I initially intended for the first stop in the Ragashanti To The World Culture Tour to be in Ghana. However circumstances conspired to prevent that start, most notably the ebola issue in West Africa.
The first stop then became Italy…..an interesting country, to say the least.
I am presently writing from the city of Bologna in Italy.
Most people across the world are familiar with Italy through popular images from sports, fashion, cars, catholicism and the movies: World Cup football, the Italian Footbal League, the mafia (La Cosa Nostra), the Godfather movies, internationally renowned fashion designers, high-end sports cars and, of course, the home of the Pope, catholics and catholicism: the Vatican (which is actually a recognized country on its own).
Italy is also famed for its incredibly seasoned and tasty cuisine, and particularly well known as the originator or the home of pizza. Good food is very, very important in Italy!
Celebrated popular fashion designers such as Armani, Versace, Gucci, Ferragamo, Dolce and Gabbana, Bruno Magli, Moschino, Prada and many more are Italian.
Italians are also known as the makers of some of the best high-performance cars in the world. Lamborghini, Ferrari, Maserati, Alfa Romeo and the oft quoted most expensive commercial car in the world, Bugatti, to name a few, are all Italian made automobiles.
Italy is all that and much more, with very pronounced regional differences. For example, many Italians believe the northerners are more formal and, as Jamaicans would say, “stush”. Southerners are considered warmer, more relaxed, more multicultural and more accepting of non-Italians, (it’s interesting to note here that the southern end of Italy is only 369 miles from the continent of Africa – Tunisia to be exact). Additionally, there are cultural differences between Italians living in Rome, Naples, Florence (Tuscany), Milan, Genoa, Venice and other areas.
Of particular interest is the fact that reggae music and culture are also revered and celebrated highly in certain parts of Italy. Dancehall too has an obvious popular following in several Italian cities. Nonetheless there is a marked preference for roots reggae.
Last night I went to a reggae party at the Sottotteto Sound Club, in Bologna and saw the veteran selector David Rodigan unleash an energetic fusion of reggae and dancehall music. The patrons could not get enough. It was quite interesting to see a packed club of 99% white Italians, with two white selectors (Rodigan and Piertosi) playing songs from well-recognized dancehall and reggae entertainers, shouting familiar Jamaican party terms, “Puuuuuuulllll Up!”, “Wheeeeelll!” And yet, the focus was not about race or color, but a celebration of the pleasures of life through rituals grounded in music and dance – reggae and Dancehall music manifested through a synthesis of Italian and Jamaican cultures.
Much more has occured in my first couple of days here….and I’m sure the remainder of the week will yield even more insights not only into Italian culture, but also the ways in which Jamaican and Caribbean cultures have been assimilated and integrated into life in Italy.