Born in Germany, Capossela moved to Italy shortly afterwards, where he grew up and was exposed to music influences alien to the usual background of a singer-songwriter. Even in his early pieces, Capossela’s world revolved around the American underground culture and the road myth (namely Jack Kerouac, Charles Bukowski and Tom Waits) as well as the Italian exoticism embodied by the legendary Luis Prima in the US or Renato Carosone in Italy. Capossela’s early works displayed a real passion for “Italo-Americanness”, for the kind of entertainment portrayed in Martin Scorsese’s films or in masterpieces like Big Night and Broadway Denny Rose, as well as an affectionate reference to the “exportable Italianness” that made Adriano Celentano and Adamo so famous with Italian communities abroad.
While his early recordings conveyed a scenario of this kind, with his fourth album Capossela began to pursue a different direction. Imagination “colics”, geographical derailments, images that would develop into stronger and stronger visions with each album: this is what Capossela’s backward journey towards his own roots (which would turn out to be the long folklore tradition of Italy) is all about. Il Ballo Di San Vito represented the finishing point of this journey and at the same time the starting point of a new one, which was also affected by his friendship with the late folk singer-songwriter Matteo Salvatore. Capossela actually regards Salvatore as his model, as he encouraged him to explore the rural and peasant world haunted by demons and ghosts, which both fascinate and obsess him. In the same way, Capossela also became interested in the revolutionary films by director Pier Paolo Pasolini, a passionate and hopeless champion of pre-industrial Italy and her values.
Capossela’s magic lies in his ability to break the boundaries of a song and to evoke, through the use of images, entire worlds in which to live through the song. They are worlds infested by demons, grace, shadows, lost souls and losers, and they are built on language, an element Capossela is constantly working on. Lyrics play a crucial role in Capossela’s songs, while the music – free from any genre restraints – is at the complete disposal of the musical world he creates. His music rests strongly on words, but at the same time it is so open to the world outside that it is able to incorporate tango, morna and rebetic music, thus involving different musicians and different backgrounds.
Capossela’s music career has been littered with collaborations over the years – from his first readings dedicated to Italian-American writer John Fante together with Vincenzo Costantino “Cinaski” to his tour with Neat Veliov’s Kocani Orkestar, the Balkan brass band made famous by Emir Kusturica’s film Time of the Gypsies; from his tribute to the distinguished Russian singer-songwriter Vladimir Vitsosky included in the album Il Volo Di Volodja to his ongoing collaboration with New York guitarist Marc Ribot and with cellist Mario Brunello and his Orchestra d’Archi Italiana; from his “Concerti per le Feste”, a pretext for regular live gigs during Christmas time to his concerts dedicated to morna music, tango and rebetic music in the show called “Parole d’altrove”; from his first radio broadcasts like “I cerini di Santo Nicola” and his radio adaptation of Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol to his own novel, Non Si Muore Tutte Le Mattine, which met with wide acclaim upon publication in 2004. Capossela then worked on another radio play (“RadioCapitolazioni”) and a theatrical piece (“Voci, Echi e Visioni da Non Si Muore Tutte Le Mattine”), both based on his book.
His latest, long-awaited album Ovunque Proteggi reached a surprising number one spot in the charts and sold over 70,000 copies in its first two months of release. It is a collection of solemn songs about “man, the earth and its never-ending topicality”. This time Capossela excelled himself, focusing on evocative words based on narrative archetypes that are engraved on the hard stone of time: “You get to a point where the novel, the topic or the mere current issue is not enough… You need to get back to the roots. On one hand, historical ages – baroque, neoclassical, modern… on the other, stone”.
Ovunque Proteggi is rich in historical, biblical and mythological references, each of which is connected with today’s reality, where it finds its deepest meaning. It is a parade of characters that the author defines as “wretches of all historical times”, stuck between the misery of their human condition and the longing to lift their eyes to the grace of God. Travel in space and time adds a deeper perspective to the record, serving almost as an “archaeological sediment” which makes Ovunque Proteggi a “geographical” album. It is a geographical album also because, in Pasolini’s style, it contains a geography of places and people, of the important encounters made before completing this work. The first stone was placed in Rome, in front of the Colosseum, during the recording of the song “Al Colosseo”. That was the start of six months of work during which Capossela wrote and recorded in the very places the songs led him to: a prehistoric cave in Sardinia (Ispinigoli), a church in Sicily (Scicli) or in Milan, a theatre (Treviso), a disused monastery (Montebello) or the hot and humid southern Emilia (Rubiera) where he polished the lyrics to his songs.
A histrionic and bewitching “circus artist”, Vinicio Capossela is also an outstanding and creative live performer. His recent tour, which started in February with a series of sold out concerts, speaks volumes. The show, of which Capossela is director and art director, literally reproduces the songs of his new album Ovunque Proteggi by immersing them in the evocative setting of a shadow theatre. The first act is a riot of shadows, sounds and visions, followed by a short interlude which leads to the second act, where a different selection of songs from previous albums is played depending on the location of the concert, the moment and the guests that join him onstage. After forty concerts held in winter and spring, Capossela spent last summer touring stone theatres, so as to mirror the music and lyrics of Ovunque Proteggi even further. From the concerts and the visions of this fortunate tour is taken his latest effort, the film drama/live cd Nel Niente sotto il Sole – Grand Tour, issued on dvd/cd shortly before Christimas 2006.
Vinicio Capossela has spent most of this year bringing his music outside of Italy. His three gigs in Spain at the end of 2006 were so widely acclaimed by critics and fans that his record company decided to release Ovunque Proteggi in the country. However, Spain is not the only place Vinicio visited. As his album was re-released there, gigs were scheduled in Germany, Greece, Switzerland, France, the Netherlands, Belgium, Luxembourg, and even Canada and United States in May (with a stunning live set at New York’s Joe’s Pub).
Last April Capossela performed in Greece for the first time. Together with his band and a rebetiko trio, he played at the Half Note in Athens for seven consecutive nights. This experiment spawned a proper show, originally entitled OI REBETIKI MINOTAVROI and then REBETIKOS GYMNASTAS. Five shows were played in Italy at the end of May and two more at the end of July.
In the meantime, at the end of June, Capossela was invited to guest the great concert the Greek chanteuse Dimitra Galani played at the Lycabettus in Athens. During the gig she delivered the Greek versions of two songs by Vinicio, “Corre il soldato” and “Non è l’amore che va via”, both of which were included in Dimitra Galani’s new album Dama Koupa.
The summer had more gigs in store – the Czech Republic, Austria, Portugal, in addition to some special events in Italy, namely the Florentine Genius that took place in Florence in May, where Capossela performed the live project FUGGITE AMANTI AMOR: RIME E LAMENTAZIONI PER MICHELANGELO together with top cello player Mario Brunello. Vinicio turned some of Michelangelo Buonarroti’s verses into “songs” providing them with music. Among his other engagements were the Festival Cremona Poesia [Cremona Poetry Festival] and the prestigious International Tiziano Terzani Literary Prize in Udine, in addition to another massive concert like The Italia Wave Festival (21th july). More international shows are scheduled for fall 2007 (Portugal, Germany) and winter 2008 (France).