Beppe Gambetta: Where the Wind Blows / Dove Tia o Vento

Lyrics After All

Listening Post 297. Over a career spanning 40-plus years and more than a dozen albums, Beppe Gambetta has steadily added talents to his repertoire. From a young acoustic guitarist channeling Italian and American folk and bluegrass into a signature style, he became singer, composer, arranger, sound engineer and concert producer. At age 65 he has added one more title: Poet. It turns out he has a lot to say about roots, role models, the road and artistic freedom—and he expresses himself in a voice of unhurried warmth and passion. The title track of the album that makes Gambetta a cantautore pays homage to his home town, Genoa, revealing its sorrows—floods, fascism and war, lost sailors, the longing of emigrants—against the backdrop of its beauty; it’s a personal song featuring his family and sung in Ligurian, the historic language of the Italian Riviera (video 1). In Wise Old Man he honors three singer-songwriters who inspired him—Pete Seeger, Fabrizio De André (also from Genoa) and Doc Watson; the joy he took from meeting each of them radiates in the companion instrumental Forget About Me Not (videos 2 & 3). Gambetta’s most introspective tracks are in Italian: Amica Libertà (Freedom My Friend) is about choosing conviction over compromise and the right—as he once put it—“to pick up my spear every morning and search for my own windmills” (video 4). In La Musica Nostra (Our Music) you can almost feel the grit of the road, the late-night happiness after a concert and the sunrise reminder of unstable employment (video 5). The album is spiced by its sharp instrumentals, each focused on a single feeling—from sadness to recaptured childhood to appreciation for the New Jersey hamlet that became the artist’s second home. Where the Wind Blows was a story long in coming; here’s hoping there will be more chapters. (Borealis Records)

Beppe Gambetta: Where the Wind Blows / Dove Tia o Vento
Beppe Gambetta: Vocals, acoustic guitar, electric guitar, slide guitar, bouzouki, glockenspiel
Rusty Holloway: Upright bass
Joe Bonadio: Percussion
Michael Ronstadt: Cello
Tim O’Brien: Mandolin
Laura Cortese: Violin
Jefferson Hamer: Acoustic guitar
All lyrics and music by Beppe Gambetta

Note. Ligurian (also known as Genoese and, in Monaco, as Monegasque) is the historic language of the Republic of Genoa. Repository of much of Genoa’s history and literature, the language is still spoken by several hundred thousand people. Over the past century, however, it has been largely eclipsed by Italian.

 

Dove Tio o Vento / Where the Wind Blows
Beppe Gambetta
Sung in Ligurian, the song expresses the author’s love of his native Genoa, echoing the city’s sorrows and traditions, history and beauty, and filtered through the memories of his own family.

Grandma Giò was alone with her children/her husband left never to return
Uncle Langìn was a rock fisherman/Mingo was born to sail
Cillin had emigrated two years earlier/he wanted to own a hardware store
the sea took him, they never saw him again/the sea chest was returned with all his best clothes

And the son told him not to think about it/why do you want to go back to Genoa
I know you left the light on in the staircase/but the sea is thick again
and the water enters/they no longer go to Boca they go where the wind blows

They sent them away and the war was over/but the bad grass grows in every corner
born in the rows, on the slopes, it is a disease/and they returned in July they were many
Balilla also came back and died young/he was shot while he was holding a fire extinguisher
we never knew if it was worth it/and how the bad grass would grow again

And the son told him not to think about it/why do you want to go back to Genoa
I know you left the light on in the staircase/but the sea is thick again
and the water enters/they no longer go to Boca they go where the wind blows

Today we no longer talk and drink wine/we no longer breathe iron and coal
but it seems that this city falls to pieces/and the hope of revolution is gone
the beauty that pursues you persists/it will seize you and compel your return
beauty that becomes ever more beautiful/but beauty cannot feed you

And the son told him not to think about it/why do you want to go back to Genoa
I know you left the light on in the staircase/but the sea is thick again
and the water enters/they no longer go to Boca they go where the wind blows

But the water does not forgive/and the sea enters
they no longer go to Boca they go where the wind blows

 

Wise Old Man
Beppe Gambetta
Sung in English, the song pays homage to three of the author’s musical role models, each of whom he met. The first verse is dedicated to folk icon Pete Seeger (1919-2014), the second to the great Genoese singer-songwriter Fabrizio De André (1940-1999) and he third to bluegrass legend Doc Watson (1923-2012).

(Original Italian lyrics translated and adapted by James Keelaghan)

Wise old Man you were tired when I met you/you were timeless but you were feeling your age
your voice was hoarse but it still held a story/and your banjo still commanded every stage
The tales that you told me got me thinking/that a story holds more power than a gun
that hope is much more powerful than money/and when our voices sing together we are one

Wise old Man I think you are immortal/the body dies, the lyric carries on
reminding me whatever I may write of/I must speak out for the dispossessed and wronged
You left early but I feel that you’re here/your presence makes me feel a bit less fear
when we sing your words we give back what you gave/like flowers gently placed upon a grave

Wise old Man I could read your hands like Braille/every callous, every wrinkle told a tale
your eyes were blind but you still had an ear/hearing was your seeing, you heard it all so clear
A sound from a distant place and time/wafting up from some lost valley through the pines
we played melody and rhythm through the night/and watched the couples dance until daylight

 

Forget About Me Not
Beppe Gambetta
Instrumental coda to Wise Old Man

 

Amica Libertà / Freedom My Friend
Beppe Gambetta

(From the Italian lyrics)
I have lived my time/and invented a way

and gambled my life on it because

My passion was strong/but I have been betrayed
for love, I did this for me

But it’s not an easy life/it is an endless struggle
amidst those who live by compromise

I have met joy/and friends and suffered weariness
and I have found freedom

Now I’m happy/and give thanks for the courage
that brought me this far

Without living an illusion/of stable employment
without envy or opportunism

I have met joy/and friends and suffered weariness
and I have found freedom

Now I am happy/and give thanks for the courage
that brought me this far

And I will never go back/but I am no longer alone
in my world of freedom

 

La Musica Nostra / Our Music
Beppe Gambetta

(From the Italian lyrics)
Who knows if we will get there/if the theatre will be full
what a strange noise the brakes are making/maybe we just go slow

They did some publicity/they paid after one year
“How nice, you are an artist!”/“Do you have Visas?”

That August festival/doesn’t answer, still nothing
should we write them again?

Did you get your passport?
Give me a kiss, let’s say goodbye/what a backache!

My love, my love/I wish it wouldn’t end
that the road could continue/endlessly with you
and of course the music/the music of the Fathers
real music, for others/our music!

Here people look at you strangely/it’s better not to stop you know
that ancient palace, not bad/but… a shopping centre!

The sound is not good/we must equalize
“I’m from Genova, a beautiful city! You should visit!“
“Wir sind musiker, wir haben nur unsere instrumente mitgebracht!”

Journalists, musicians, publicists/posters, mailing lists, ibuprofen,
flyers, old strings, don’t drink too much/change the oil, new master, then the people
lots of people and then only you and me

My love, my love/I wish it wouldn’t end
that the road could continue endlessly with you
and of course the music/the music of the Fathers
real music, for others/our music!

 


One thought on “Beppe Gambetta: Where the Wind Blows / Dove Tia o Vento

  1. Βeppe approaches his work in a very sensual & emotional way. Under a remarkable consideration to be part in my forthcoming webradio shows ( Around Midnight Hit & Run )

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