Alan Sorrenti – Oltre la Zona Sicura (Beyond the comfort zone).

50 years of music career of Alan Sorrenti and his upcoming album.

Half a century in the music business is something that is worth to celebrate especially for an artist who has never stopped renewing himself while remaining young forever. We celebrate the 50-year career of Alan Sorrenti who made his debut in 1972 with prog music and who has followed different directions.Initially acclaimed for being avant-garde, he was later blamed for changing styles and music genres. Some more conservative or perhaps more politicized, but certainly poorly informed about what was happening in the world music scene, accused him of sold out himself just for having “crossed the seas” of L.A. sound (which, however, is not disco music). Was his flaw in being too daring?

It is known that those who bring innovations and those who upset standards are almost always not immediately understood. In fact, as an art ambassador, he was sincere and consistent because, being an experimenter, he did nothing but continuing to search and explore. His constant evolution is clearly defined in the sequence of the music video Giovani Per Sempre (For Ever Young), the single launched last spring for Ala Bianca Group. Through this track, 45 years after the release of Figli Delle Stelle (Children of the Stars), the song best known by the masses, he still has a lot to say and he does it with humanity and sensitivity, by encouraging young people, in whom he strongly believes, and also by stimulating their talent that he defines remarkable.

A.S.: “Youth slips away and vanishes without the young people noticing it. With the sense of then, you look back and regret the old days when you had more mental and physical energy. When you are young you are not always aware of it.

Indeed this message is simply direct in the following lines:

La vita è adesso, la vita è qui, in ogni battito del cuore, nelle tue emozioni. Se sei presente in ogni momento rimarrai giovane, giovane per sempre!”

(Life is now, life is here, in every heartbeat, in your emotions. If you are present in every moment you  will stay young, young forever!) [Giovani Per Sempre]

giovani per sempre

Giovani Per Sempre anticipated the forthcoming album, which is entitled Oltre La Zona Sicura (Beyond the Comfort Zone). In writing the album he was inspired by the desire to convey something to the young people. Through the use of his experience he makes a positive and sunny contribution. And, being a “Figlio delle Stelle”, consistently I could not have done otherwise!

A.S.: “I listen to a lot of young music and I have noticed that in Italy young people write very well. From the point of view of rhythm and words I can say that they make a beautiful operation. They cut the words, they split them in half. And this doesn’t just happen in Rap. They do beautiful things. They dare too, and they do it by breaking some rules. Even though I feel they lack of light. I feel it is more shade. Sometimes I have the feeling that it is desperation or even boredom. Things that repeat themselves or that seem almost detached. Or the usual love themes. I wish they explored love in a deeper way.”

Unlike many artists of his same age, Alan respects the new generations and also he has a deep generosity towards them. In Oltre La Zona Sicura, the goal was to give something to young people. However he didn’t realize that this process was already taking place. In fact, young artists collaborated in the realization of this project such as the producer Stefano Ceri and the video illustrator Marcello Mosca who worked on Giovani per Sempre video animation. Oltre La Zona Sicura is an album in which Alan has been very focused on the content of the songs. To follow this criterion he even eliminated some tracks from the project.

A.S.: “Each song is different from the other but homogeneous in production. Each song wears its own dress “.

According to him it is important to say things as they are, preferably in a simple way. The album offers what he wants to convey and he does it following this direction. His work also includes a song dedicated to the “leader of generation Z”, Greta Thunberg, whose simple and direct way of communicating he appreciated.  Through this project he intends to share his soul, what his sensitivity perceives, here and now. Finally, after three years of work, logistically disturbed by the pandemic emergency, Oltre La Zona Sicura will be published on October 14th, 2022. But, even if not in depth, let’s talk about the evolutionary process of this revolutionary artist!

Not by chance, but due to a coherent socio-political design resulting from the post-war years, thoughts and fashions from overseas also arrived in Southern Italy, a land of contamination of all kinds where the assimilation of thoughts and words has never been passive. The writer Valerio Romitelli, as well as some journalists, call it Neapolitan Power and date the beginning of this phenomenon in the 70s. In reality it had already begun immediately after the war with Renato Carosone. However, continuing during those years especially the South of Italy saw a strong linguistic, political and musical re-configurations, as well as of changes in habits and customs. The Neapolitan Power was characterized by new expressive trends and revolutionary sounds, which due to the different cultural fabric were sui generis compared to those of the rest of Italy. In those years Alan was barely twenty and lived at Vomero, a neighborhood of the Neapolitan city. Music was already in his genetic line. His father was Neapolitan and, before he was born, he was a singer.  He had made records and also sang in falsetto, a range that Alan also favored for a while. He was building a career as a solo artist which unfortunately was cut short by the outbreak of World War II which forced him to change his life and find a different job. His mother was Welsh and she worked at NATO, in Napoli. When Alan was a child she often took him with her. From home to America it was just over 15 minutes!

A.S.: “Passing this confined and entering NATO I found myself in America and I was immediately in another dimension. The first thing I did was running towards the swings that still weren’t there in Napoli.

Since he was a child he lived in an environment not common to everyone. He used to go to Wales and spent his holidays in Aberystwyth. As a teenager, his mother enrolled him in a private school in Folkestone, South-East England, where he learned English and where he found himself among peers from all over the world.

A.S.: “There, in Folkestone ,I started to feel the world and I realized that life was not just Napoli but it was much wider.

Soon Napoli made him feel oppressed. This was expressed in the early years in a relationship of hate-love with the city. However, it was a necessary sentiment as a stimulus towards a more international need but which, later, changed. He used to listen to radio Londra which broadcasted music that allowed him to escape and dream.

A.S.: “In life, in places and so in music I have always looked for situations that were different from others. This is my nature. Musically I grew up in London and basically it was the English music that stimulated me. I was conscious of having this gift but I didn’t know how to play an instrument. I started taking guitar lessons and, as soon as I learned a few chords, I immediately put them into practice. I was composing something and I didn’t want to go back to the teacher anymore. Later it was a friend of mine who taught me to play the guitar more seriously. So increasing the chords I wrote the first song: Vorrei Incontrarti (I would like to meet you).”

What Alan conceived during his journeys in Great Britain, he brought him back to Napoli re-proposing it according to his sensitivity. This operation gave birth to a way of singing which was so far from the usual and which consisted in modeling the Italian language on an international music. Therefore he sang using Italian language as if it was English. He tested his voice by taking it to the extreme. The result was a completely different and unknown vocal until that time.

Despite the label of the time as a conservative and reactionary place, Napoli has always been the cradle of innovation and revolutions, it was only necessary to find the right circuit. At the lab of his friend Umberto Tedesco, Alan approached to an even different kind of music. It wasn’t the standard English music that everyone knew, but something more intriguing. Alan was impressed by the music of the Californian Tim Buckley who was showing him a new way to sing. Beside being a close friend of him Tedesco was a photographer who later became the author of his prog album covers such as Vorrei incontrarti (I’d like to meet you) , Una luce si accende ( A light comes on ), Le tue radici ( Your roots ), Dicitencello Vuje ( You tell her), Sienteme (Listen to me).

Thus was born Aria, the first prog piece, which Alan conceived in his room at Vomero and which he continued to write during a trip to Positano. It was his first real trip by himself, with a backpack, a sleeping bag, and a guitar. An experience that he defines as emblematic. Positano was a concentrate of international culture. There he met the Living Theater and Shawn Phillips, who in his singing was capable of holding a note for 40 seconds using Yoga. Young Alan was struck by it!

At that time, RAI (Italian TV Channel) promoted emerging artists. Alan sent a demo tape that met with excellent acclaim, capturing the interest of insiders. He continued to write Aria, which became a 20-minute prog suite. An exceptional piece that he recorded with the participation, among others, of the French jazz violinist Jean Luc Ponty and of another son of Neapolitan Power, the Neapolitan percussionist Tony Esposito. Aria gained great success which officially began his career as an international star. Alongside Pink Floyd, the Harvest Record signed the Neapolitan-Welsh artist.

A.S.: “I transmitted this to Napoli and Napoli welcomed it. There were the antennas for this different music. At that time Napoli was not the only Italian city to be ready for this music, but it was certainly particularly ready. Today I recognize that I was lucky. Despite of being a difficult city to live in, it was perfect and it was the first to welcome my whole world. It was the right place where I could express myself. Some time later some fans of mine told me that they listened to me and followed me because I emanated a different energy, but at that time I didn’t notice it.”

Then came the albums Come un vecchio incensiere all’alba di un villaggio deserto (Like an old censer at dawn in a deserted village) and Alan Sorrenti. In the latter he brought back Dicitencello Vuje, a new version of the classic Neapolitan song, in a prog version that entered the charts. Hungry for knowledge and excited to discover new things, Alan kept traveling. The trip affected his need to make music a lot.

A.S.: “The love of travel came almost before the music or, it probably happened at the same time. Travel was the lifeblood to me! I believe that traveling is one of the most educational forms that exist. If you want to learn something from life, traveling is important. It is a good way to study the human being. I liked this a lot and I felt that music and travel were important elements. Very soon I understood that I didn’t want to stay on the books but I wanted to know and live life.”

It was 1975 when he traveled to Africa. Once he got lost. The car’s alternator broke down and he got stuck in the middle of a field at night. He was rescued by some natives who, with small flashlights, showed him the way to the nearest village. He was in Senegal. They could have captured him, or cut him into small pieces and killed him, but, as he says, he was saved by his marked gestures, a detail that distinguishes the Neapolitans, and he was helped by a man to whom he told that he was a singer composer. The man accompanied him to the village, woke up the chieftain and shared the news with him. At that point the villagers took him to a group of boys who had studied music in France and who, in a few hours, during the night, organized a festival with music and dance. Alan returned to Italy with precious recordings that he brought, at DAMS, to his professor of ethnomusicology Roberto Levi, recordings that unfortunately were later lost. The African experience was very important in the discovery of what, according to him, he lacked. It was the rhythm.

sorrenti transformer

Back home he composed Sienteme, It ‘s Time To Land (Listen to me, it’s time to land) which was born from a tribal rhythm, enriched by his vocal harmonies. This song represents a transition in his music that was not understood by everyone and that led him more and more to take the definitive steps towards America. The direction was Los Angeles, more precisely the studio of producer Jay Graydon. While Star Wars was coming out at the movie theaters, Alan wrote Figli Delle Stelle the song that still makes people of all ages dance today. Once again Alan made people talk about himself. After the first changes, this move towards the L.A. Sound created a rift between his fans and bitter voices from some colleagues. However, he could not stop at just one genre, he had to continue exploring because, as he says, “The way home is not the way back!”

Therefore, you cannot look back if you aim to the evolution. In 1978, Figli Delle Stelle sold over a million copies of records and remained at the top of the charts for six months. It is still in great demand today and has been revived and redone in all ways. In fact, as I have already mentioned, in Italy, it is the most commercial piece, actually the one that led it to greatest success. In the first 10 years of his musical activity, Alan recorded and released 9 records and 19 singles between Italy and abroad. A full and intense life that of him, which is still now completely aimed at exploration, but which also subjected him to considerable stress. And so came the single La Strada Brucia (The Street Burns), a drastic change, due to his refusal to be relegated to the category of the pop artist with its relative limitations. La Strada Brucia is a rock piece that already anticipated the rock sound of the 90s. Following the album Angeli Di Strada (Street Angels), which he recorded in Iceland. During that time it was Italy that was in crisis and, as an artist, he expressed the feeling of those years by being able to read in advance the inner history of society and its various nuances. Several times throughout his career, he shocked audiences with changes and transformations. However he also underwent changes, sometime drastic, which unbalanced and destabilized him. For an artist moved by art and the desire to renew himself, it is difficult to be forced to satisfy the needs of a monotonous or perhaps politicized audience or simply too attached to habits.

The transformations are the result of a movement, of a constant search that, at a certain point, brought him to a new equilibrium. Alan discovered the ability to overcome difficulties by following Nichiren Daishonin’s Buddhism, and by realizing that, as human beings, we set ourselves limits and that only we can decide to achieve our goals. So he embarked on this path by rediscovering his potential, the potential of his life.

Toward the end of the ’80s he began practicing this philosophy in his daily life by opening his heart and acquiring awareness of being part of the cosmos, of being part of a whole. All livings have got this nature and are therefore all worthy of respect. But they need to be aware of it. He has gone beyond it and this transformation has brought him the positive!

At 72 years old with a 50-Year career in music, he is always in shape and maintains a lively enthusiasm, fueling his creativity. He has great energy and an infinite desire to do, a desire to share and to transmit to others. Alan still has things to say and even more to sing. While doing Oltre La Zona Sicura tour he is working on a double project that surely will shock everyone once again!

A.S.: ”The idea starts writing a book and, since it is also a bit fashionable, there will also be a documentary film about … About that guy called Alan. It’s going to be about that character. Who was that character? I want to break away from me. In few words, the main idea of the book is to tell how the man and artist in me, at the beginning are fully concentrated on Alan. Then it moves from “Me” to “Us” merging in the awareness of the mission of “giving” instead of “taking”. This changing in human life brings real happyness. The book will also be a somewhat fantastic autobiography, nothing that seems to have already been read. I’m not sure if it will all be the result of my memory or if it will be the result of events that really happened. I mean … I want to keep this fantastic situation that is known or not known. Is it Alan and how many faces does he have? This I would like to be able to tell. Maybe I will tell things that I have imagined but that I have not necessarily experienced. Why not? Isn’t it just as good? This is my big goal.

Alan has never stopped working on his roots, on the contrary, this has also given him greater self-awareness, and today he preserves both the Neapolitan and Welsh nature that make him most … Alan, with his own communicativeness and empathy.

A.S.: ”At the beginning I had a lot of Wales. Now, much more Napoli is found in the balance. About Neapolitan I preserve the passion, the ecstasy of flying, and poetry. The love-hate relationship belongs to the period of youth. Today it has turned into profound gratitude.

 

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