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The Breath For Survival - By Lucio Dalla
University Of Bologna
When I was still a child, I would meet groups of students dressed in their faculty colours milling around the centre of Bologna. They would be making a lot of noise about collecting some meagre offerings (almost always very little or nothing at all) for the freshmen’s party. Be it because of their colourful cloaks, their Sganappino hats*, their cheerfulness, or the confident pranks, coarse at times, that they played on the girls they met – girls who seemed to love the attention – I felt I had entered a republic of lunatics, where rules no longer existed or the few remaining had been jettisoned. This was in the mid-1950s: people were different, the city was different and, above all, life was different.
Bologna then was also full of American students. They had their own university but most of them would come to ours on Via Zamboni, spreading as far as the outskirts of the city. In those years, Bologna became quite Americanized with football and jazz, and the nightclubs like “Napoleone”, which would close for only a few hours at dawn, and would fill up every night with American and Greek students to hear the Italian comedians and musicians.
As I grew older, my hunger for jazz and for life drew me to them. I felt that they each brought with them traces of their past, their land and their family: this body of languages and cultures was so discernible that it gave colour to the city! From its image as a merry and gastronomic place, Bologna grew, perhaps against its will, into an international city.
Meanwhile I would frequent the nightclubs and meet the jazz musicians, who were just passing through or lived in Bologna, like Chet Baker, Jacques Pelzer and Charlie Parker’s great percussionist Peter Littman. I would learn English like the Italian emigrants would learn it in New York, in the streets, and every night I would go down to the jazz club basements eager not to miss a single word or note that emanated from these musical geniuses, as if it were a breath for survival.
Certainly, in those years I would have never imagined becoming a musician myself and living my dreams as I do now in a totally different world. And while all these strange things are happening to me, the courses and the lectures continue at the universities: before me are other eyes, other faces of young people, as I used to be… and perhaps, in their souls and their hearts, they are a little like me.
Article By Lucio Dalla For Città Bologna
Photos by Carlo Orsi
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