21st Century Wops: Roy Paci, Raiz, and the Cultural Politics of Migration


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This is an edited version of my presentation at the 2008 Experience Music Project (EMP) Pop Conference in Seattle. It focuses on the work of two cutting edge "world music" artists from Italy, Raiz and Roy Paci, and the themes of migration and cultural identity they explore.

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  • Presented April 2008 at the Experience Music Project (EMP) Pop Conference in Seattle Presented April 2008 at the Experience Music Project (EMP) Pop Conference in Seattle
  • 21st Century Wops: Roy Paci, Raiz, and the Cultural Politics of Migration

    1. 1. “ 21 st Century W.O.P.s” <ul><li>Roy Paci, Raiz, and the Cultural Politics of Migration </li></ul><ul><li>George De Stefano </li></ul>Presented April 2008 at the Experience Music Project (EMP) Pop Conference in Seattle
    2. 2. “ We witness day after day the imbalanced conflict between an Italy that aspires to become European with its head held high…and the forces whose objectives are to become part of the African continent.” -- Umberto Bossi, Lega Nord (Northern League) Italy, a nation that once spawned mass migrations, is becoming a nation of immigrants. New arrivals from the Middle East, Asia, North and sub-Saharan Africa, Latin America and Eastern Europe now constitute more than six percent of the Italian population. A society that had been largely homogeneous is becoming multicultural. The political right largely opposes this transformation, with the Lega Nord the most vociferous opponent of immigration and cultural change.
    3. 3. “ Italy my new Italy Made out of India, Morocco, Albania, Colombia and Senegal” -- Raiz, “W.O.P.” In the midst of the national debates over immigration, two popular, left-wing musicians, Rosario “Roy” Paci and Gennaro Della Volpe, known as Raiz, are articulating a vision of Italian identity that is expansive and inclusive.
    4. 4. The New Italians <ul><li>Immigrants make up 6+% of Italy’s population, and the new arrivals keep coming. Most come from north and sub-Saharan Africa, Eastern Europe, the Middle East, and South Asia </li></ul>
    5. 5. Rosario “Roy” Paci <ul><li>Trumpeter, singer, bandleader Roy Paci, from Augusta, Sicily makes politicized party music that mixes southern Italian and Latin idioms, jazz, reggae, ska and hip hop. An accomplished trumpeter who began playing with jazz bands when he was barely a teenager, Paci is an extroverted performer. </li></ul>
    6. 6. Just a gigolo….Louis Prima <ul><li>Sicilian American trumpeter, bandleader and vocalist Prima was an influence on Paci. The son of immigrants to New Orleans, Prima created a hybrid music from jazz, R&B, and Italian/Italian American influences. </li></ul>
    7. 7. “ Oh Marie!” <ul><li>Prima’s comic numbers mixing Sicilian dialect and English inspired Paci </li></ul>
    8. 8. Fred Buscaglione <ul><li>50s star Buscaglione brought mafioso style and Latin music to Italian pop. Roy Paci pays tribute to the influence of Buscaglione in his song “Pizza e Sole” </li></ul>
    9. 9. Gennaro “Raiz” della Volpe <ul><li>From 1991 to 2003 Raiz was the lead singer of Almamegretta, a groundbreaking band that blended Neapolitan melody and rhythms with reggae, dub, rock, rap, and North African music. The American bassist and producer Bill Laswell, who collaborated with the band, said that the only thing that kept Almamegretta from international stardom was language – their preference for singing in Neapolitan and Italian. </li></ul>
    10. 10. Roy Paci & Aretuska <ul><ul><li>Roy Paci’s band Aretuska originally comprised only Sicilians. Since then, the line-up has expanded to include mainland Italians, an African, and a Brazilian. He’s made four albums with Aretuska, the most recent SuoNo Global (2007). His lyrics originally were in Sicilian and Italian but recently Paci’s written in an idiom he calls “italoño,” a blend of Sicilian, Italian, Spanish,and English. Paci states the sociopolitics of this hybrid tongue: “With our Sicilian language, one of the most ancient in the world, rich with Greek, Roman, Arab, French and Spanish influences, we are…creating l’italoño, an idiom that brings us closer to all peoples…” </li></ul></ul>
    11. 11. Raiz <ul><ul><li>Raiz’s voice is one of the most distinctive in international pop, grainy and plaintive, with a timbre an Italian critic called “antico” – ancient. You can hear in his vocals aspects of southern Italian music that date back to antiquity -- nasal tonality and an ornamental approach to pitch. He’s also steeped in the rich melodicism of Neapolitan song. Though Raiz’s singing is thoroughly Neapolitan at its core, it assimilates influences including Bob Marley, Marvin Gaye, and the Egyptian diva Oum Kalthoum. </li></ul></ul>
    12. 12. Prince Klemens von Metternich As southern Italians, Paci and Raiz are themselves heirs to a historical legacy of colonialism and racist denigration. At the Congress of Vienna in 1814, the Franco-Spanish Bourbons united southern Italy and Sicily into the single Kingdom of Two Sicilies, with Naples as its capital. Prince von Metternich, the defender of the political order established by the Congress, described Sicilians as “half-barbarous, superstitious without limits, fiery and passionate like the Africans.”
    13. 13. Italian Immigrants, early 20 th century <ul><li>Poverty, natural disasters, and political oppression drove millions of southern Italians to emigrate, mainly to the Americas, in the late 19 th and early 20 th centuries. </li></ul>
    14. 14. Senegalese immigrants in Italy <ul><li>Raiz : “It would be great to see…the children of Senegalese speaking Neapolitan enriched by African vocabulary.” Fears of economic competition from newcomers, as well as xenophobia and racism, have triggered discrimination and violence against immigrants . </li></ul>
    15. 15. Raiz <ul><li>Both Paci and Raiz employ the aesthetic-political strategy called contaminazione, a word that in Italian has a positive connotation, signifying enrichment of native idioms through incorporation of foreign elements. On Raiz’s Uno, soulful Neapolitan melody and tammurriata beats mix with samba, reggae, and hiphop, a fusion Raiz calls “extremely local and immediately global.” </li></ul>
    16. 16. <ul><li>“ W.O.P.”   </li></ul><ul><li>Don’t you remember how years ago Your relatives left from here to search the world for a little happiness? You can’t stop him who wants it and doesn’t have it! </li></ul><ul><li>Raiz’s 2004 song “WOP” explicitly links the southern Italian history of migration to the experiences of other peoples now coming into Italy and challenges Italians unhappy about immigration. </li></ul>
    17. 17. <ul><li>“ W.O.P.” </li></ul><ul><li>Italian I’m Italian </li></ul><ul><li>I love this country, there’s no other more beautiful </li></ul><ul><li>Italy my new Italy </li></ul><ul><li>Made out of India, Morocco, Albania, Colombia and Senegal </li></ul>
    18. 18. <ul><li>“ W.O.P.”  </li></ul><ul><li>Italian I’m Italian </li></ul><ul><li>Born an’ bred </li></ul><ul><li>In the sunshine of the Mediterranean </li></ul><ul><li>This is a tribute to the mix of the race </li></ul><ul><li>To the black to the white you can see in my face </li></ul><ul><li>Raiz posits southern Italian identity itself as hybrid, a product of mixed bloodlines </li></ul>
    19. 19. Roy Paci <ul><li>Paci works a similar local/global dialectic as Raiz. Sicilians, having migrated all over the world, are a diasporic people. In “Pizza e Sole” Paci humorously recounts his experience as an internal migrant who left Sicily to “end up in Italy.” </li></ul>
    20. 20. SuoNoGlobal <ul><li>Globalization (No Global) Paci-style. Paci proclaims the universality of his music while also associating it with the “No Global” movement against corporate globalization. </li></ul>
    21. 21. Making the Left Dance <ul><li>Paci, who identifies with the left, performed at a benefit for the party Rifondazione comunista, Naples, 2007. In Italy today, the “Southern Question,” an enduring problem of inequality, now involves more than native-born southern Italians. It is now also an issue of how Italy will accommodate those peoples who have immigrated there from the global South. </li></ul>