The Black Tammurriata. New Wednesday, new appointment with CantaNapoli, the column dedicated to the Neapolitan song. Today’s appointment is dedicated to one of the most famous Neapolitan compositions in the world, the “Tammurriata Nera”.
It was 1944 when Edoardo Nicolardi wrote “E ‘nat nu criatuur, è nat nir, e a mamm or Chiamm Gir […]”, verses which were then set to music by Maestro E.A. Mario will become famous all over the world.
The black tammurriata “Tammurriata Nera” is the story of a child born in Naples, of a white woman and an African-American soldier who was in the shadow of Vesuvius during the period of occupation of the United States. The mother of the child (or ‘criatur’) driven by maternal instinct decides to keep it and the situation is ironized by a sort of Greek choir that repeats the verses and the woman who tries to give Neapolitan names to the newborn (Ciro, Antonio, Peppe and Ciccio).
To write this piece, Nicolardi was inspired by a story that he himself had experienced personally. In fact, he worked as a manager in the Loreto Mare hospital, and noticed a certain turmoil in the delivery room, since a black child had been born. This episode became a turning point for Neapolitan and Italian society, so Nicolardi contacted his friend and E.A. Mario to create the song that we still know today.
As very often happens, we have several interpretations of this song, the version with which it became famous, however, is by Roberto Murolo. The best known record version, however, is that of the New Popular Company, which remained in the Italian hit parade for several weeks.
A particular curiosity is certainly the quote by James Senese, who is the son of a relationship between a Neapolitan woman and an African-American soldier, in fact in an interview for “Repubblica” the famous saxophonist said:
Tammurriata nera is a racist song, pay attention, don’t listen to music, listen to the words: they offend a white woman who has a son with a black man. In short, he says that ‘or guaglione is’ nu son’ and slut. I told you it was easy I would tell a lie. You had to conquer your own dimension and when you are a child it is not automatic, you have to learn it by force. I looked at myself and saw that I was not like the others. Imagine the others: “Sî niro”, you’re black, this was.
Despite the racist question, raised by James Senese, the Tammurriata Nera, it is certainly one of the best known songs, both by the educated public and not.