Many people might know Hugo Race from his work with Nick Cave’s Bad Seeds, the Wreckery and, more recently, his own band True Spirit. But he’s also a writer. In Overland 195, he discusses the culture and music of Sicily, and his growing obsession with the singer and actor Mario Merola. Here’s Merola in full flight.
Merola is an idiosyncrasy of local culture, even though he’s not local. He’s from Naples – vedi Napul e poi muori (‘see Naples and die’) – a thousand kilometres due north-east across the Tyrrhenian Sea, on the other side of the Aeolian Islands. Merola grew up working on the docks in the porto di Napoli, and he sang the songs of the sceneggiata. Sceneggiata is pure romantic melodrama, expressed in Neapolitan dialect – a language similar to Sicilian, and bearing only an indirect relationship to formal Italian. Its roots are in folksongs and opera and music hall variety – anger, heartbreak, disappointment and betrayal in the story of man and woman’s struggle to extend happiness beyond a freak, passing instant. Scenegiata is both formulaic entertainment and public ritual, the audience singing along with every word and knowing full well how the story ends.
You can read the whole article here.
And here’s Hugo Race’s electronica project, the Merola Matrix.