The surprising side B of Renato Carosone’s repertoire

Making a musical tribute to Renato Carosone is both an honor and a challenge. His production embraces many different genres, almost too many to remember. Just to mention a few: Rock and roll, Swing, Mambo, Rumba, Calypso, Tarantella. In addition to the classics that we know, there are many gems in his repertoire, songs that have nothing to envy to the sisters who have had more success. From each arrangement of the Maestro his creative contribution stands out, a signature that distinguishes him from all the rest. And so it is that in another repertoire, that of Los Carosones, over the years less famous songs have been imposed, which have equally enjoyed great success in live performances.

Totò, the Malafemmena and the boogie of Carosone

1951, Formia. On the set of one of his many films, Totò has a coffee. We are in the middle of the “Totò Mania”; Prince De Curtis should be happy about it: he is at the peak of his career, a finally consecrated and stable success awaits him. And yet he finds no peace in all this. Suddenly a sweet and bitter feeling emerges and he manages to translate it into the Neapolitan dialect, quickly pinning the lines on the cardboard of a cigarette box. They were the memories of Diana Rogliani, the wife with whom he had shared twenty years of passion and from whom he had recently separated. She had started a life with another man. Not that Totò was alone, on the contrary: the magazines attributed him a flirtation with a beautiful diva with whom he collaborated. Totò feels betrayed by Diana, he would like to forget her, but the feeling is too great; so big that he gives up. He crystallizes it in four words of his famous song:

“nun te pòzzo scurda ‘”.

Carosone appreciated the scope of Totò’s compositional and melodic genius and made it an opportunity to experiment with a surprising arrangement. If the original “Malafemmena” was a ballad of love, almost a lullaby, Carosone accelerates it. With his saloon piano he invents a fiery, syncopated Boogie Woogie for dancing.
During our live concerts we were inspired by this arrangement and we found great appreciation in the public for the lucky encounter between Neapolitan melody and North American rhythms.

South American influences in the Carosonian repertoire

When we talk about Renato Carosone’s repertoire, the emphasis is often placed on his bridging between Neapolitanism and North America. However, we omit to underline the production of music that came from South America. Perhaps these rhythms needed less introduction to the Italian taste, given the African root in common. But Carosone was undoubtedly a master of so-called Latin music as well. There are dozens and dozens of examples in his repertoire, starting with “Torero“, his greatest international success. This Cha cha cha arrived on the North American Pop Chart in 1958 – coincidentally, at the same time as the “Volare” phenomenon.

In our performances we offer the most successful Latin pieces by Carosone. Can’t miss Carlotta“, little known to the general public, but which amuses and amazes every time. It is a Bajón or, as we would say today, a Cumbia sung by the light-hearted voice of Gegè di Giacomo. A song-spell with which to conquer an unreachable, high-ranking, polyglot woman. Federico Vacalebre, who edited Carosone’s biography together with the artist himself, tells of memorable nights in Cuba, where Gegè sang “’a voglio!” and the choir replied “cosa?” in a crescendo of double meanings and a celebration of Love.

Brazil too must have remained etched in Carosone’s memory and tastes. In our concerts a Samba from 1956 has a special place, which today has been almost completely forgotten: it is called Sciú sciú”, as the nickname used in Naples among lovers. The music of the piece is by Carosone, the words by Calibi, lyricist and founder of Ricordi Records. It was the latter who propitiated the lucky meeting between Renato and Nisa, another formidable lyricist; their collaboration led to successes such as “Tu vuo ‘fa’ l’americano“, “Pigliate ‘na pastiglia“, “Caravan Petrol” and “O’ Sarracino“.