First of all AMAZING tumblr!!!..I'm so glad i found you!!!:-)
I just wanted to say to you that since i'm italian, if you need any kind of help in the future for the XL Repubblica Column i'll be more than happy to help!:-)
Keep up the great work!
Thank you so much!! I really appreciate your offer :D The XL Repubblica magazine posted the English original on their site but if we do need help I’ll look for you ;) And thanks again!
I was thirteen, my trousers were too short, there was sweat on my brow and my suspenders were rubbing against the back of my neck. That summer evening in Bordighera, I decided I hated Italy. Here, everything was difficult. I couldn’t get served in cafes, I felt uncomfortable and unfit and my sisters got all the attention. Foreign women have no idea what Italy really is; ask an awkward teenage boy instead. He knows the truth.
Growing up, our summer vacations would almost always be spent in the south of France. We would drive from London in our white Toyota Previa, crammed with luggage, pillows, my parents, a few family pets including a rabbit hidden under my seat, and my four siblings. Siting on the floor of the car wasn’t an option it was a necessity. As long as the trunk was able to close and the police didn’t see us, we would be off from London on our 20 hour journey to the sun. To this day, driving by car is still my favourite way of getting around, even on tour.
When you come from a big family, everything in theory should be harder, but in practice everything is easier. Even if we didn’t have much money there was always somebody making a joke, starting a conversation or more entertainingly an argument. The south of France was always our destination because for us it was cheap. We would stay with family, go to the beach, and drive to Italy as often as possible.
Bordighera and the streets of San Remo, were my first experience of Italy. My mother loved the food and the people and they loved her back. With her big colourful dresses, rounded figure and swarm of children, she was welcomed in Italy where in France it was always frosty looks. My sisters, with their good looks and smiles, revelled in the attention. My brother was only a child, and enjoyed the fact that in Italy he was never told off or told to be quiet. My father, who had lived in Rome, spoke Italian and had charm. Charm! That was one thing I certainly did not have at 13. I was awkward. Quiet but with sudden outbursts of expression, which would make people around me feel uncomfortable. Perhaps I was seen as odd or effeminate. My clothes were often things I had made. Shortened trousers, suspenders, collared long sleeve shirts and bow ties. I was not at ease with myself and I felt the Italians were not at ease with me. I would drift around the streets on my own, ordering ice cream at every shop I came across. The easy-manners of Italian young men were devastatingly intimidating to me. I would run away from them.
It is precisely this unease that drove me so intensely into music. Through music I could turn into anything or anyone. I could be charming, I could be listened to. Through music I became comfortable with myself and through music Italy eventually accepted me. There are few places in the world where I enjoy playing live more than in Italy. Playing the Milano Forum was the proudest moment on my last tour and it reminded me what a strong influence Italy had been on me when I was very young.
My second encounter with Italy happened much later and far from Italy, in London. I was 19 and was studying opera at the Royal College of Music, where for three and a half years I sang as a baritone. From the moment I walked into my Italian song class, with my professor Marco Canepa, I felt like that awkward 13 year old all over again. Professor Canepa was a short middle aged man. He spoke frankly and honestly, in a heavy Italian accent. He wore red suspenders and loved opera. In the three and a half years of teaching me, I sang to him only five times and always the same song; Scarlatti’s ‘Gia il sole dal Gange’. I was terrible. I was now a pop singer pretending to be a classical singer and sounding like a 60 year old baritone. Canepa was desperate. He called me “the mute”. When I had my last lesson with him, I told him that one day he would be able to see me in Milan but that it would not be at La Scala, as it would be too small. He thought I had lost my mind.
Fast forward five years and I find myself playing my first Italian show at the Alcatraz in Milan. Half way through, I sit down and play a very quiet song called Over My Shoulder. After singing the high long high notes, the crowd starts making a lot of noise. I am horrified, I think they are booing me and just about get through the rest of the show. It wasn’t until afterwards that I realise they weren’t booing but cheering because they liked my singing. I had never come across an audience like that before. Professor Canepa never felt so far away.
My teenage hatred for Italy has turned into love. I now realise that Italians get it. Whatever “it” is. They see beauty and the extraordinary in things that others consider ordinary. They see beauty in sadness they and are not afraid to make themselves heard. Italy reminds me of of my family, screaming and laughing and our long journeys in our old Toyota Previa.
Tumblr takes forever to import Mika’s tweets. Psh.
That’s right. Since Mika’s off from touring, he’s keeping himself occupied by being a columnist! (and of course, by working on his new album) As mentioned, he’s working with the XL Repubblica magazine. His column hasn’t started yet but do keep a look out! We’ll try to post translations here ;)