Riflusso

Pierangelo Bertoli, Marco Dieci, Glauco Borrelli (1980)

Laura è ferma adesso in una fabbrica di sogni
e vede il mondo fuori da un oblò
Franco ha messo all’asta il suo cervello e i suoi bisogni
e vive come un orso in uno zoo.
Maria non ha mai smesso di dormire neanche un’ora
ma il principe non bacia per pietà.
Sergio si è spostato sulle rive del “qui è meglio”
è ricco adesso e parla di onestà.

Il buio ha preso il posto del coraggio di vedere,
paura al posto della verità.
Si parla sotto voce o nel chiuso delle stanze,
nessuno canta più di libertà.
Adesso che è una colpa solo avere un’opinione,
“che è più sicuro, poi non si sa mai”
che quello emarginato pure è un terrorista
o forse è un poliziotto e non lo sai.

Ma voglio almeno dire due parole
in nome di chi lotta per la vita:
potete forse farci rallentare
però non vi crediate sia finita.

Chissà se guarderemo i nostri figli apertamente
dicendo almeno adesso tocca a voi
o scuoteremo il capo come un branco di imbecilli
spiegando quali esempi siamo noi
racconteremo storie come reduci noiosi
o forse fingeremo dignità
oppure gli offriremo fumo, sesso e disimpegno,
le perle della nostra eredità.

Il tempo si trascina inesorabile dottore,
e affonda i denti nella verità
e porta a galla i veli, i fabbricanti del terrore
e non ha posto per chi se ne va
e Laura sguazzerà dentro ai suoi sogni comatosi
e un giorno finalmente morirà
e Sergio comprerà, Franco e Maria novelli sposi
così sarà sicuro e arriverà.

Ma voglio almeno dire due parole
in nome di chi lotta per la vita
potete forse farci rallentare
però non vi crediate sia finita.

Ma voglio almeno dire due parole
in nome di chi lotta per la vita
potete forse farci rallentare
però non vi crediate sia finita.

Ma voglio almeno dire due parole
in nome di chi lotta per la vita
potete forse farci rallentare
però non vi crediate sia finita.

Backflow

Translated by: Rachel Grasso, Nikole Sanchez & Zachary Penati Aguilar

Laura is stalled now in a factory of dreams
and sees the world from outside a porthole
Franco has put his brain and his needs to auction
and lives like a bear in a zoo.
Maria has never stopped sleeping not even for an hour
but the prince doesn’t kiss out of mercy
Sergio has moved to the banks of here it’s better
he’s rich now and speaks of honesty.

The dark has taken over the place of courage to look,
fear in the place of truth
people speak in an undertone or behind closed doors,
no one sings of liberty anymore
now that it is a fault just to have an opinion,
safer later people will never know
that’s an outcast, or a terrorist,
or maybe a cop and you don’t know it.

But I want to at least say a few words
in the name of those who fight for their life:
you can maybe make us slow down
but do not think it is the end.

Who knows if we will at least look straight at our kids
and say now it’s up to you
or we will shake our heads like a herd of imbeciles
explaining what examples we are
will we tell stories like boring veterans
or maybe we’ll feign dignity
or will we offer them smoke, sex and disengagement,
the pearls of our inheritance?

Time drags on as an inexorable medicine,
and sinks its teeth into the truth
and  brings to the surface the veils, the manufactures of terror
and it does not have a place for those who leave
and Laura will wallow in her comatose dreams
and finally one day she’ll die
and Sergio will buy, Franco and Maria newlyweds
that way it’s safer and will arrive.

But I want to at least say a few words
in the name of those who fight for their life
you can maybe make us slow down
but do not think it is the end.

But I want to at least say a few words
in the name of those who fight for their life
you can maybe make us slow down
but do not think it is the end.

But I want to at least say a few words
in the name of those who fight for their life
you can maybe make us slow down
but do not think it is the end.

By Francesco Ciabattoni (“Italy’s Cantatutori in the 1980s”, in La memoria delle canzoni. Popular music e identità italiana, ed. by Alessandro Carrera, Puntoacapo, 2017, pp. 142-143)

If the songwriters of the 1960s and 1970s attempted to reconcile the twofold soul of the Italian people, a nation in transition from its rural tradition to a new urban identity, in the 1980s the entertainment industry tried to turn the ears of the Italians toward a hedonistic appreciation of disengaged musical subjects. This cultural switch, however, also paved the way for a renewal of the themes and language of the Italian song. Guido Crainz lucidly summarizes the changed situation: newspapers featured fewer and fewer political debates, leaving the first page to the private concerns of an adulterous house wife from Cinisello Balsamo or the middle-age crisis of a fifty-year old Milanese professional. Journalist Eugenio Scalfari, commenting on the rampant success of actor John Travolta’s hit movie Saturday Night Fever, which seemed to occupy the minds of the youths more than the news of Brigate Rosse’s tragic kidnapping and murder of Democrazia Cristiana leader Aldo Moro, observed, “Il travoltismo attira i giovani molto più delle lotte” (Travoltism draws the young much more than political debates) (Crainz, Autobiografia, p. 130). This new paradigm of society’s concerns was therefore characterized by a withdrawal into the private sphere and was labeled riflusso (backflow) in opposition to the heated debates about collective issues that marked the previous decades.
In this essay, I will survey the singer-songwriters who emerged in the 1980s as well as those from the previous decade who were still active during this time and show how the new disengaged themes and forgetfulness of riflusso coexisted with residues of a lasting but hidden political discourse. Significantly, some of the most politically engaged voices of the 1960s and 1970s, such as Claudio Lolli and Ivan della Mea, remained almost silent during the 1980s.
An overt disquiet breaks out in Pierangelo Bertoli’s (1942-2002) Riflusso (Certi momenti, 1981): “Si parla sotto voce o nel chiuso delle stanze, nessuno canta più di libertà / adesso che è una colpa solo avere un’opinione, … Chissà se guarderemo i nostri figli apertamente dicendo almeno adesso tocca a voi / o scuoteremo il capo come un branco di imbecilli spiegando quali esempi siamo noi / racconteremo storie come reduci noiosi o forse fingeremo dignità / oppure gli offriremo fumo, sesso e disimpegno, le perle della nostra eredità?” (People speak quietly or closed in their rooms, no one sings of freedom any more / now it’s a fault even to have an opinion, … Who knows if we’ll look at our children and say openly at least now it’s up to you / or if we’ll shake our heads like a bunch of imbeciles and explain what great examples we have been / and tell stories like boring veterans or maybe we will fake dignity / or we’ll offer them pot, sex and disengagement, as the pearls of our legacy?). The notion of riflusso did not, however, have a negative connotation for everyone: Mike Bongiorno, anchorman of the 1979 edition of the Festival di Sanremo (Italy’s most famous music contest) commented: “Stiamo tornando … a quei valori e a quegli affetti che avevamo dimenticato. Anche i ragazzi della contestazione stanno cambiando. Vogliono ballare e divertirsi con John Travolta, sono stanchi di tirare sassi. … Stiamo forse ritrovando l’unione e l’equilibrio.” (We are going back … to those values and affections we had forgotten. Even the youths of the years of the protest are changing. They want to dance and have fun with John Travolta, they are tired of throwing stones … Maybe we are finding harmony and balance again) (1986: 189). In this tidal shift of perspective, mainstream music celebrated itself in the lavish choreographies of the Festival di Sanremo while a new generation of cantautori took advantage of the changed atmosphere to explore novel themes and communication codes that were distinctly remote from social engagement.