Italian singer-songwriter Vinicio Capossela is currently celebrating a 25 years with music. To mark the occasion he is performing in London tonight (Tuesday 10th November) at The Clapham Grand as part of his latest international tour ‘Qu Art de Siècle’
Last night, Capossela met up with his London-based fans at the Italian Cultural Institute in Belgrave Square to present his captivating latest book ‘Il paese dei coppoloni‘. The book, which took 17 years to complete, tells the story of a mysterious wayfarer journeying through the smallest villages of his motherland, Irpinia, in the south of Italy.
While presenting his book, Capossela was interviewed by the journalist Caterina Soffici, herself a talented folk singer who can boast collaborations with Tom Waits’ guitarist, Marc Ribot. Throughout the interview, Soffici directed the audience towards the way in which, simply through the power of his words, Capossela’s writings drive readers into wonderful imaginary worlds.
This capability has meant that Capossela’s lyrics and writing have long been beloved by the public and praised by critics. His ability to play with both words and music to create magical and emotional scenarios shows he is not just a great traditional storyteller, but also an inspired artist of language.
In his book, Capossela creates a personal mythology by returning to his family’s roots and drawing inspiration from the cultural heritage of the land, a world which is grounded in ancestral customs, older than our grandparents’ memories. In a contemporary take on Ulysses’ travels home to Ithaca, we meet a cast of both real and fictional characters, who come to symbolise the various part of Italy that risk being forgotten and absorbed through the homogenising of globalisation.
‘Language is the only world that we can inhabit’, posited Capossela at one point in the evening. Closing his eyes, fully engrossed like a medieval storyteller, he read excerpts from his book while using typical words of his own Italian dialect.
When asked about how he would define Italy and furthermore how he would go about describing it to someone who is not Italian, words escaped him. Just a smile and a deep breath before saying: ‘That is a good question!’
The pause spoke more than a thousand words, as if to convey that Italy is both everything and nothing; both the Ithaca and the journey to reach it.
Perhaps we can look to his first book Non si muore tutte le mattine (We do not die every morning) to guess what Capossela might say if given more time to ponder; ‘I’d rather to be an impression, I prefer impressions. Impressions thrills. Knowing is useless: it’s better to assume’.