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‘This concert is for the Cuban people, for their sweetness, for being genuine, for their music…’ Zucchero
December 8, 2012 will be etched in my memory forever as far as concerts go. Zucchero, the mega Italian rock star, came to my beloved Caribbean island to sing for us and I’m ashamed to confess that I had no idea who he was—a terrible gap in my musical knowledge.
So, I went to the Instituto Superior de Arte (ISA) where the concert was held, ready to be amazed with what I was going to hear, but that was not the only thing that the evening had in store for me.I was surprised by the amount of people who like me were arriving at the place eager to get into contact with the Italian star and his music. The crowd somewhat reminded me of the Concert for Peace held in the Plaza de la Revolución in 2009, but this time it was at night and it was the University of the Arts that opened its arms to the musicians and the audience.
The second thing that took me by surprise was the size of the stage and the excellent effects including the lighting, which a number of students from the University had a hand in. The open area in front of the School of Music kept filling up endlessly, until at last, the concert was opened by Buena Fe with the crowd singing along.
Immediately after that, Buena Fe welcomed Zucchero to the stage. I still can’t understand how I had not heard about Zucchero before because the truth is that I loved his music as well as his stage presence, and I danced until I was ready to drop.
Zucchero invited a number of Cuban musicians to his concert, including Elmer Ferrer, Guillermo Fragoso and Horacio Ël Negro” Hernandez, and singers Laritza Bacallao, David Blanco and Pedrito Calvo. One of the most exciting moments of the evening was Zucchero’s performance of Miserere along with Pavarotti, and Cuban pianist Frank Fernandez, who stamped his unique style on the piece, while we all watched and listened mesmerized thanks to the large screens.
Throughout the night, Zucchero sang several of the songs from his album La sesión cubana—The Cuban Session—which he recorded in July last year with musicians from the island. He also sang Guantanamera (in Italian), which was warmly received by the audience who sang along with the Italian star. For the performance of Miserere, (performed together on stage so many times with the famed Luciano Pavarotti), Zucchero and Luciano were reunited thanks to technology, this time though the Italian rocker particularized the sound quality of the song with the presence of Frank Fernandez, who gave a masterful performance on the piano. Other songs included Sensa una donna and Per colpa di chi.
After this experience, I can truly say that Zucchero has left Cuba but his music remains with us.
Adelmo Fornaciari was born 25 September 1955. He is more commonly known by his stage name Zucchero Fornaciari or simply Zucchero. An Italian rock singer, his music is largely inspired by gospel, blues and rock music, and alternates between ballads and more rhythmic boogie-like pieces.
Zucchero is the Italian word for sugar. In his career, spanning four decades, Fornaciari has sold over 40 million records around the world and has achieved numerous awards, including two World Music Awards, six IFPI Europe Platinum Awards and a Grammy Award nomination.
His musical career began in 1970, with several small bands such as I Ducali, Le Nuove Luci, Sugar & Daniel, Sugar & Candies and finally with a band named Taxi, with whom he won the Castrocaro music festival in 1981. He made his first appearance in the famous Sanremo festival next year with the songs “Una notte che vola via” and in 1983 with “Nuvola” at Festival dei Fiori. His first album, Un po’ di Zucchero, was released the same year with moderate success.
In 1989 Fornaciari and his band recorded the album Oro incenso e birra in Memphis. The album, which is greatly influenced by American soul music, included guest appearances by Eric Clapton, and blues singer Rufus Thomas, while Fornaciari’s band by that time included former E-Street Band member David Sancious. Oro, incenso e birra still stands as one of Fornaciari’s most successful albums, outselling even Blue’s and includes the Italian hit singles “Diamante”, “Overdose (d’Amore)”, “Il Mare” and “Wonderful World”.
After the million selling success of Blue’s and Oro incenso e birra in Italy, and his collaborations with Joe Cocker, Stevie Ray Vaughan, Eric Clapton and Miles Davis, Fornaciari from 1990 on attempted to conquer the rest of Europe. The album Blue’s was released the following year in the United Kingdom, and in 1990 Zucchero Sings his Hits in English, an album that featured songs from the Blue’s and Oro incenso e birra albums, some of which translated to English by Frank Musker, was released worldwide.
Fornaciari’s best known hit “Senza una donna” (“Without a Woman”), in a duet with Paul Young, is from this album. The first pressing of the album didn’t feature the duet: the song was performed by Fornaciari only. The duet was a great success worldwide, reaching the top 10 in European charts. Other European hit singles from this album include English versions of “Diamante” (of which the original Italian lyrics were written by Francesco De Gregori, and “Wonderful World” (with Eric Clapton). Diamante was later released as a duet with Randy Crawford, a variant not available on any album until the special edition of Zu & Co.
In 1992 Fornaciari released the album Miserere. Again produced by Corrado Rustici, it was a much darker album than Fornaciari’s previous works, which was made clear by the title track, a duet with Luciano Pavarotti. Elvis Costello wrote the lyrics to the track “Miss Mary”, U2’s Bono was responsible for the English version of the title track and Paul Buchanan of The Blue Nile provided two sets of English lyrics. On the album and during the tour, Fornaciari was accompanied by former Santana drummer Michael Shrieve. The album Diamante was released in Mexico and other Latin American countries in 1994, and was an attempt to use the same method of Zucchero sings his hits in English for the Spanish and Latin American market, also in 1994 Fornaciari was the only European artist to perform at the 25th anniversary edition of the Woodstock festival.
The compilation The Best of Zucchero “sugar” Fornaciari´s greatest hits was released in 1996, shooting into all European charts, and up to the number one position in France and Italy. The CD, released in an Italian and an English version, contained 13 of Fornaciari’s greatest hits (excluding the Miserere period) and three new songs including the hit single “Menta e rosmarino” (“I feel so lonely tonight”). During the sold out tour Fornaciari sang with Buddy Guy in Milan, and played “My Love” (the English version of “Il Volo”) and “Un piccolo aiuto” (together with Eric Clapton) during the ´96 Pavarotti and Friends show. The Best of-tour also brought Fornaciari to the US for the first time playing to sold out clubs in New York and LA.
The spring of 2004 saw the release of the duet album Zu & Co.. On the album, which had been sixteen years in the making, Fornaciari duets with international stars such as Sting, B.B. King, Miles Davis, Maná, Sheryl Crow, Eric Clapton and Solomon Burke. On 6 May 2004 the album was presented during a concert in London’s Royal Albert Hall, where many of the album’s gueststars appeared to perform with Fornaciari. Zu & Co., and its American 2005 counterpart Zucchero & Co which was released on the Starbucks Hear Music label, became huge hits. In July 2005, Fornaciari took part in the Live 8 concerts in both Rome and Paris.
In November 2010, Fornaciari released a studio album entitled Chocabeck. The album was produced by Don Was and Brendan O’Brien and includes collaborations with Brian Wilson and U2’s Bono. The first single in Italy was the song È Un Peccato Morir, and in the rest of Europe Chocabeck and Alla Fine.