Rock icon Nannini about „Amore Gigante“: „Italy needs a woman“

She's a rebel-rockstar, a feminist, a doctor of philosophy. Italian musician Gianna Nannini about her new album against hatred, her pansexuality and #MeToo.

Gianna Nannini verschränkt lächend die Arme hinter dem Kopf

„Unfortunately, in my job prostitution was a standard situation of women during the last decades“ Foto: Alexandra Waespi

taz: Gianna Nannini, you're famous for your Rock'n' Soul roar – you've got the voice of a big lady tiger but in some of your love songs you suddenly sound like a very fragile tiger.

Gianna Nannini: I'm a tigre fragile? (Laughs) That's nice …

When we really mean it, love makes us strong and fragile, doesn't it?

Yes. But I also like this because I think ‚fragility‘ is a Rock expression. In a way, the weak point in a human being is also the strongest. Sometimes when you write songs it makes no sense to hide your weak point.

You made a world career in your mother tongue, in Italian.

Why always sing in English? You see, Europe itself is fragile in this language respect. It's very difficult to hit the emotion just right in a language that's not your own. In Italian we come more from the roots of the folk tradition. That's another reason why I got to this point of only singing in italiano. The song is much better in Italian because we use more vowels in our language.

You yourself became famous for being this Italian feminist rebel with a giant voice, a big heart and lots of courage. But it wasn't always easy, was it?

When I was 18, I wanted to escape from home and my home town Siena. So I went to Milano. For my music. I also worked to help some patients in mental hospitals but we soon discovered that we had more problems than the people in the hospital! (Laughs) It was always my dream to work in psychology. On my first album I dedicated a song to a woman who was in a psychiatric hospital. We had a big anti-psychiatric movement in Italy in the 70ies. Do you know Franco Basaglia?

Born 1956 in Siena, italian composer, writer and singer. She became world famous in 1979 with her song „America“ and its LP-Cover that pictured the statue of liberty with a dildo instead of a torch. Today she lives and works in London. She published 18 studio compilations, various life albums and won Gold and Platin several times. She also wrote the soundtrack for the animation film "Momo", based on the novel by Michael Ende. In march Nannini will present her new album „Amore Gigante“ on tour in Germany; in april she will tour Italy.

I do! Basaglia fought to open the asylums. But, you know what, today we are going backwards, now psychiatrists are even promoting electroshocks again in Germany.

What? No!

They call it „electroconvulsive therapy“. You should do a new version of your song „Scandalo!“

I will sing „Scandalo“ on my new tour, yes, but I really didn't know that electroshocks are again practised in Germany – today. That's terrible! In 2016 I wrote a book that has not been translated yet. It's called „Cazzi miei“ like „Here's my own shit“. The book explains what happened to me in 1979 when I was recording in Cologne: I went out of my mind. Really. With the help of a lot of people I came out of my problems but it was quite heavy, it was very difficult to come back. And it was a big experience. But if I had been sent to a normal psychiatric place at the time – I would have been probably given electro shocks. (Pause) Anyway … What else would you like to know about me?

You call yourself pansexual.

I don't want this branding of homosexual or heterosexual. The word pansexual just means all kinds, all types of love. We have heterosexism, ageism – the world is full of these prison words. Words can imprison you! For me pansexual is so big that you cannot touch it. You can't put it in one corner. Don't ever put love in a corner! Because if you do, with your words, you corner real people – you divide.

Janis Joplin was one of your biggest inspirations and you once said that you would have loved to save her because everybody jumped on her drug abuse but she was not appreciated as a singer as much as she deserves.

She wasn't appreciated enough as a musician! If we say she's a singer, we talk about her as an interpreter. But we should fully value her as a musician and as an author. For the poetry she wrote.

You wrote about Janis in your thesis in philosophy and music about the relationship between the voice and the body in female cultures, didn't you?

Yes, Rock music was one example and I took Janis Joplin. I worked on several ethnic cultures: Nepal, Napoli, Morocco, Mali and Senegal. I basically tried to find out how the gesturality of the movement influences the singing. You need to be fit to be sure of your voice, you need to be your body. I do a lot of sports but there's a big difference whether you do sports or a tribal dance! I analysed the movements of Janis Joplin in a tribal context. Remember „Cry baby“? Listen: Tryyyyiiyyeieieiyyy.

Wow, you really sound like Janis's sister!

The drama was influenced by her voice, of course, but she moved all parts of her body – she gave action to the sound. And this action made her sing with a different attitude. It's very important to come back to your own culture to understand how you can move.

„Amore Gigante“, the title song of your new album, could be the headline for all of your music.

Well, we are living in a situation where hate and the haters are growing big again. „Amore gigante“ is talking about this big chance we still have – we can be on the same planet with all our different colours! Have respect for all people of the world! We don't have to go for this racism, sexism, this homophobic place. The spirit of „Amore Gigante“ wants to stop this fight of one against the other. It must happen in our mind. Open your mind! Freedom of spirit – that's our chance!

The mindset in international politics is currently closing down on freedom. What do you expect from the Italian elections?

Too much marketing, like in my song: bla, bla, bla … We don't have a real political culture at the moment. I think Italy needs a woman – just to change this political culture! We need a change of vision. We have to understand that no culture is better than any other! Look, I went to Iraq . At the time of the war, because I wanted to know the truth. And I saw the truth: It was a war to make business, a war about oil and petrol, which killed people and the culture.

You supported some Iraqi artists, didn't you?

Yes. See, all the museums and artist places were destroyed in the war. All the universities were burning and I said: Why are they burning all the books?! The children have nothing to study! So we went back to Italy and collected some books and computers to help at least a little.

And then you fell in love with the desert.

It's so peaceful in the desert … I was in Iraq twice during the war, but in the desert I felt at peace.

In your autobiography you wrote that people told you at the beginning of your career: You have to jump into bed with a good producer, sorry, but that's the way it goes. And you said: ‚No way! My grandmother told me not to do this!‘ Today, 40 years later, we finally have a #MeToo campaign.

In my job prostitution was a standard situation of women during the last decades. Now it's different but sometimes women are still stuck. It's so important to understand that you must not be afraid! I personally think women always have to decide for themselves. If you want to sell yourself … sell yourself! But the woman herself has to decide.

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