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Sergio Cammariere and the Feeling of Freedom–With Music and For Music

Interview with the Calabrian composer and singer-songwriter, author of "Libero nell'Aria", the intense, visceral and emotional account of his life and education

Sergio Cammariere. Photo: Alessio Pizzicannella

Sergio Cammariere

Who is Sergio Cammariere? This a well -known story, he is one of the most refined and appreciated Italian musicians and composers, his career started when he was very young. Beloved by the public, but also by critics (Targa Imaie of Premio Tenco 1997 and Targa Tenco in 2002, and 12 international awards), he has so far released 11 albums as a singer-songwriter, composed 20 soundtracks for the cinema and he also has been on important stages such as that of Sanremo, achieving and consolidating a success that continues over the years.

Recently, he has published a book titled “Libero nell’aria” for Rizzoli Editore, written together with Cosimo Damiano Damato. It narrates his own story up to 2003–an intense, visceral, exciting story of life and experiences. It ends this way: “Everything I do, I do it for you. Music, dressed in freedom. The true queen of my desires. After all, I have always been free, free in the air.”

I interviewed Sergio in Rome, at the house of Lino Patruno, whom he met again, for this occasion, after 38 years from their first meeting. It was an exciting afternoon, and the interview that I managed with him could only follow the rhythm of personal feelings.

Let’s start from the dedication of the book to Biagio.  Who is Biagio? 

  “Biagio was my producer, the person who helped me build my success. The first time we met was in 2000; in 2001 we recorded the album, “Dalla pace del mare lontano”. We made it in just two days, it was like taking a photograph. In fact, I had been performing that repertoire live for at least 6 years, along with my trusted musicians Amedeo Ariano, Luca Bulgarelli and Fabrizio Bosso. We recorded that album, which was the most successful in my discography, double platinum record in Italy, but also great success in France, Germany and Holland. My book is dedicated to Biagio as a way to thank him, and also because just a few months after the great success of Sanremo 2003, Biagio passed away and flew to heaven”.

“I have always been free, but that freedom I have conquered it by myself” . What else can you say to explain that phrase of your book?

“Being free is a great achievement. My middle name is Libero, I was born in Via Liberta’ a Crotone, and everything I have done in my life is closely related to that word. Music, after all, is freedom, because it is the art of becoming, and it has always pushed me into the future”.

“The wonder of music” is then the leitmotiv of your life. Have you ever wondered what job you may have done if you had not chosen the path of music?

“I cannot even imagine it. At the age of 7 I was already playing music and I had a mathematical understanding of it; I had already understood the algorithm that regulates the main functions of what happens in musical harmony”.

You are a very spiritual man. “I have always reconciled my artistic career with the need to cultivate my faith. Music is also a prayer, the most sincere of all supplications.”  You also stated: ”Music made me enter spiritual worlds”. Where were you when you found the certainty of comfort in God? In the silence of an African desert? In the midst of your many private pains of which you talk about in the book? Or…where did you exactly feel that strong and clear perception over the course of your life?

“In the book I describe my first Neo-catechumenal experience: I was an adolescent, I was already singing the psalms, the Canticle of the creatures, the Old Testament. I believe that the sincere writing has a reference in the Bible. My personal history was also a mystical journey and I had encounters that made me go through an evolutionary path of existence. Making music and making it sincerely, thus with faith, also means making good music”.

In 1979 you left Crotone. If you look back, what do you think you have lost since then that will never come back again? And in general, are you a man who lives more with remorse, regrets, or do you define yourself as a man at peace with himself?

“I feel I am a man extremely at peace with himself. The bond with my hometown and my roots is forever; the thread was never cut and never will be. I still have close contacts with the people of Crotone who were significant in my life. In small towns these things are still possible. Imagine that, for example, every summer, after more than 50 years, I get in touch with my friends from the elementary school”.

You stated: “Among the words I love, besides ‘freedom’, there is ‘friend’”. In your biography you mention two in particular: Gianmarco Tognazzi and Luca Lionello. How long have you known them? How would you briefly describe them?

“I met Luca Lionello in the 80s, while I met Gianmarco in the early 90s. They are dear friends. We have had so many experiences together. Both are very generous and I owe them my definitive encounter with cinema and its world. I composed my first soundtrack in 1990 and with Gianmarco we made three movies: Uomini senza donne; Teste rasate; il Decisionista. I made a lot of cinema with Luca, too”.

Sergio Cammariere with Lisa Bernardini during the interview at the home of  Lino Patruno. Photo: Marco Bonanni

Mimmo Caminiti, 21 years old. He was your best friend and he died. Which do you think has been the deepest pain in your life so far?

“The deepest pain I experienced in my life was certainly when Biagio passed away. Mimmo’s death was a deep pain too, but I have lived it from afar, while on the  other hand, the excruciating awareness that I felt for Biagio’s death touched me closely and affected me for years”.

Has your relationship with pain changed over the years? Or is there still a world left out there that you cannot still emotionally manage? In your opinion, what does pain teach us?

“This is a very particular question. I lived pain intensely, and it played an important role in my life because I have decided to live in freedom; and there is always a hefty price to pay for freedom. For example, in the book I talk extensively about my military service, what it meant to me and why I decided not to go through that experience, if I wanted to feel free. Pain teaches us to live”.

Do you think there are secrets in life and art, that one has to dare to be able to reinvent oneself continuously?

“The secret is to have an intuitive, imaginative and inspirational sense that only nature and its environment can give us. I think about my homeland, Calabria: the sea, the mountains, the wildlife…all the living beings”.

“For every artist arrives the day of the audition, the one in which everything is played out”. These are your words. What is your advice on how to deal with it in the best way possible?

Sergio Cammariere and Lino Patruno, happy after their reunion. Photo: Marco Bonanni

“To be free and fulfill your dreams you need to reflect on the way to reach your goals, thus you cannot live only on dreams. For example, I wanted to be a musician, but to be what I am today I adapted to doing everything: I was assistant to a goldsmith, I worked for an insurance company, I have been a bartender in Florence. Lots of extra experiences. I needed to have some financial security to be able to live on music and face all the rest.”

June 2 will mark 40 years since the death of Rino Gaetano, who was your cousin, as you say in the biography. Would you like to briefly mention that relationship?

“There have been many books reporting that fact. It is a well-known story. My paternal grandfather, Francesco Cammariere was the father of Rino Gaetano’s mother, Maria. She was born out of an illegitimate relationship in the 20s and she revealed that she was my father’s sister when I met her years later”.

In “Libero nell’aria” you talk about great authors of the national musical scene who have greatly influenced you. Lucio Dalla, Umberto Bindi, Bruno Lauzi, Sergio Endrigo, and many more giants of music. If you had to pick out only one that has left an indelible mark on your career, more than anyone else, who would you choose?

“Sergio Bardotti. Sergio Bardotti above anyone else”.

In your book you state that your talent “must be sought in the mystery of reincarnation”. Do you believe in the possibility of “returning”?

“I believe in a Pythagorean reincarnation; I am referring to a philosophical form. Maybe I will not be born again in flesh and blood, maybe I will be on the wings of a butterfly or in the soul of another non-human living being”.

In 1983 you met Lino Patruno in Crotone. How would you define Lino, whom you have met again now, after 38 years?

“Lino was the school of jazz in Italy. True jazz, that of the beginning. An exceptional musician, artists like him happen every hundred years. I was thrilled to see him again. Lino is from Crotone, like me, and he has been like a musical father to me. We first met in 1983, at the Apollo theatre in Crotone, during an event with the King of jazz and his band. There were the brothers Carlo and Mauro Battisti (drums and double bass), the legendary Oscar Klein on the trumpet, Gianni Sanjust on the clarinet and Marcello Rosa on the trombone. For me it was a dream come true. We played two blues together: I was only 20, but I had the opportunity to play and improvise with famous jazz musicians”.  

You had your first musical education in Florence; since then Rome has been your home. Do you love this city? How did you see it change over time, since the 80s?

“I have been living here for 40 years now, so yes, I think I love it, don’t you think? Luckily, Rome’s treasures have not changed: the Colosseum, Trinità dei Monti, the Spanish Steps, the Trevi Fountain, St. Peter’s. The historical places remain unchanged”.

This newly released book “ Libero nell’aria” is an important project for you. What are your next professional projects?

“We will stage “Sono sempre stato libero”, with Cosimo Damiano Damato, with whom I have already done a play in the past. It will be live readings with songs I play. Then, on May, 14 my new album, “ Piano nudo,” will be released, 18 tracks only for piano. It is my second piano-only album, produced by Jando Music, Aldo Mercurio and Parco della Musica records”.

Sergio Cammariere: refined musician of talent and heart, a genius-poet in music. And, also, an adorable gentleman.

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