Portrait of the Artist: who am I, and what did I do in life?

Making good music, and maybe even earning some money with it….

Daniele Sepe was born on April 17th, 1960 in Naples

He attends the Naples’ Conservatoire San Pietro a Majella, majoring in flute.
In the meantime, he starts his multifaceted musical activity with the Zezi, a “workers’ band” from Pomigliano D’Arco. In 1976, they participate to international folk music festivals in France (Rennes and Martigues) and Germany (Bonn), and they record the album Tammurriata dell'Alfa Sud for the Italian folk label Dischi del Sole.
He buys a saxophone and starts to get interested in playing jazz music.
On top of that, he starts infesting the Neapolitan new wave, as he contributes (or creates problems? You decide) to the Vesuwave sound by composing arrangements for bands like Little Italy, Bisca, Walhalla, Degrado etc.

For a while, he goes through an intensive phase of playing “serious” music (e.g. Bach, baroque & contemporary classical music) in a number of concerts. But after the diplome, being tired of preparing exhausting concerts for old upper-class scarecrows, and lacking the money for a black tie, he gives up (toooooo serious…).
He starts an intensive career as session man, playing the saxophone both in records and live shows of an unbelievable number & assortment of Italian singers (e.g. Nino Bonocore, Mia Martini, Teresa de Sio, Roberto de Simone, Gino Paoli & many many more… ). To cut it short, just for the sake of material survival he plays anything with anyone, with a few exceptions: indeed, he enjoys collaborating with Peppino Gagliardi, Eduardo de Crescenzo, Roberto Murolo and Nino D'Angelo.

1989-1994: YEARS OF SOWING
With a remarkable lust for danger, he starts composing music of his own and for himself. The names he gives to the various bands he forms may give a picture, although still vague, of what an unaware spectator might expect from their performances, from Art Ensemble of Soccavo (aping the Art Ensemble of Chicago, where Chicago is replaced by a Naples zone) to Orchestra dell'On. Trombetta (Orchestra of the MP Trumpet): these bands have a vaste assortment of line ups, varying from a trio of wind instruments to a big band of twenty musicians. Paradoxically enough, people seem to like it all, and even more incredibly, the critics enjoy it as well (with the only and justified exception of jazz critics).
He even succeeds in doing a serious thing: during the (first) U.S. war against Iraq, he enrolls about fifty Neapolitan musicians to produce a tape of peace songs, which is dealt out free of charge at the gates of factories and schools in Naples.
At first, he documents his work on the unavoidable (and hopeless) demo tapes; finally, he records his first album, paying the production costs all by himself thanks to the money earned as “musician for sale” (and giving up buying a car). The title of the album, “Malamusica (non è tutto)” is a pun, and can mean both “But music (isn’t all)” and “Bad music (isn't all)”. However: critics scream "how marvellous", and the CD buyers ignore it completely.
In spite of that, he insists: he gives up eating & drinking, loses 10 Kilograms weight and finds the boldness of recording another album, with the “ordinary” title “L’Uscita dei Gladiatori” (The Release of the Gladiators, referring to the disclosure of Gladio, the parallel secret organisation within the Italian power apparatus)… And having it released - with a lack of scruples seldom to be found – by Virgin (then, he escapes to Timbuctu with the “millions of milliards of shells” earnt thanks to the sales of the album).

Back from Timbuctu and on the verge of starvation, he is picked up (just in time) by Ninni Pascale of the record label Polo Sud: thanks to his saver, In 1994 he releases the album “Vite Perdite” (“Lost Lives” in a sort of hybrid lingo between Italian and Spanish). At last, the sales are almost as beautiful as the critics’ reviews, and this album procures him the invitation to several festivals, together with the yearned entry into the Italian and European charts. The album gets even included among the “1OO albums of the Nineties to be saved” by the music magazine "Rockstar", and is designated as “best album of the year” according to another magazine, "Rockerilla"; moreover, the authoritative English magazine "Folk-roots" presents it as “the only Italian album to be worthy of listening”.
All this gives sound evidence that the promotion works right if you make a fair prezzie to the fair reporter .....
In 1995, he releases the album Spiritus Mundi (almost 1 hour & 20 minutes of music on one CD, and at a one CD price!), which obtains the same good success as Vite Perdite. These two albums are pilled by record labels (e.g. Polygram) and publishers (Il Manifesto, La Repubblica) for several great run anthologies.
Among other things, he collaborates with the best Italian band issued from the Nineties wave, “99 Posse”, by playing his magic flute in some tracks of their records (and not because of the money, but because of the value of his artistic contribution).
He is also asked to write music for theatre acts and companies (Falso Movimento, Teatri Uniti, Compagnia del Sancarluccio) and for ballets (International festival of dance and poetry, Menti Labili); but above all, he contributes to a lot of motion picture soundtracks ("Amnesia" by Gabriele Salvatores, "Diciassette" by Enrico Caria, "Rimini, Rimini", "L'amore molesto" by Mario Martone, "Cronaca di un amore violato", "Lettere dall'America" by Gianfranco Pannone, "Il caricatore" ...).
He then starts a long and fruitful collaboration with "Il Manifesto", involving the release and distribution of his albums at a fair price (8 Euro). The first two albums issued under this collaboration are “Trasmigrazioni” (Trans-migrations), involving a large number of musicians who are immigrants in Italy, and an anthology called “Viaggi fuori dai paraggi” (Journeys outside the neighbourhoods): the latter, although unhearable (so he says…), is a smashing hit, and a major breakthrough according to the readers of the magazine "Musica".

With a total lack of any sense of responsability, he is sent to represent Italy to the festival of Marseille, to Nantes, to the Womex of Bruxelles and to the Wexford Opera Festival (Ireland)… Maybe just because no one else wanted to go there, but who cares, he travels a lot.
He gets prizes (e.g. Club Tenco 1998 for “Lavorare stanca”, meaning “Work is tiring”, on the legacy of workers’ exploitation in Italy), awards, more requests of collaborations from producers & directors….. And nice money from the sales of his most recent albums: he’s made it, he has total power over his public, they just buy everything, no matter how erratic or incomprehensible the records may be… they are all a must! (see complete Discography below). This was made possible with the steady complicity of a rich bunch of musicians, researchers and old & young singers (among the latter, Auli Kokko and Luca “Zulù” Persico).
His latest work (for the time being) is “Anime candide / Canzoni d’amore e di guerra” (Spotless Souls / Songs of love and war). It was released in 2003 and entered both the European World Music charts and the Italian general charts among the top 50 (not bad at all, for such a bore!), getting him the invitation to the "Strictly World Music Festival" in Marseille.
…….In spite of all this (life’s SO cruel, yes), he bears a bad thorn in the flesh: he never managed to participate either to the Festival of Sanremo - the “real” one, not that half-clandestine initiative for unhappy few called Club Tenco! - or the village feast of the “fresella” (typical edible product from Apulia) in Ossitissi…
[well, sorry all, but the translator, although Italian, doesn’t have the faintest idea of where this place may be and why our hero longs to go there].

un grazie a Elena che ha tradotto, avanze nu' spaghetto 'a vongole


"Malamusica"- Il parco (1991) Polo Sud (1996)

"L' Uscita dei gladiatori"- Stile libero/Virgin (1992)Il Manifesto (1997)

"Play Standards and more" - Officina (1993) MVM (1997)

"Vite Perdite"- Polosud-Piranha (1994)

World Music Charts 1996 – Rank 1.
"Folkroots" list(Gb) – Rank 5.

"Spiritus Mundi" - Polo Sud (1995)

"Folkroots" list(Gb) – Rank 4.

"Viaggi fuori dai paraggi" - Il Manifesto (1996)

"Trasmigrazioni" - Il Manifesto (1996)

"Lavorare stanca" -CNI (1998)

Prize “Club Tenco” 1998 for the best album in dialect.
World Music Charts Europee – Rank 6 in September & October 1998
"Folkroots"shelving crisis list(Gb) – Rank 3.

"Totò Sketches" - Polosud (1999)

"Conosci Victor Jara?" - Il Manifesto (2000)

"Truffe & Other Sturiellett Vol. 1" - Polosud (2000)

"Jurnateri" - Il Manifesto (2001)

"Senza Filtro " - Felmay (2002)

World Music Charts Europee – Rank 5 in November 2002
Choc de la Musique 2002

"Anime Candide/Canzoni d' amore e di guerra - Il Manifesto (2003)

"Folkroots" list(Gb) – Rank 4.
Ricordi/Feltrinelli Mediastore general best sellers charts – Rank 10.

"Truffe & Other Sturiellett Vol. 2" - Polosud (2004)


Napoli antifascista Crime Squad (1994)

Raccolte Differenziate n.1 Polygram (1995)

L'Italia del Rock La Repubblica (1995)

Trasmigrazioni Manifesto-Officina (1996)

Napoli (disco del mese) La Repubblica (1996)

Le città musicali nel mondo De Agostini (1996)

Folkroots Folkroots (GB) (1996)

Strictly WorldWide x5 Piranha (DE) (1996)

Migranti Olis (1997)

Il canto di Napoli L' Unità (1998)

Italie:musique populaires d' ajourd Buda Records (FR) (1998)

Italy - music rough guide World Music Network (GB) (2000)

Radical Mestizo Revelde Disco (Spagna) (2000)

Travellin' Companion WeltWunder Records (DE) (2001)

Tribù Italiche - Campania World Music (2002)

Piranha Allstars Piranha (DE) (2002)

Amnesia (colonna sonora) Edel (2002)

Piazza Carlo Giuliani Edel (2002)

The others about me:

Un PAZZONE di PRIMA CLASSE!!!!, June 28, 2001
Reviewer: peppinieddu (see more about me) from CHICAGO, IL. USA
All you afficionados of "WORLD MUSIC" need to know about Italy's (actually Napoli's )best kept secret, Daniele Sepe. This cd is a sampling of musics from some of his European releases, and like most of the ecclectic music composers, shows off an array of many musical styles...Avant Guard meets traditional Banda musics, Funk/ rap (in Italiano,and LATIN!), Argentine folkloric ,and wild twists on the tarantella & tammuriata folk forms of Southern Italy. My 65 year old uncle heard this cd one night on my car stereo, shouted, "il tarantella, BRAVO PEPPI!", and his heart went right back to Castelvetrano Sicilia, VIA THE SUN RA SPACE SHIP!!HEHE Sepe is no traditionalist, he "de-composes" traditional styles while still offering loving respect to them. This cd is NOT for the musically conservative, it requires a loving and tolerant ear at times. I hesitate to 'compare", but fans of Mingus, Sun Ra, Zappa, Zorn, & a few others I have skipped, I believe you would enjoy this cd, and even if it wasnt your cup of expresso, It is worth your while to hear another "VOICE" of the contra-current" trying to break through the "Vinyl Curtain" of commercial death the record industry perpetuates.( i know its a cd world, but the expression must remain, hehe!) Ti saluto , Daniele!! 100000 stars

There is really no way to explain the mind of this Neopolitan composer arranger and musician. The roots music of naples and its evirons is only the begginning of the stew. It's thickened with classic jazz, pureed with pop and soul, then served on a plate of Brecht garnished with avant garde idosyncracies. And that's just the half of it.
CD Roots

Every new DANIELE SEPE CD is certainly an event. There aren't many Italians who are able to shuffle the genre pack so deftly, creating original tracks out of the torn rags of tradition. On Anime candide these range from a text from Abruzzo to an arberesh song to an old-time serenade to one of Raffaele Viviani's ''ten commandments'', with learned asides to Neruda and Afonso. Such disparate elements are fused into a molten mixture that wears an ironic grin on its face and, when the occasion demands, funk-rocks like a beast.
As the album moves through its many moods, spliced together with great sensibility, a range of emotions are evoked from laughter to tears, rage to tenderness, hate to love and back again, just as they are in life. Because Anime candide is music built for frequent use and abuse, not just for parties.

Anime Candide (War and Love songs)
(Dunya Felmay Fy 8066/Just Records Babelsberg)
15 Tracks, 57:23; mit Texten und Infos
Wie gut, heißt die spezielle Folker-CD "Die Besondere" und nicht etwa "Die Schöne". Nun, Ausschnitte aus "Anime candide" (schneeweiße Seelen), wie der portugiesische Traditional "Menina estas à janela" oder der von Sergio Ortega vertonte Neruda-Text "Así como matan los negros" (so wie sie jetzt Schwarze umbringen), hören sich tatsächlich schön an. Wer hier allerdings Antikriegslieder im Stile von Inti Illimani oder Politbarden sucht, liegt völlig falsch. Daniele Sepe ist ein besonderer Musiker. Sein Musikmix spiegelt seine klassische Musikausbildung, die Vergangenheit als Begleitmusiker italienischer Popsänger und seine Verwurzelung in der neapolitanischen Volksmusik. Wohlklänge zersägt er konsequent mit Rock-Licks, HipHop, experimentellem Jazz und Stimmsamples. Ein hübscher nostalgischer Walzer trifft auf das "Chanson d'amour", das mit den Worten "Ich werde ihn umbringen" anfängt. Doch es kommt nur noch schlimmer: der Sarkasmus des Dance-Tracks für Einbeinige, "L'uccello di fuoco" (mit Fragmenten aus Strawinskys "Feuervogel" und "die Nachtigal", sowie Stimmsamples von George Bush und aus dem Film "Apocalipse Now") schmerzt regelrecht beim Hören. Spätestens da wird einem klar, hier macht ein Betroffener Musik. Daniele Sepe schreit gegen die Sinnlosigkeit des Krieges an und setzt diesem Liebeslieder entgegen, die nie richtig fröhlich tönen. Es ist eine Liebe in Moll, irgendwo zwischen Neapel und Albanien, eine Liebe in Zwischenkriegszeiten - bis der nächste Posaunenstoß mit einer Dissonanz den Liebhaber wieder aufs Schlachtfeld zurückholt. Das aufwändige Booklet mit Fotos aus Afghanistan nach der US-amerikanischen Invasion ergänzt die Musik sehr eindrücklich. Dieser Soundtrack sei nicht nur George Bush und anderen Invasoren zum wiederholten Abspielen empfohlen. Auf dass wir uns nicht wie auf dem CD-Cover mit der Gasmaske küssen müssen…
Martin Steiner

Daniele Sepe
Vite Perdite
Az év egyik legkülönlegesebb lemezét hozta össze a nápolyi Daniele Sepe. Míg az efféle hangkollázsok többnyire hangmintákhoz s elektronikus erõdítményekhez kötõdnek, s így koncertezésre alkalmatlanok, Daniele Sepe mögött frankó és mûködõ zenekar húzza, vonja, pengeti, üti, fújja a Vite Perditét turnéztatva. Nincsen nehéz dolguk, kitaposott úton haladnak vele, mindössze azt kell összegezniük, amit a zenetörténet felszippantott az utolsó ezer évben. Középkori nápolyi tánczenét, szimfonikus költeményeket, latin dzsesszt, raggát, hip-hopot, lapp gyászénekeket és Balkán-ízû rézfúvósokat (hm, meg még mi mindent) mixelnek a hölgyek-urak: ezredvégrõl, posztmodernrõl eddig nem nagyon lehetett a világzenében szemléletesebbet hallani. S ha e rengetegbõl az elsõ hallásra a zûrzavar tûnik is ki, ahogy talpalatnyi helyükre találnak a motívumok, egyre meggyõzõbbé válik: a bábeli a legközérthetõbb nyelvcsalád.
F. D. J.

CD, Dunya/Central
Jesus, wat een album! Daniele Sepe – componist en multi-instrumentalist uit Italië – pakt heftig en hard uit op deze plaat. Hij is duidelijk niet te spreken over de gebeurtenissen die de afgelopen tijd in deze wereld hebben plaatsgevonden. In de liner notes beschrijft hij de shock op de gezichten van de New Yorkers tijdens de 11e september en zijn eigen gevoel dat ook hij en iedereen schuldig is aan deze gebeurtenissen, in meer of mindere mate, maar schuldig in ieder geval.
Volgens Sepe is het namelijk onmogelijk in deze intensief ‘vernetwerkte’ wereld, te doen alsof je van niks weet, alsof je niet weet dat aan de andere kant van de wereld mensen elkaar de kop inslaan door politieke en economische beslissingen aan deze kant. Een ware gedachte, dat in ieder geval, en een gedachte die in dit ongelooflijke album muzikaal uitgewerkt wordt.
Het eerste stuk ‘Ndunielle’ is nog een verwijzing naar vroegere tijden, toen er volgens Sepe – hij is duidelijk een romanticus – nog sprake was van menselijkheid. Oorspronkelijk uit het einde van de 19e eeuw en hier als versie met fluit en ruwe, indrukwekkende stem. Daarna gaat het echter los. ‘Il lupo e l’agnello’ gaat over een wolf die een lammetje vreet, omdat de vader van dit lam hem vorig jaar beledigd heeft. De Oedipus-verwijzing mag duidelijk zijn.
Het titelnummer dat daarop volgt is een hard-hitting polemiek tegen onze Amerikaanse vrienden: “Who gives a shit / about the statistics of kids / Who died under bombs / And sniper fire / We want playstation / Oil is what we need.” Afgesloten wordt dit strijdlied met een gedeelte uit de Full Metal Jacket soundtrack van Stanley Kubrick, namelijk dat gedeelte dat ook wel de Prayer of the Gun genoemd wordt, waar de soldaten zweren op hun geweren en beloven de vijand te doden. Een klassiek voorbeeld een vriend-vijand denken.
Alsof dit alles nog niet genoeg is, weet Sepe er ook een muzikale tour de force van te maken. Met cimbalom, orgels, drums, gitaren, fluiten, electronica, piano en meerstemmige zang comprimeert hij de waanzin in 15 stukken en iets minder dan zestig minuten. Zonder twijfel een meesterwerk.

tekst: Bas van Heur