Amara terra mia – Domenico Modugno

Sun in the valley and sun on the hill
In the fields, nobody’s left

Goodbye, goodbye, my love, I am going away
My bitter land, bitter and beautiful

Endless skies and faces like stone
Hands hardened, yet, without hope

Goodbye, goodbye, my love, I am going away
My bitter land, bitter and beautiful

Amongst the olive groves the moon is born
A baby cries, sucking a shriveled breast

Goodbye, goodbye, my love, I am going away
My bitter land, bitter and beautiful.

Domenico Modugno is one of the most celebrated Italian artists. He is considered the first Italian modern songwriter, and he was also an actor, and later in life, a committed MP for the Radical Party (when they weren’t as much of a joke as they are nowadays…). He is internationally known for his 1958 hit song “Nel Blu Dipinto Di Blu (Volare)”, which was then adapted in English and covered by Dean Martin and many others.

Modugno’s Amara terra mia originates from a much older traditional folk song from the region of Abruzzo in Central Italy. While remaining very faithful to the feelings expressed in the original song, Modugno changed some details to adapt it to his own origins: he was from Puglia, the region known as the “heel of Italy”.

Over the the whole of the 20th century, Central and Southern Italy were the most affected by industrial development, the decline of the agricultural industry (back then still pretty much based on a feudal system), poverty and wars. Many abandoned their homes and migrated towards the richer, industrial cities of the North  – Turin, Milan and Genoa being the “industrial triangle” – or abroad, to countries like Belgium, Germany, France, UK, USA, and so on…

The Italian folk music tradition is rich with “protest songs” denouncing the exploitation of  workers and the tragedy of hundreds driven away from their homes by poverty and hunger, in the desperate search of a better life. History teaches that, far from the Promised Land, what they actually found was more exploitation and poverty, discrimination, abuse and racism. Not many decades later, many Italians seem completely oblivious about this “insignificant” part of our recent history…

Written by Italy Calling

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