Los Carosones. The epiphany of La Dolce Vita

Contaminations, as we know, enrich. And the whole of Southern Italy knows something about it. Since ancient times, in the land that was once called the Magna Graecia, different hegemonies have followed one another and different cultures contaminated us. The result of those contaminations emerged in the language, in life-style, in the way of thinking, in every art expression so in the music as well. The Neapolitan Power is a musical phenomenon that is talked about a lot. We have touched this thematic since the beginning of our publication with an interview with percussauthor Tony Cercola and in the following pages in the interview with songwriter Alan Sorrenti.

Especially there is controversy regarding this phenomenon dating. Well, journalists and authors can only date it by convention. The first time this definition was used was perhaps in the 70s. However, the Neapolitan Power already existed. Because of our history it is clear that it has probably always been inherent in our DNA and begun to manifest itself after the war through the musical innovations of Renato Carosone, open minded virtuoso pianist, ironic and brilliant showman. He has renewed our music by contaminating it with African, American rhythms. A mixture that took our song beyond the standards of that time. He was the forerunner of “teatro canzone” and one of the first Italian “rappers”.

While today in Italy, the cover bands remain slaves of the “influencers” of overseas music, and the bands and solo artists produce songs to be immediately consumed, from Barcellona, in Spain, comes a band that preserves good music and carries it around with the same spirit and the same irony of the famous trio Carosone, Di Giacomo, Van Wood. No coincidence that the cover band we’re going to talk about is called Los Carosones.

Photo©Los Carosones
Photo©Los Carosones

Los Carosones is a project founded by Nino Milone, a Sicilian abroad. Nino is from Catania and his blood boils like the lava of Mount Etna that overlooks his hometown. He travels a lot and has many interests including sociology and photography. In addiction of being the leader of the band he also started a blog on the history of Italian music during the time of La Dolce Vita.

In the 90s, as a student, Nino applied for the Erasmus exchange program of the University of Political Sciences that he attended in Milan. He was given the opportunity to go to Spain and to chose to stay in Madrid, Salamanca or Barcelona. He opted for the city on the Mediterranean Sea.

N.M.: “There is something about the color of the Mediterranean sea that makes me feel home right away and the sound of the Sicilian dialect that is so deeply engraved in my memories. No matter how far away I go, I always bring a bag of “capperi di Pantelleria” and another of “origano siciliano”, I just can’t live without it.

Nino completed his studies. Although he graduated in Political Science he never stopped studying and researching. In 2008 he was invited to perform, as a singer, at the Italian Consulate in Vancouver, as part of a Neapolitan band directed by maestro Lello Milo. He sung Renato Carosone’s songs. The audience went crazy. Those songs and his talent enchanted everyone present, so that Nino thought to start a project by playing and singing that repertoire.

He founded a band and named it Los Carosones. Since then the Los Carosones have been regular guests of historic venues in Barcelona and began to gaining success in international events and festivals such as the Voll Damm Jazz Festival in Barcelona, the Italian Festival in Portugal, the Festival de las Artes de Valparaiso in Chile. They also played at the Nacional Museum of Bogota and, in Stockholm, for the Swedish Royal family.Nino has lived in Barcelona for almost 30 years now. He is an open minded “citizen of the world”. However he holds his cultural heritage, respecting his identity as a son of Mount Etna.

Photo©Luis Ferreirinha

N.M.: ”Catania is like a pearl in a shell. It lays over Mount Etna that ranges from 3 thousand meters directly to the sea. I don’t think anyone can understand this kind of feeling except from Neapolitans, naturalmente. It’s a city where life seems to flow in a more vibrant and colorful tone, a place which holds its own tastes and sounds, that are immediately recognizable. A place of history where the tales of the myth have left a trace in stone. But above all there’ is a Catanese way of going through life filled with irony and wiseness that I hold very dear. Catania is a port city looking towards the east side of the Mediterranean, where it seems like the sun rises over the sea everyday riding Apollo’s chariot.

After the introduction of the charming and talented band leader it is time to ask him some questions.

NAP. – What prompted you to permanently move to Barcelona? –

N.M. – Well, that was the easy part. Anyone who has visited Barcelona in the 90’s would have wanted to stay. It was clear that the city was going trough a Rinascimento, if we can call it like that. The atmosphere on the street was unlike anything I have witnessed before. The melting pot was just at the right temperature, bubbling like an old Italian sauce, it was perfect. Loads of young people coming from all over Europe and South America were moving in, called by the sirens of an amazingly good and cheap life. It took me three months to realize I wasn’t going back. Obviously Barcelona have changed trough time, it could not last forever that way. And it’s inevitable that I had my share of hard times living abroad as well, but I’m still very happy of that decision. –

NAP. – How did you get into music? –

N.M. – We are used to have singers popping out every now and then in the family. A century ago in my grandmother’s house there would be three opera singers. And one of them, Franco Lo Giudice, came to be an international sensation, recording artist and even actor in mute cinema.

My father was in the Coro di Voci Bianche del Duomo di Milano and have always being singing at home. He’s a big fan of Frank Sinatra. And that’s how I got into music. I was fourteen when I found an old tape with Sinatra’s recordings of the 50’s in my family’s stereo. I was taken away by the music, the lyrics, the phrasing and the truthfulness of the voice. For a few years I would only listen to his music and the Rat Pack in general. I would read books and investigate deeply what took place in the decade of the 50’s. By the time I was eighteen I had it clear that one day I would be a crooner, I just didn’t know that it would be in Italian! –

NAP.- Los Carosones’ repertoire does not offer only songs by Renato Carosone. How came the choice to give the band this name? –

N.M. – When I digged deeper into Carosone’s shows I discovered that he would play both his songs as well as from other composers. Goingtrough his repertoire you’ll find many version of Domenico Modugno’s songs as well as north and south American classics. He would arrange them in his own very personal style. Not only that. The drummer of the band, Gegè di Giacomo, was singing some of the biggest hits as “Caravan Petrol” and “Pigliate ‘na pastiglia”. And the bass player, Piero Giorgetti, was the singer of other evergreen classics like “Mambo Italiano” or “Piccolissima Serenata”. From the writing of the songs that was often done with Nisa untill the magical perfomance on stage, Renato Carosone’s music is a great example of team work. In our repertoire we try to fit in all those different aspects in a format that would not be very different from an actual concert by Carosone. It’s a compendium of styles ranging from boogie woogie to swing, passing from early rock and roll to the twist. And then going south towards the Cuban chá chá chá, the Brasilian samba and the tarantella from the Mediterraneo. The name Los Carosones comes from this attempt to put together all the different souls of this amazing artists and their genius band leader. –

NAP. – Can you tell how you met the other band members and what made you all stay together in this project? –

N.M. – During the last ten years I have worked with many musicians in a long and winding road as you would expect for an independent music band. Most of them I have met because they were living in Barcelona and shared a common approach on making music. Not only you have to play many different styles in one concert but on top you don’t have to take yourself too seriously. Otherwise you wouldn’t be able to express the irony and lightheartedness of Carosone’s music. I have worked with many great artists, most of them coming from different countries, and for them Carosone’s music has been a great discovery. I wouldn’t be able to go trough this adventure if it wasn’t for a Catalan friend and a member of the band since the beginnings, a great bass player whose name is Pasto. He’s an amazingly gifted musician and music producer, known for Lupita’s Friends, (Production team of hip-hop, r&b, trap and urban music. ed.) who has brought a unique energy to Los Carosones. As a band what gets you trough the years and the tough times is the human factor, you just can’t make it without it. –

NAP. – Is there a specific reason why you only play cover songs? –

N.M. – Because they are beautiful. When I investigate the music that was made in Italy in the 40’s and the 50’s I have the feeling that there are thousands of great songs that have got lost. We forgot about them when the taste changed. And now is the time to take them back to stage. The aim is not to pay homage or try to imitate them. It’s about breathing life back into them and see where they lead you to. Some “pieces of art” are so well done that they can be repeated trough time endlessly and they keep on telling new things. That’s what happens with the music from Renato Carosone, Fred Buscaglione, Mina, Domenico Modugno and many more. –

NAP. – What distinguishes Los Carosones from all the other cover bands offering the same repertoire (that of La Dolce Vita)? –

N.M. – When I think about the great tributes I immediately think about Renzo Arbore’s Orchestra Italiana and Mondo Cane by Mike Patton. In my opinion they set the higher standard for the full-orchestra show and they are excellent in their own way. Los Carosones is a band built for night clubs where the show has to be energetic, making people dance and fall in love. It’s not about paying a tribute to the past, it’s a celebration of the present trough the emotions that La Dolce Vita universally represents. –

NAP. – What is the best part of your concert? –

N.M. – Without a doubt the best part of our concert is the reaction of the audience. Specially from elderly people who have lived the music we play in their own life. The smiles, the gratitude and the pure emotions coming out from them is something very special. It is more valuable than money, more gratifying than fame, it gives you back for all the adversity you had to go trough to keep such an artistic endeavor afloat. –

To discover more about the band Los Carosones visit the website 

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