An Italian sojourn with Jimmy Fontana

I was born and raised in a place which was home to the greatest Bengali author, poet and songwriter of all time, Rabindranath Tagore. Therefore, a deep love for music comes naturally to us Bengalis. Like everyone in my family, I grew up listening to songs in three specific languages Bangla, Hindi and English. And quite frankly was proud of my eclectic choice in music until a year ago when I experienced something which made me realize that good music speaks for itself. That we can enjoy and love a song without even understanding a word of the language it is written in.

My speaking and comprehension capabilities are painfully restricted to the three above mentioned tongues. Despite several honest attempts, I have never been  successful in picking up any foreign lingua. Yet the very first time when I heard this soul-soothing Italian song ‘Il Mondo’ my heart literally skipped a beat. I could make nothing of the lyrics and the singer (Jimmy Fontana) was also completely unheard of, at least in my country. Yet none of these factors bothered me at that time. Yes, like every ardent music lover I too was familiar with the clichéd saying “Music has no boundaries” and this was my turn to actually start believing in it.

A year and a half ago, I and my family took a trip to southern Italy. On way to Naples, on the last day of our Italian sojourn, the driver-cum-guide Gianni suggested in his endearing broken English that we should at least listen to one Italian number before leaving his beautiful country. Being a die-hard music lover, it was one request I could simply not say no to, and boy am I proud of it?  That was the moment, I first heard the deep lilting voice of this Italian-born singer-songwriter with thick glasses Fontana.

Absolutely nothing, not even the exhaustion from my hectic one-day Amalfi trip or the sleep-inducing heady effect of limoncello shots, mattered at that moment. As if all the tiredness from the weary journey just washed away as soon as that haunting soft melodious voice started crooning. Such is the power of great music that it somehow manages to sneak into your heart and takes a permanent place there.

Ever since that day in Naples, the snobbish Bengali in me opened herself to music from around the world. My playlist now features songs in various languages. And to be honest, sometimes I do take pride in flaunting it to my friends and family. And as far as my foreign language proficiency goes, well no luck there, it’s still as limited as it was before my Italian vacation in 2015. Perhaps someday, who knows, I also might be able to master a new exotic language and impress my loved ones with it 🙂

N.B.   After its release in 1965, the classic number ‘Il Mondo’ stayed on top of the Italian hit parade for four consecutive weeks. Its popularity can be measured by the fact that after Fontana (who also sang a Spanish version of it), the song was later covered by several other artists such as Gianni Morandi, Al Bano and Milva. It also featured in soap operas and movies, including the 2013 British rom-com ‘About Time’ starring Rachel McAdams and Domhnall Gleeson.

Keep listening to good music folks !