into a battle.
A staunch Roma fan, he believes his football team could be substituted by Milan, for example, in his anthem, resulting in the same “emotional adhesion”.
If he had to write a song right now, “the subject can only be one: erase debt”. Starting all over again from zero is the only way forward, in his view, to be able to have a world without wars.
Of course, he would present the arid subject in a more poetic way.
In fact, politics and his romantic spirit intermingle and fuse, and Venditti moves on to the last time a concert of his was cancelled.
It was caused by a downpour that allowed him to spend more time in the company of a woman he had recently met.
And the rest of the story is like the lyrics of a love song...
As the piano on the Grand Hotel Timeo terrace starts playing, Venditti moves in and out of the political scene, talking about love in equal measures of passion.
“I avoided strong feelings for a while to play safe, but you are not safe then either; you just annul a part of yourself – the creative side... It’s useless...,” he whispers as he feels his pulse speed up, indicating he is no longer impenetrable.
It gives him a sense of insecurity and he admits to being afraid. “I haven’t yet written a song in this state of mind. It’s totally new and not that pleasant.
“All I want to do is switch off my brain...” he says, revealing a cross between exhilaration and fear.
Venditti’s concert at the open grounds of the Malta Fairs and Convention Centre, Ta’ Qali, on Saturday is part of his Unica 2012 tour.
It also includes classics, such as Altamarea, Ci Vorrebbe Un Amico and Ogni Volta, and he jokes that these have withstood the test of time because “the world is regressing”.
The last time he performed in Malta was in 2001 – and things have changed over the past decade.
“Finally, I will be bringing over a completely different, full-blown rock show as opposed to a more intimate set-up, composed of me and my piano,”he promises.
The audience may be expected to keep him updated about the football scores, as they did at the Sicily concert.
In turn, he is likely to stop to chat about heartfelt issues... and to bum a cigarette and smoke as he sings.
Just be sure you can offer him the strongest brand.
Antonello Venditti’s concert is being organised by Standout Events and special guests are Winter Moods. Tickets cost between €25 and €150.