I’m trying to learn Italian. In my studies I’m using a myriad of books and apps (DuoLingo, Mango, Babbel, etc.) But one of the most enjoyable ways of improving pronunciation and picking up new vocabulary is by listening to songs in Italian.
I already have my favorite pop stars… Arisa! Giorgia! Irene Grandi!
One of the words that kept popping up constantly in the lyrics was “paura”. It was such a oft-repeated word that I had to look it up. Turns out that “paura” means “fear”. What an odd sentiment, I thought, to appear so frequently in so many Italian love songs.
Hadn’t Italians mastered the art of love? After all, they’re the ones who musically defined it: “When the moon hits your eye like a big pizza pie…. that’s amore!” So, why the paura? What’s so scary about love?
The answer came to me last night while watching an action series on Netflix. The episode included an all-too-common plot device. You’ve probably seen it in a movie or on tv:
A driver and her passenger have just escaped some terrible danger: maybe a bomb, a chase, or a nasty villain. The background music becomes calm and soothing. As the car passes through an intersection, the driver turns to the passenger, smiles warmly, and says: “I think we’re going to be ok.” Or words to that effect.
There, in the window behind the smiling driver, you see it. Blurry at first, perhaps. But all too soon it becomes clear: a van, a bus, or a truck hurdling through the traffic light. It blindsides the car… there is a sound of squealing metal and shattering glass. The scene fades to black.
They never know what hit them. One moment it’s safety, smiles, and soothing music, and then suddenly everything is spinning out of control.
Fade to black. Paura.
On a Brighter Note
Not every Italian song is about fear. (Thankfully.)
One of the most unique and heartwarming songs I’ve encountered is “Roba Bella” or “The Good Stuff”. It started as an art project of two brothers, collectively known as Pastis, who put Italian street scenes to music. One of the most captivating videos was of Pasquale, a vendor in a public market, whose sing-song selling of his wares was music in and of itself.
Irene Grandi, a gifted singer, added lyrics to the video. Her words, with Pasquale’s voice in the background, are pure beauty:
It is the voice of Pasquale
it arrives in May
by the road
fragrant of the past
it’s a beautiful morning
a beautiful aria
a beautiful aria
and Pasquale sings the good stuff
he comes from the mountains
with summer in his pockets