Before I go and offend an entire nation of girly-haired divers (oops), lets just say that although Italy aren't the top favourite, they're always up there. They struggled against the States a bit, which is a little embarassing, but they've got myriads of talent to make up for it. They don't suck.
Whether this can be said for Italian music is up for debate. The only Italian bands outside of the mainstream that I'm familiar with are Breed77 (nu-metal with silly hair), Eiffel65 (remember them?) and Lacuna Coil (goth-metal with unfeasibly attractive lead singer).
But I'm after something a bit more native, a bit more unique. And, following a piqued interest in the gypsy-punk currently tearing out of Eastern Europe, I discovered patchanka. It's description is that of one that really should work: a mixture of traditional music, rock, punk, reggae - a bit of crazy stew of a bunch of styles. This sounds good, I thought.
And it's kind of fun. While not as wild as, say, Gogol Bordello, still it sounds like a rock'n'roll version of the opening scene to the Godfather: Sicilian trumpets via with a kind of funk oompah, with reggae and with a punky approach to mixing things up. I'm told (my Italian, it ain't too hot) that the lyrics tend towards the political, as these things so often do. So: lets have a look at some of the bands.
Probably the biggest are the Modena City Ramblers, who chuck a little Irish into the mix, incongruously enough. In fact, witness their overhaul of the Pogues' classic Old Main Drag to prove this, all penny whistles and mandolins and the like. It's all good fun though, and I can imagine they would be a riot live. Anything with trumpets, me.
Modena City Ramblers - Contessa (Pogues cover)
Modena City Ramblers feat. Goran Bregovic - Belle Ciao Millenium
From the video section of the website, I Ratti Della Sabina also look like they put on a good show. More raucous still than the Ramblers, they've also cunningly Flashed their website, so I can't direct-link any tracks. I really recommend you visit though, they seem pretty damn cool.
I Ratti Della Sabina - Il Funambolo (video)
More punky are Banda Bassotti. Frustratingly enough, I have little to no information on these bands for you, as all the websites are in Italian. Funnily enough. However, I've been able to glean a little - these guys formed in 1981 with strong sympathetic politics towards Palestine, the Basques and the like. They gained their initial following in squats, which worried me to the point where I was wondering if they were basically the Italian equivalent of the Levellers. Fortunately, the music is much less pedestrian, and ska, punk and Italian stylings all make themselves known.
Banda Bassotti - Andrò Dove Mi Porteranno I Mi
Banda Bassotti - All Are Equal For The Law
Finally (these is so far from exhaustive it's not even funny, but it'll do in the time I've got), Yo Yo Mundi. More folky than anything, I guess, especially on their newer material, they've just released a new score, commissioned by the International Silent Film Festival in Rome, for Sergei Eisenstein's Strike (Stachka), featuring, among others, Violent Femmes' Gordon Gano. It's not perhaps as musically exciting as Banda Bassotti or I Ratti Della Sabina, but it's a worthy artistic statement if nothing else, and shows that patchanka is not just about politics.
Yo Yo Mundi feat. Gordon Gano - Sitting In Silence
Yo Yo Mundi - I Bambini Imitano I Grandi
Buy Italian music/patchanka here
Buy Modena City Ramblers/Banda Bassotti/I Ratti Della Sabina/Yo Yo Mundi
Tags: Italy; World Cup; Patchanka; Gypsy Punk; Modena City Ramblers; I Ratti Della Sabina; Banda Bassotti; Yo Yo Mundi;
CIA Factbook: Italy