The musical influences of the early 1900s on the artists of the Dolce Vita

Each artist is the product of his generation and in turn influences his contemporaries. How then was the extraordinary artistic generation of the Dolce Vita born? Who were the musicians and singers who laid the foundations for Renato Carosone and his contemporaries to make the big leap?
We enjoyed investigating the music that was heard in Italy in the early part of the 1900s and we made some interesting discoveries.

Pippo Starnazza and his Squà man, scat and humor

Starnazza was a drummer and conductor and presented his songs with unbridled humor. In the 1920s he imported scat singing into the Milanese jazz scene, a vocal reproduction of the sound of instruments. Who else could have inspired Gegè di Giacomo, of the Carosone sextet?
Pippo Starnazza left us many recordings from the 1940s with an extraordinary swing.
Above all stands his version of “Besame mucho”, where he shows his ability to invent an original and explosive language by mixing rhythms from North and South America.
He will continue his career in the world of cinema acting alongside the best shots such as Marcello Mastroianni, Sofia Loren and Ugo Tognazzi. In one of his films (“La congiuntura”, 1965, with Vittorio Gassman), during a cameo, he dusts off the scat singing in front of the camera.

Alberto Rabagliati and Natalino Otto, two contamination experiments

If we think about the artists who pioneered jazz and swing in Italian, the two princes of singing are Alberto Rabagliati and Natalino Otto. They collaborated with the orchestras of Gorni Kramer, Pippo Barzizza and Cinico Angelini, who imported and reworked the rhythms and melodies from overseas that arrived in Italy. However, Rabagliati and Otto had very different destinies, influenced by the period in which they carried out their careers, that is the twenty years of Fascism.

Rabagliati represented the correct way to contaminate Italian music with exotic sounds. He had his own radio show where he played new tunes every week, sometimes playing records and sometimes singing them himself. What many do not know about him is that, before becoming the voice of the nation, he had a huge hit in North America with the legendary formation of the Lecuona Cuban Boys, singing in Spanish, nonetheless.

Otto, on the other hand, was considered a negative example of the contamination of Italian music. Reproductions of his records on the radio were forbidden: too similar to the North American way of singing, viewed sideways – as well as for obvious political reasons – because it mixed black and white culture. On the other hand, thanks to his intense theatrical activity and studio work, his records were selling like hot cakes and played relentlessly from the windows of Italian houses, turning on gramophones. His success exploded as soon as the Second World War ended.

Jula De Palma and a new femininity in singing

Even though fascism had been defeated, the censorship did not disappear with the arrival of the allied troops. Catholic culture, thanks to its close contact with politics, was able to influence the choices regarding the broadcasting of cultural, cinematographic and musical works. The great artist Jula de Palma was one of the last to pay the price: in 1959 she brought the song “Tua” to Sanremo, which proved to be an immediate success. Her performance on stage, wrapped in an evening dress, is deemed too sensual and starts a media scandal that temporarily compromises her career in Italy. But the breach had been opened. A very young Mina, who participated in that same Sanremo, was certainly inspired by her in the following years in clearing an innocent representation of femininity that had by now overwhelmed the banks of censorship.

In the repertoire of Los Carosones we wanted to insert a manifesto song of this era: a swing born immediately after the war, which speaks about the search for a lost love in the ruins of a bombed city. “In Cerca di te”, text by Testoni and music by Sciorilli. It was an instant success in 1944. It was recorded by Natalino Otto and later by the great performers of that period: Carlastella, Bruno Pallesi and Jula from Palma herself.
We are inspired by his dixie version, a real masterpiece, which manages to convey the spirit of those years better than others. A piece of life in which love for a person or Music, may overcome any obstacle.