Copyright ©2008 NPR. For personal, noncommercial use only. See Terms of Use. For other uses, prior permission required.

ANDREA SEABROOK, host:

Vinicio Capossela is often called the Italian Tom Waits. The two artists share a growl vocal quality and a love of floppy piano ballad, sea shanties and fuzzed out rock. But then, again, Tom Waits has never performed in a Medusa mask or a gigantic fur hat.

(Soundbite of music)

Mr. VINICIO CAPOSELA (Singer): (Singing in foreign language)

SEABROOK: That's part of the charm of Vinicio Caposela, his flair for the dramatic. In Italy and much of Europe, he's a mega star, the kind that sells out arenas. But in the United States, he's still a well-kept secret.

In his 17-year recording career, Vinicio Capossela has only played three shows here. And I was lucky enough to see one of them a few weeks ago at the Kennedy Center here in Washington.

(Soundbite of music)

SEABROOK: Capossela walks onto the stage unceremoniously. When he begins to sing, you totally forget that you don't understand Italian. Capossela growls out his music from behind the mask of a Minotaur. He creeps around the stage, jagged horns and protruding snout. He drags along a string of cowbells, raising them up and dropping them to the floor again and again in time with the music.

(Soundbite of music)

SEABROOK: The site causes the little girl in front of me to bury her head in her father's shoulder. But by the end of the show, she was the rest of us, on our feet and dancing, yet, another American convert.

(Soundbite of music)

SEABROOK: Luckily, there was a day to recover between the show and the interview.

Vinicio Capossela, welcome.

Mr. CAPOSSELA (Musician): Grazie, grazie molto (unintelligible). It's an honor to be here.

SEABROOK: Massimo Arranque(ph), our interpreter, thank you very much for being with us.

Mr. MASSIMO ARRANQUE (Translator): Thank you for giving this opportunity to meet my great hero.

SEABROOK: Let me first say to Vinicio Capossela, I saw your show at the Kennedy Center here in Washington. And it was absolutely wild. You were…

Mr. CAPOSSELA: Wild. Wild.

SEABROOK: There's all these theatrics and dirty like lurching sound.

Mr. CAPOSSELA: (Speaking in foreign language)

Mr. ARRANQUE: I have an attitude towards these dirty sounds and the grotesque in my shows, and I like to scare people a little, but then to make them feel safe again, and let them go home hugging each other like friends.

SEABROOK: What do the theatrics add to it like in this song, "Medusa Cha Cha Cha"?

(Soundbite of song, "Medusa Cha Cha Cha")

Mr. CAPOSSELA: (Speaking in foreign language)

Mr. ARRANQUE: Now, this song is born from a mask from a Swedish friend who learned how to make masks in Venice.

Mr. CAPOSSELA: (Speaking in foreign language)

Mr. ARRANQUE: I looked at this portrait and my friend, she told me, don't worry, she's not a monster; she's just a little nervous…

Mr. CAPOSSELA: (Speaking in foreign language)

Mr. ARRANQUE: Because every time she looks at someone, she likes, they become a stone. And so she becomes nervous.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. CAPOSSELA: (Speaking in foreign language)

Mr. ARRANQUE: And the only thing that she can do to let it out is to dance the cha cha cha.

(Soundbite of song, "Medusa Cha Cha Cha")

Mr. CAPOSSELA: (Singing in foreign language)

(Speaking in foreign language)

Mr. ARRANQUE: He says it would be difficult to explain all these to people. I just put on the Medusa mask and I tell people…

Mr. CAPOSSELA: Touch me, touch me, don't watch me.

(Soundbite of laughter)

SEABROOK: I'm speaking with Italian singer and songwriter Vinicio Capossela. His most recent CD is called "Ovunque Proteggi," which means may you protect me everywhere.

The title cut sounds like a little prayer almost. Let's hear a little bit of it.

(Soundbite of song, "Non Tratare")

Mr. CAPOSSELA: (Singing in foreign language)

SEABROOK: Here's the English translation. The old already know the reason so do the sad hotels that too much is only for a short while and it's still not enough. And it's only once. Still, protect the grace of my heart now and for whim spell returns, the spell of you beside me.

Is there a story behind the song?

Mr. CAPOSSELA: (Speaking in foreign language)

Mr. ARRANQUE: The story is always the same. As we walk, we always have to leave behind us something or somebody, and this separation always opens a new wound. So the invocation - protect the grace in my heart, but that we invoke the possibility to return to unity, and to keep within us the things that we love, the things that help us belong to humanity.

(Soundbite of song, "Non Tratare")

SEABROOK: I've read that you're influenced by American themes. What attracted you about this country?

Mr. CAPOSSELA: (Speaking in foreign language)

Mr. ARRANQUE: Whether we want to or not, we all grow into a bit of America in us. You made us. We have no choice.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. CAPOSSELA: (Speaking in foreign language)

Mr. ARRANQUE: I've loved - I have been fascinated with many American artists.

Mr. CAPOSSELA: (Speaking in foreign language) Jack Kerouac, John Infante(ph), Louis Prima, Tom Waits and Charles Bukowski.

SEABROOK: Is there a particular song of yours that you can point us towards that reflects this American fascination?

Mr. CAPOSSELA: (Speaking in foreign language)

Mr. ARRANQUE: Yes, I just wrote the song. It's called "Dirty Windows of America."

SEABROOK: You brought with you a toy piano. Would you play that for us?

Mr. CAPOSSELA: (Speaking in foreign language)

(Soundbite of song, "Dirty Windows of America")

Mr. CAPOSSELA: (Singing in foreign language)

Mr. ARRANQUE: Bravo.

SEABROOK: That was wonderful. It's sounded like - I don't speak Italian - but it sounded like that was about the silence of America.

Mr. CAPOSSELA: (Singing in foreign language)

Mr. ARRANQUE: Mm-hm.

SEABROOK: And what does that mean?

Mr. CAPOSSELA: (Speaking in foreign language)

Mr. ARRANQUE: Silence of America gives a feeling of the vastness and the solitude, the feeling of a sense of silence it's something that it hits me immediately in America.

Mr. CAPOSSELA: (Speaking in foreign language)

Mr. ARRANQUE: In some ways, this silence belongs to me.

SEABROOK: Why have you played so rarely in the United States?

Mr. CAPOSSELA: (Speaking foreign language)

Mr. ARRANQUE: It's difficult for me to explain. I think what I write - I don't know if in my songs there is something that can go beyond the language that can be understood by people who don't know Italian. And when I saw the public of the Kennedy Center stand up not to applaud but to live these minutes of joy, I understood at least the things that go beyond the language itself.

SEABROOK: Vinicio Capossela is an Italian singer, songwriter. His most recent CD is called "Ovunque Proteggi" or May You Protect Me Everywhere.

Thank you so much. And I do hope you come back.

Mr. CAPOSSELA: Grazie.

(Soundbite of song, "Una Giornata Perfecta")

SEABROOK: You can hear Signore Capossela perform the "Medusa Cha Cha Cha," hear whole tracks and discover new music at npr.org/music).

This sweet little tune you're hearing is called "A Perfect Day," "Una Giornata Perfecta." Capossela says it's the perfect thing to whistle while shaving in the morning, and it brings us our parting words this evening.

Capossela sings: It's a perfect day. It's a sunny day. I'm on my own, whistle, wave, buy a cocktail with an umbrella. The sky is near enough to touch, clouds of perfumed water. The dreamy air kisses me because it's a perfect day.

That's ALL THINGS CONSIDERED from NPR News. I'm Andrea Seabrook. Ciao.

(Soundbite of song, "Una Giornata Perfecta")

Mr. CAPOSSELA: (Singing in foreign language)

Goodbye.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Copyright © 2008 NPR. All rights reserved. No quotes from the materials contained herein may be used in any media without attribution to NPR. This transcript is provided for personal, noncommercial use only, pursuant to our Terms of Use. Any other use requires NPR's prior permission. Visit our permissions page for further information.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by a contractor for NPR, and accuracy and availability may vary. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Please be aware that the authoritative record of NPR's programming is the audio.

Comments

 

Please keep your community civil. All comments must follow the NPR.org Community rules and Terms of Use. NPR reserves the right to use the comments we receive, in whole or in part, and to use the commenter's name and location, in any medium. See also the Terms of Use, Privacy Policy and Community FAQ.