It's Gibberish, But Italian Pop Song Still Means Something | WAMU 88.5 - American University Radio
Filed Under:

It's Gibberish, But Italian Pop Song Still Means Something

Play associated audio

In November 1972, Italian pop star Adriano Celentano released a song that hit No. 1 in his home country, despite the fact it wasn't performed in Italian.

It also wasn't performed in English.

In fact, it wasn't performed in any language at all.

The song, called "Prisencolinensinainciusol," was written to mimic the way English sounds to non-English speakers.

Celentano, now 74 years old, says that he wanted to break down language barriers and inspire people to communicate more.

"Ever since I started singing, I was very influenced by American music and everything Americans did," he tells Guy Raz, host of weekends on All Things Considered, through interpreter Sim Smiley.

"So at a certain point, because I like American slang — which, for a singer, is much easier to sing than Italian — I thought that I would write a song which would only have as its theme the inability to communicate," he says. "And to do this, I had to write a song where the lyrics didn't mean anything."

"Prisencolinensinainciusol" is so nonsensical that Celentano didn't even write down the lyrics, but instead improvised them over a looped beat. When it was first released in 1972, Celentano says no one noticed it. But that didn't stop him from performing it several years later on Italian television. The second time was the charm: it immediately became No. 1 in Italy, as well as France, Germany and Belgium.

The song has been characterized as everything from Euro-pop, funk, house and even the world's first rap song — none of which were Celentano's intention.

"From what I know, 10 years later, rap music exploded in the States," he says. "I sang it with an angry tone because the theme was important. It was an anger born out of resignation. I brought to light the fact that people don't communicate."

But is that really what American English sounds like?

"Yes," he says. "Exactly like that."

Copyright 2012 National Public Radio. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

NPR

The World Music Education of Philip Glass

In his new memoir, Music Without Words, the composer explains how a chance meeting with Ravi Shankar sparked a fascination with the cultures of the world and their music.
NPR

PepsiCo Swaps Diet Drink's Aspartame For Other Artificial Sweeteners

The company says Diet Pepsi consumers are concerned about aspartame. But the Food and Drug Administration has long affirmed that the sweetener is safe in amounts commonly used by beverage companies.
NPR

Surgeon General Vivek Murthy On Gun Control, Vaccines And Science

Surgeon General Vivek Murthy was officially sworn in this week. His confirmation was held up for more than a year because of comments he made about gun violence. Murthy talks with NPR's Scott Simon.
NPR

As Health Apps Hop On The Apple Watch, Privacy Will Be Key

The notion of receiving nutrition advice from artificial intelligence on your wrist may seem like science fiction. But health developers are betting this kind of behavior will become the norm.

Leave a Comment

Help keep the conversation civil. Please refer to our Terms of Use and Code of Conduct before posting your comments.