By Ombretta Frau (Mount Holyoke College)
One of the biggest discoveries of the 1991 Sanremo Music Festival was “Spunta la luna dal monte”, a catchy bilingual ballad performed by Pierangelo Bertoli (1942-2002) with Sardinian pop group Tazenda. The song went on to become a great success for the – until then – relatively unknown Tazenda, and reached n. 5 at Sanremo, n. 3 on the Italian hit parade, and n. 14 on the annual list of best-selling records in Italy. At Sanremo, Bertoli and Tazenda performed “Spunta la luna dal monte” alternating Italian (Bertoli) and Sardinian (Tazenda); later, each artist went on to record different versions of it. Originally, Tazenda wrote “Spunta la luna dal monte” entirely in Sardinian as “Disamparados”, and Bertoli added the section in Italian for Sanremo. It became part of Tazenda’s second album, Murales (1991), that sold over 200.000 copies.
Thirty years later, “Spunta la luna dal monte (Disamparados)” is still a defining song for Tazenda. Apart from the language choice – always a risk for those Italian artists (singers, poets, writers) who choose to express themselves in a language other than mainstream Italian – it is a piece that evokes a strong Sardinian atmosphere (dark mountains, stone-faced people, disillusioned dreams) with a winning combination of local sounds:
Notte scura, notte senza la sera / notte impotente, notte guerriera / per altre vie, con le mani le mie / cerco le tue, cerco noi due / spunta la luna dal monte / spunta la luna dal monte / tra volti di pietra tra strade di fango / cercando la luna, cercando / danzandoti nella mente / sfiorando tutta la gente / a volte / sciogliendosi in pianto /Un canto di sponde sicure / Ben presto dimenticato / voce dei poveri resti di un sogno mancato
In sos muntonarzos, sos disamparados / chirchende ricattu, chirchende / in mesu a sa zente, in mesu / a s’istrada dimandende / sa vida s’ischidat pranghende / bois fizus ‘e niunu / in sos annos irmenticados / tue n’dhas solu chimbantunu / ma paren’ chent’annos. / coro meu, fonte’ia, gradessida / gai puru deo, potho biere a sa vida. […] /
[Dark night, night without evening / defenseless night, warrior night / In other ways, with my hands / I’m searching for yours, I’m searching both of us. / the moon peeks over the mountain, / the moon peeks over the mountain. / among stone faces, among muddy roads/ looking for the moon, looking / dancing in your mind, / touching all the people, / sometimes melting into tears,/ a song of safe shores/ so soon forgotten,/ voice of the poor remains of a failed dream. / in the garbage dumps, the homeless / looking for food, looking/ among the people, in the middle/ of the street begging,/ life wakes up crying/ you, sons of nobody,/ forgotten along the years,/ you are only fifty-one/ but you look a hundred / My heart, clean and clear fountain / so that I can also drink to life ]
Founded in 1988, Tazenda’s original lineup included singer Andrea Parodi (1955-2006), keyboard player and singer Gigi Camedda, and guitarist Gino Marielli. Their music is a mix of classic rock and folk combined with Sardinian sounds sang almost entirely in the northern language of Logudorese, with the addition of traditional instruments such as launeddas (Sardinian triplepipes), and the vocal virtuosity of the tenores, whose song technique is on the Unesco Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity. Curiously, for a group as deeply connected with its place of origin as Tazenda, the band took its name not from the island’s historical past but, rather, from Isaac Asimov’s science fiction novels, where Tazenda is “the capital planet of the Oligarchy of Tazenda (…) destroyed by the Mule in 303 F.E.”
Tazenda produced twenty albums. Their second, Murales, contains music that defines the band’s character to this day: apart from “Disamparados”, songs such as “Nanneddu” and “Mamojada” signal a deep attachment to Sardinian culture, with pacifist and social justice messages that will continue to be part of Tazenda’s music. “Mamojada”, for instance, is an ode to a geographically and culturally impenetrable town, deep in Sardinia’s infamous region of Barbagia – one that, starting with Cicero and until Dante and beyond, very few authors celebrated – well-known both for his unique carnival featuring the dance of the Mamuthones, and for the criminal activities of the Anonima Sequestri, a kidnapping organization that terrorized the island between the 1960s and the 1990s. “Mamojada” is about being marginalized, about fear, isolation, and revenge:
Mamojada, pro cant’ annos ‘alu maltrattada? / Mamojada, itte gloria in sa vinditta b’ada? / Si in s’arveschida / sambene e muttos ‘e luttos / ticch’ischidana / Mamojada… / ses tue immaculada?
[Mamojada, for how many more years will you be mistreated? / Mamojada, what kind of glory in revenge? / if at dawn, blood and songs of mourning / wake you up / Mamojada … / are you immaculate?]
“Nanneddu” is a rock song with lyrics by Sardinian Socialist poet Peppino Mereu (Tonara, 1872-1901), originally written as a letter to his friend Nanni Sulis and published in 1899. In his writings, Mereu “mette a nudo la ‘colonizzazione’ operata dal regno piemontese e dai continentali, cui è sottoposta la Sardegna: Sos vandalos chi cun briga e cuntierra/benint dae lontanu a si partire/sos fruttos da chi si brujant sa terra. [(Mereu) lays bare Piedmont’s and main land Italy’s colonization of Sardinia: ‘The vandals with fights and disputes / come from far / to split the profits / after burning the land]” Nanneddu meu is Mereu’s most famous poem, and Tazenda are part of a long list of artists who, in the past hundred years, decided to put it to music. A quick look at “Nanneddu’s” lyrics confirm Mereu’s call for social justice in Sardinia:
Nanneddu meu / Nanneddu meu / Nanneddu meu, su mundu est gai / a sicut erat / no torrat mai / a sicut erat no torrat mai / semus in tempos de tirannias / infamidades e carestias / como sos populos / cascant che cane, / gridende forte:/ “Cherimus pane!” / famidos, nois/ semus pappande/ pan’e castanza/ terra cun lande / terra ch’a fangu, torrat su poveru / chentz’alimentu, chentza ricoveru.
[My Nanneddu (John) / my Nanneddu / my Nanneddu, the world is so / the way it used to be, will never be again / the way it used to be, will never be again / we are in times of tyranny / infamy and famine / now people yawn like dogs / screaming ‘we want bread!’ / hungry, we eat / bread and chestnuts / soil with acorns / soil that turns the poor into mud / with no food, and no shelter.]
Over the years, Tazenda engaged in many successful collaborations with other Italian artists, including Paola Turci, Modà (“Cuore e vento”, 2014), Eros Ramazzotti (“Domo mea”, 2007), and Francesco Renga (“Madre Terra”, 2008). Their uniquely talented lead singer, Andrea Parodi, left the band in the late 1990s to return just before his untimely death in 2006. The resulting album, recorded live at Cagliari’s Roman Amphitheatre, is called Reunion.
Tazenda’s post Parodi’s production is characterized both by their research for a new dimension of sound, and the reaffirmation of their origin. In 2007, with their new lead singer, Beppe Dettori, they recorded “Domo Mia”with Eros Ramazzotti, which was certified platinum. In 2008 they recorded “Madre Terra” with Francesco Renga, a single that was, once again, certified platinum. Unfortunately, problems within the band resulted in Dettori’s departure. Tazenda’s new phase started in 2013, when singer Nicola Nite joined the group. Tazenda’s first album with Nicola Nite came out in 2021. It is called Antistasis, as in the Greek word for resistance. In Tazenda’s words: “Volevamo un titolo difficile da ricordare e da pronunciare, proprio come l’attuale situazione umana su questo pianeta. Il senso non è politico, né tantomeno antipolitico, ma vuole sottolineare l’immagine della gente che ingaggia una propria forma creativa di difesa e di capacità di sopravvivere a tutto.” (We wanted a title that was both hard to remember and to pronounce, just like present human circumstances on our planet. It does not want to be political, or apolitical, the idea is to recall a vision of people who create their own creative form of defense, and that could survive anything). Antistasis is Tazenda’s most Italian album even though the band’s Sardinian character survives intact in their music, as singer Nicola Nite stressed in a recent interview.
Tazenda declare their affection for Sardinia – to this day, a misunderstood land that remains at the margins of Italian culture – in almost every concert, with the inclusion of the greatly popular Sardinian love song “No potho reposare” (I cannot rest), which has become one of their signature pieces:
Non potho reposare amore e coro / pensende a tie so’ donzi momentu / No istes in tristura, prenda e oro / né in dispiaghere o pensamentu. / T’assiguro chi a tie solu bramo, / ca t’amo forte t’amo, t’amo, t’amo.
[I cannot rest, love of my heart / I’m thinking of you all the time / don’t be sad, golden jewel / nor in pain or worried / I assure you that I desire only you / because I really love you, I love you, I love you]
 According to the Festival di Sanremo regulations, all songs must be in Italian: “Il testo dovrà essere in lingua italiana. Si considera in lingua italiana anche il testo che contenga parole e/o locuzioni e/o brevi frasi in lingua dialettale e/o straniera (o di neo- idiomi o locuzioni verbali non aventi alcun significato letterale/linguistico), purché tali da non snaturarne il complessivo carattere italiano, sulla base delle valutazioni artistiche/editoriali del Direttore Artistico.”
 Donald Palumbo, An Asimov Companion, McFarland, 2016: 169.
 Translation is mine.
 Poesias de Giuseppe Mereu, Cagliari, Tipografia Valdès, 1899.
 https://truncare.myblog.it/2013/10/19/peppino-mereu-e-la-poesia-nanneddu-meu-5734543/. Translation is mine.
 Translation is mine.
 “No potho reposare” (Lyrics by Salvatore Sini, 1915; music Giuseppe Rachel, 1920).