Tony Esposito, the art of combining Bizet with hip hop

Son of Don Luigi, he is one of the greatest international percussionists, songwriters, experimenters in music genres, author of about twenty albums. The beginning of the barbershop and the partnership with Pino Daniele

When Barbieri & Musica Encyclopedia is written, it must also be included in the list of names Luigi Esposito, shop in Neapolitan via Manzoni, the road which, like a pastier cornice, overlooks and joins the rivers Vomero and Posillipo. Because thanks to a guitarist, who covered the scissors ticking with his arpeggios, Don Luigi’s son got a passion for music. Like former Giovanni Ermete Gaeta, who became famous with the artist name EA Mario, who was ignited by the passion of the mandolin left by a customer in his father’s salon. The hairdressing salons were a poor and widespread alternative to the conservatories; Floid’s fragrant haven for traditions as susceptible to disappearance as the parking lot, of which Roberto De Simone found an extreme epigon in Alfredo Napoletano, formerly a figaro by Eduardo De Filippo with a shop on the sad and vast Via Foria, which immortalized the voice in CD ‘Ammore busciardo ‘from 2016.

Tony Esposito, son of Don Luigi, is one of the great international percussionists, songwriters, experimenters in music genres, author of about twenty albums.

Someone includes it in the ‘World Music’ box. Doesn’t it have a reducing effect on you?

Yes, it was a fashion brand but I think it’s vague. I prefer to say, with David Byrne from Talking Heads, that style just has to be a call to music. Except for those who, like a David King for blues, can only make a genre because they fully identify with it, every artist is free to explore everywhere: one day classical music, the next twelve-tone music. It depends on our imagination, on our touch.

On May 31, she offers proof of this with the concert “Tribal classic” promoted by the Trianon Theater in the square opposite, the heart of Forcella. Classical music reinterpreted with rhythmics.

It is the national preview of an operation built over the years, already with the album ‘Tam Tam Brass’ which I produced together with the wind ensemble from the Santa Cecilia Orchestra and the first trumpet Andrea Lucchi. Update classical music so that it becomes acceptable even to the very youngest. I do not change any of the songs, but I take the liberty to reinvent the rhythm.

For example?

Monteverdi’s Orfeo as a tammurriata. Or Bizet’s Carmen which looks like a hip hop piece. It is not a demagogic scandal, but a reconciling journey between European culture and the present, as evidenced by the production with Sony Classical, which fills me with pride as a pop artist.

Why use brass?

I wanted to bring together the elements of the earth: metals with wood and skin of percussion. No electronics, but sounds that can be reproduced even when the power is on. We are too tied to electricity, which unlike nature is not permanent. If it was a big blackout, music would still be possible with traditional instruments. Or imagine it over time: if within a few hundred years someone found an intact acoustic guitar in the rubble, they could play it. If he found a computer, he would hardly be able to restart it.

Yet electronics often frequent the classical repertoire.

Among the musicians most copied in electric guitar solos were Rossini and Puccini, not to mention the symphonic pop of the eighties. That’s what I wanted to avoid. A Bach fugue is so beautiful that to transfer it to reggae, it seems to be written today, but the challenge is to respect its compositional structure.

What do musical roots mean?

They are deeper than language: in my production I used Neapolitan, English, French, African dialects as needed. But I love instrumental music because it overcomes language barriers, even though I recognize an extraordinary elegance in the world of Neapolitan classics. With Eugenio Bennato’s Musicanova group, I have immersed myself in research for several years and I see the continuity between a villanella from the 16th century and Pino Daniel’s “happy Lazzari”.

Who have you had the most fun with?

First with Alan Sorrenti’s psychedelia, then with the Bennato brothers, but my greatest love of collaboration, which lasted for over thirty years, was with Pino Daniele, happy to have seen the rise of such a great artist.

Did it all start in your dad’s store?

It was close to the stop of the funicular that goes down to Mergellina and a guitarist cheered on us every day. Later I discovered the musical tradition of barbers also in Puglia, Sicily. I suspect that many masterpieces were born in a salon. Then it was my mother’s pots, which I started playing percussion. I did not censor this madness: in the first days I took them on TV and those performances pierced the screen.

Its great predecessor was Gegè Di Giacomo, the unforgettable shoulder of the Carosone, which with drumsticks crossed everywhere.

I met him when he was old and almost blind, in the club Praiano where he performed for several years. How lovingly I looked at him and thought that with his acrobatic gags he had looked forward to Les Tambours du Bronx and Stompen.

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