When I found out that Negrita and Subsonica would stretch their tour to Shanghai and Beijing I was pleasantly surprised – and a little jealous.
Better yet, they will come for the Hit Week Festival, which stems from a successful initiative to promote Italian music abroad, and which is due to strike Beijing and Shanghai’s stages from May 31st to June 4th. Together with the leading acts Subsonica and Negrita, the emerging Italian band La Fame di Camilla and local stars such as ShanRen and Zhou Yunshan will also glaze the cake. What better occasion to explore the dark side of the mandolin…
It’s not easy to explain the magnitude of the bands and the role they have played ever since their debut in the mid ‘90a in the Italian ‘underground’ music mob. Negrita, soulful rockers, were formed in a central Italian town, but their adventurous spirit propelled them to compose and tour extensively abroad. They could in this way absorb the attitudes and inspirations that make their music so powerful and catchy. The band’s genuine rock is often embellished by these incursions in more exotic soundscapes. Let’s see what China brings in!
Subsonica may well be considered in many ways (sonic, aesthetical, visual, technological) the pioneers of innovation in what may be lazily embraced as disco-electro-rock-dubstep-jungle-synth-pop-orchestral mixabilia. With reggae-ish roots, of course. The band members are highly qualified musicians, gushing from Turin’s peripheral corners, with a common passion for scraping unconventional beats off the urban walls and propping them up with audacious arrangements and sensual literature pieces.
More details are revealed in the email interview Layabozi had with Negrita’s guitarist, Drigo, and Subsonica’s singer, Samuel.
LAYABOZI: As perfect examples of bands who grew up without growing old, you have kept riding the foam of success since the mid-‘90s, without oxidizing in the mainstream. Besides self-irony, which other elements co-exist in your model of sustainable development? What are the trickiest risks?
NEGRITA: Music is not a job. It’s a sort of investigation on human feelings. There’s no point in aiming at money. The harder you aim at the heart, the longer you’ll live as a musician. The point of aiming at money is to survive. And so is to say, “No money, no concert.”
SUBSONICA: The idea of never stopping creativity is what has always provided the band with strength and vitality. For every recording work we do, we seek renovation through the music that we love and that grows around us. We keep our attitude very aligned with young DJs and dance music producers. Losing the mobility and creativity that characterizes our band would be a fatal error.
LYBZ: Considering the growing possibilities of both physical and digital exchange offered by globalization in the music field, would you re-phrase the over chewed slogan “No Global”? Do you feel invested in the mission of interfering in the possible clichés of Italian music abroad?
N: Globalization is nothing else than the next future. We simply need to meet each other and let go. Music is good. It’s a good mixer. And we can dance.
S: We greenlight expressive globalization, provided the very roots of each culture are maintained sound and strong. The fact of being Italian should be recognizable through confrontation with foreign markets as well. We do, however, say no to commercial and cultural globalization, as each country should be allowed to express its diversity. Indeed, diversity has always represented a reason for comparison and growth.
LYBZ: Your lyrics have truly powerful social and poetic features; how will you manage to turn the ‘lost in translation’ factor in your favor?
S: People who don’t know our language are first captured by the rhythmic expression of our music, a universal language that requires no translation. Only after attending one of our concerts can one start exploring the content of the lyrics, which are yet another universe to discover.
LYBZ: What elements of your hometowns do you generally hope to find in the places you end up when touring? Is there a place outside Italy that has particularly inspired you or horrified you? (They might even coincide…)
N: This is our first time to tour in the East; anyways, we’ve been touring all over the rest of the planet in the last few years. Our music is loading some of the best inputs we received from the cultures we met touring abroad. Actually, we’re enthusiastic globetrotters and we enjoy the gift of life.
S: In general, we try not to expect anything at all, as we believe that expectation is something to be avoided. In fact, we’d rather seek inspiration from the audience that we find every time, especially when we cross borders and many of the people that we meet have never listened to our music.
LYBZ: What were the core impulses that drove you towards music and that have granted this continuity throughout time? Do you prefer the intimacy of the studio or the audience-oriented performances on stage?
N: We are rockers. We need a stage and a hot audience.
S: A musical and creative instinct has always pervaded most of our thoughts; this is what keeps pushing us to make music. We enjoy writing and recording in the studio, but we also love to jump on stage and play our music. A lot.
LYBZ: Social and geographical contingencies inevitably affect the interpretation of one’s inner landscapes. To what extent, for instance, does the intermittent and murky unease of urban paranoia contribute to your creative process? I refer in particular to tracks such as “Immobili” and “Istrice”…
N: There’s something going on in the streets, a crescendo. You can feel it and touch it everywhere. Who knows what’s going to happen next?
S: All the anxieties of our time, experienced through our specific urban and social substrata, have always represented for us a major source of inspiration. We consider ourselves a band that narrates the present using words and music.
LYBZ: Web, music, technology, and tradition: Are they polymers of sound or natural acoustic fibers? Does “The Cloud” obscure or open spaces to unexpected interactions? You seem to have different but complementary approaches; what is the right mix that feeds you and helps you evolve in line with so-called “progress”?
N: Progress is what you have when you are living in the present and you realize it’s ‘old’.
S: Web, music, technology and art are the polymer. Experimentation, evolution and personality are the monomer. Who is able to work with one’s own creativity and to constantly contaminate it will eventually give way to a personal progress.
LYBZ: The statement “virtue brings regrets along” (from Subsonica’ s “Il Serpente”) is quite catchy. How did you manage to remain genuine protesters and respectable rebels without slipping into the stereotypes of the ‘rebel chic’ or into the hazy iconography of the ‘living a damned life’?
N: I’m not too confortable with your definitions. What matters for us is to practice our freedom through music. And possibly to do so with less regrets.
S: We love life, and thanks to the music we’ve lived an exceptional life so far. We do not believe in absolute good or absolute evil, as they both constitute the essence of things: some days you feel authentic, some days you end up rolling in the mud.
LYBZ, to Negrita: How would you define the music of Subsonica? Which track would you pick as the most representative?
N: They play electro pop, Their show is an amazing dance party. I would suggest “Nuova Ossessione”.
LYBZ, to Subsonica: How would you define the music of Negrita? Which track would you pick as the most representative?
S: The simplicity and the power of rock. I’ve loved a lot their first single “Cambio”.
LYBZ: What would you be if you weren’t musicians?
N: Everybody have his own karma. We are musicians
S: A psychologist
LYBZ: How do you imagine your performances in Shanghai and Beijing? Do you have in mind a particular track list or a particular ritual for facing the great incognita of the Chinese audience? Or is Mao’s Little Red Book is a good enough amulet?
S: No need of amulets. Thanks to the particularly catchy rhythmical patterns of our music we can easily cross any language barrier. We’ll show off our most danceable tracks.
LYBZ: Is there a Chinese myth that you hope to dispel? What are the Chinese ‘shadow puppets’ today?
S: People in Italy tend to think that Chinese food is not good. We know it’s not true and we’ll surely prove it in the daily reports we’ll post on our website.
LYBZ: A warm-up message to the public?
S: Keep your legs well trained!
LYBZ: A false warning message to the public? (We obviously don’t’ want to spoil the surprise…)
S: I’m feeling authentic today… keep your legs REALLY well trained!
Subsonica will play Beijing’s Tango on May 31st and Shanghai’s Mao Livehouse on June 3rd.
Negrita will play Beijing’s Tango on June 1st and Shanghai’s Mao Livehouse on June 4th.