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Pippo Pollina

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“I’m not afraid to let myself go and sway to the rhymes”, Pippo Pollina sings in his new song “lo non ho paura”. There are likely very few amongst the Mediterranean songwriters, for whom every verse becomes a dance. A dance, that releases a flood of touching images, imaginative yearning and fulfillment, sorrow and fortune. With his new work “Il sole che verrà”, the sicilian has managed a wonderful new, dazzling cycle of songs. His theme is hope in times of spiraling violence – a hope that must come from art.

“Where politics and religion no longer manage to provide elements of a platform; for ideas and adequate values, then it is up to us as artists to show possible solutions”, wirtes Pippo Pollina in the foreword of his new work. For the Sicilian with the adopted home in Zurich, this path only leads through music and poetry. With this he gives his audience a port in which they can lay anchor to brotherhood and a large range of emotions. The singer, who had to leave his home because the mafia silenced his dreams, has been offering this port for over a quarter of a century. Not only is he appreciated by his audience because of this, but also his critics. He is the winner of the “Freiburger Leiter” and the Swiss fine arts award and of course he is admired by his composer colleagues, among them Konstantin Wecker, Georges Moustaki and Linard Bardill.

In 2014, after a theater opera and working with a youth orchestra, the poet with Mediterranean radiance came out with his first studio album in eight years: “L’appartenenza”.  This was his attempt to take on the subject of “belonging” in his songs. Hope is related to “belonging”, because it also gives stability in turbulent times: “Hope as a theme has never ceased to occupy my thoughts and inhabit my collection of songs”, says Pollina, who even sees it as a pragmatic theme. He has implemented this theme with an ensemble of nearly two dozen musicians from Jazz to the luminaries of classical music, including old and new companions, such as the likes of the multi-instrumentalist Martin Kälberer and the bassist Sven Faller.

The expressive role for the thirteen different shades of hope is powerful:

For the introduction "Potro mai dirti", Pippo Pollina steps back and lets the lyrical soprano of the Belgian Odilia Vandercruysse shine, before a men’s choir and finally Pippo’s own, raw and yet so sensitive voice build a magnificent contrast in this classical ballad about the mystery of life, of which one should not be afraid. “A mani basse” tells through a wistful harmonica melody of the sadness of the boxer, whose fight becomes a metaphor for the burden of life – if it weren’t for the light at the end of the tunnel. With this song as his first single, the songwriter is in a touching way, tipping his hat, to the grandeur of the recently deceased Muhammad Ali.

As always Pippo Pollina is the observer from a distance, paying attention to detail and a quiet meandering, he focuses on the fast paced, high strung world, like in his folky flute waltz “Andarsene d’estate”. In the resilient title track he embarks on a journey with the wind to the sun, almost like an Ikaros, yet he doesn’t burn his wings, but instead he draws new inspiration for his poetry from their light. It is musically composed with a rustic male choir, a lyrical saxophone and a swinging horn section.

One of the many hightlights is the impressive “100 Chimere”, which begins as a floating air structure with the clang of Duduk, as a wistful memory, until finally being revealed as a powerful dance of zest for life. In “Divertimento latino” he expresses, to the rhythm of the Argentinian Chacarera, his love to all the hope giving poets and musicians of Latin America, while being brilliantly supported by the voice of Marili Machado. The other moving duet of the album is Pippo Pollina singing with the Norwegian Rebekka Bakken, a tender, Anglo-Italian hymn about the oceans, upon which love travels.

Towards the end Pippo Pollina shows in “Ancora una”, once again, all his fine poetic impulses, when he arises from a sensitive piano ballad to a tangible rock gesture, in a tribute song to the unbridled lust for life, for which a lifetime is not enough. “Hope dies last” – everyone knows the saying. However, for Pippo Pollina it is more than the last straw: it is fertile ground for a genuine and poignant art of song writing, which is only still rarely to be found amidst our latitudes.


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