How could you put a song behind bars?
Excerpt of introduction by Dario Fo
In order to sing, you don’t need anything. You don’t need to be highly educated, nor to hold a university degree. You don’t even need to have a good voice… It is for this reason, perhaps, that many songs – those that were born under-the-counter, on the streets, in the fields, in factories and other unfortunate places – have always frightened power and its lackeys. Light songs and bad songs that were born poor and illegitimate, sharing the same blood – red, vivid and vital. Tough and impossible to eradicate like weed, they keep sprouting everywhere, in deserts as in cities, in the East as in the West. And anywhere you’ll find somebody with a pair of scissors in his hand who is determined to make those sounds disappear. But the silencing of one voice cannot sever the roots of those songs. A thousand years ago as today, storytellers and minstrels, rockers and rappers are still there, singing another history, the one that people want to hear and power wants to silence.
But music has the ability to fly: one cannot catch nor grab it. How could you possibly put a song behind bars? How can people kill a rhythm, a ballad, a refrain? Among all the possible aspects of censorship, music censorship is the most absurd and odious. That is why I think this a praiseworthy book, which provides us with an accurate document about the repression of musics that is still taking place today, in the Third Millenium BC, across the Third, the Second and the First World. (…)
I have subsequently written a number of “upsetting” songs that have disappeared for years from Italian radio and tv, like “Ho visto un re”, “Il primo furto non si scorda mai” and “Prete Liprando e il Giudizio di Dio”. And let’s not forget about the 1962 edition of the popular saturday evening TV program, Canzonissima. Its opening track “Su cantiam” [“Let us sing”], which I had written together with composer Fiorenzo Carpi, mocked the mediatic idiocy of our Beatiful Country. While the refrain went “Let us sing, let us sing, let’s not think, let’s not argue, let’s start singing…”, people could see images of miners, migrants and workers on strike. Rai [the Italian public tv company] didn’t like it, and all this contributed to put a ban on us.
As a zen proverb goes, “When the wise man points at the moon, the idiot looks at the finger.” So does censorship, which hopes to eliminate the cause by targeting its effect.
Excerpt of introduction to ‘Sparate sul pianista! Music censorship today’ – EDT, Torino 2007
Translation by Vincenzo Perna. Copyright EDT 2007. All right reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced in any form or by any means, electronic or otherwise, without the prior written permission from the publisher. This excerpt is republished with permission from the publisher.