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It was inevitable that it would happen and it happened. Nothing is left to chance, everything as expected and probably already foreseen by Warner Music, the major record company that publishes the albums of the Neapolitan trapper Emanuele Palumbo, aka Geolier . The Sanremo 2024 song – or rather the text deposited for the Festival, because the song will only be known during the show – has sparked endless criticism for how it is written, i.e. in a Neapolitan dialect reported as it is pronounced. The Sanremo text, entitled ” I p' me, tu p' te “, written by several hands – there are at least 6 other names in addition to that of the singer – does not take into account those rules which, although not as rigid and codified as those of a consolidated and national language, we would define universally accepted.
The enormous notoriety of the dialect spoken in Naples
Neapolitan is one of the best-known dialects in Italy and in recent years it has had a strong national diffusion among very young people thanks to the success of TV series broadcast in Italy and abroad (subtitled) such as “Gomorra”, “L'Amica Geniale “, “Sea Outside”.
The notoriety of the language spoken in Naples and the province is not a thing of today : it is linked to songs known throughout the world (one above all «' O sole mio »), to theatrical performances, poems and novels. Just a few names among many: Eduardo Scarpetta, Salvatore di Giacomo, Ferdinando Russo, Libero Bovio, Raffaele Viviani, Eduardo De Filippo, Totò. And again, in recent years: Sergio Bruni, Roberto Murolo, Nuova Compagnia di Canto Popolare, E Zezi, Edoardo and Eugenio Bennato, Pino Daniele, Enzo Gragnaniello, Almamegretta, 99 Posse. And today: Tommaso Primo, Roberto Colella, Davide Petrella “Tropico”, Davide Napoleone and many others.
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Those who work with words defend that consolidated dialect that loves to read, speak and write masterfully. This is the case of Maurizio De Giovanni: «The Neapolitan language did not deserve this torment – he says -. It was enough to call someone and get help, with a little humility.”
Gennaro De Crescenzo , president of the Neo-Bourbon Movement, invited Geolier «and his Milanese record company» to follow one of the Neapolitan language courses that he organizes with the 'I Lazzari' association. And he also corrected the lyrics of the song , which became « I' pe mme, tu pet tte / Nuie simmo ddoie stelle ca Stano cadenno / Te statie vestinno pure sapenno ca t'hê 'a spuglià… » and so on.
Linguistic analysis of the Neapolitan used by Geolier
The question that many are now asking is: is Geolier's true Neapolitan? Is it an evolution or are these ungrammatical sentences, forced sentences? Fanpage.it had already asked a popular (and anonymous) Neapolitan language spreader on Tiktok, who calls himself “L'Auciello” how we should judge his texts:
Geolier's Neapolitan is rich in loanwords from Italian, but the grammatical structure is solidly Neapolitan. All languages change from one generation to the next.
Not only do we no longer speak the same Neapolitan that our grandparents spoke, but not even our grandparents speak the Neapolitan that was spoken in the 19th century […] There has never been a pure Neapolitan who has been “corrupted by today's youth” : the only pure and immutable languages are dead languages.
As always, in cases involving languages, their evolution and use in various contexts there are rules, but there is also a great debate which does not lead to a clear right or wrong. One of the recent and most interesting books on the issue, entitled “Naples and Campania”, written by Pietro Maturi for the Itinerari del Mulino , also talks about Geolier, Mare Fuori and that dialect, included in the chapter «New uses of Neapolitan » which – as we were saying – being vital, has had a vast and valid literary and paraliterary production for centuries.
Maturi talks about the «new musical scene in Neapolitan dialect» which has produced a new image of the dialect, today also perceived by the rest of young Italians as «a youthful and advanced code». The university professor traces this trend back to the 99 Posse, up to Liberato , whose lyrics also include Spanish, French and English elements and are devoid of the political connotation compared to those of Luca ' Zulù ' Persico's group, which arose in the years of university movement of the “Panther”.
When we talk about the ” spontaneous improvised handwriting ” of the Neapolitan, as opposed to the ” consolidated written tradition “, Maturi makes it clear that the conflict between the two modalities is not something of today and that it is unlikely that a point of mediation will ever be found .
Geolier's peculiarity, what is being discussed today, was that of making his text in Neapolitan style ” I write as I speak it ” “rise” to the honors of songs destined, no matter what anyone says, to occupy a space (small or large not we will decide it now) in the pop music of this country. And certainly in the history of the Italian Song Festival.
The Geolier operation at Sanremo 2024
Geolier arrives in Sanremo “knocking with his feet”, that is, full of sales and successes in concerts, no one gave him anything. He can afford to go with that text today because today he is the golden boy of the Italian recording industry , otherwise – let me be clear – he would never have been able to make certain choices. Amadeus knows very well that bringing Geolier to Sanremo means accessing an audience of under 18s who don't even have a television in their room and watch series, films, sports and events in streaming on their mobile phones.
Pino Daniele, Massimo Troisi and Alessandro Siani were also opposed for their dialect
Pino Daniele was 18 years old in 1977, when he wrote and set to music “Napule è”, which we can consider one of the most beautiful songs ever written. Not many remember him but Pino was opposed for his lyrics in dialect, in some cases contested: there is a video of a concert in Pescara in 1980 that proves it.
The same happened for Massimo Troisi . When the director and actor died, it was Roberto Benigni who remembered those who belittled him, in the verses of an affectionate poem in his memory: «”It's not clear”, they shouted confidently / “this Troisi stays in the South!” / Now the kangaroos / the Indians and the Hollywood billionaires understand it ! Alessandro Siani , today an actor and director of cinema and theater, in the early years – even before “Fiesta” – also suffered a lot of teasing for his dialect taken from conversations on the subway and from kids on the wall. Many people had condemned Troisi and Daniele to a regional dimension for the sole fact of having chosen Neapolitan as a mode of expression. Facts and time have proven the opposite.
Emanuele Geolier began composing songs almost two generations after the era of Pino and Massimo, in a profoundly different context and with totally different (we would say distorted or non-existent) cultural, social references. He writes and sings as he speaks and no one taught him anything else. What would he have to do to be “accepted”, singing in someone else's words? Put a third of English and two quarters of Milanese trap slang into the lyrics? It's not my music, but I recognize Geolier as a son of my own city. He has the same right as others to express himself.
There is a world that listens to his songs and recognizes themselves – a world made up not only of people born and raised in Naples -. It is the evocative force of a language that is shaped and draws power from personal stories and the territory . There is nothing more interesting than understanding how a city moves and where it is headed. You can also do it from the words that people – especially kids – use. Now it's up to us not to waste this monitor lit on Naples and its changes. It is worth much more than certain analyses.