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Norman Nawrocki in Victoria PDF Print E-mail
Justice News
Posted by Joan Russow
Monday, 14 October 2013 11:18

An Interview with Norman Nawrocki about His New Album, CAZZAROLA!



















He will be speaking in October at Victoria at UVIC and at Camas books (see DATES below)

By Norman Nawrocki
Les Pages Noires
1. What kind of music is on CAZZAROLA!, the album?

It ranges from traditional Italian folk – kind of world beat, but updated – to contemporary Italian-themed compositions of my own that are folkloric, ambient, electroacoustic and somewhat ‘indie.’ The songs are arranged chronologically following the story in the book (CAZZAROLA! Anarchy, Romani, Love, Anarchy: A Novel), spanning 130 years of Italian history from 1880 to today. There are waltzes, folk dances, love ballads, prisoner songs, a marching band, and different kinds of soundscapes, from a 1920 auto factory and 1920s street noise, to Rome street music today. You will hear traditional Italian instruments on some songs: large tambourine hand drums, hurdy gurdy, bagpipes, bass mandolin, etc., and sampled/looped beat creations on others. Thirty tracks total.



2. Can you give some examples of the songs?

The album opens with a traditional, lone, Italian shepherd bagpipe piece, followed by a waltz by one of my bands which includes a harp and steel drums. There is an acapella love song by a friend I recorded recently in a 15th century Italian abbey, then a 1894 theatrical soundscape we assembled in Montreal. There are well known Italian singalong favorites like ‘Bella Ciao,’ in Italian and English – one a solo folksinger; the other, full band; a 1960s jazz duo; a Romanian Roma refugee accordionist playing on the streets of Rome; a Rome ‘noise’ band, a 1950s swing song with another band of mine, and more. One-third of the songs are in Italian; one-third in English; the rest, instrumentals.

3. Are these adaptations or new compositions?

Both. The album is a mix of interpretations of older Italian songs dating to the 1880s, newer ones, and original compositions by myself and friends. Some sound like they were recorded in 1910, others are clearly contemporary.

4. Why did you make CAZZAROLA! the album?

I’m a writer but I'm also a musician, so I wanted a musical soundtrack for my new novel – CAZZAROLA! Anarchy, Romani, Love, Italy (PM Press, Oakland, 2013). I imagined an album with period songs and soundscapes reflecting, based on, and inspired by the book. A reader could listen to the album before, during or after they read the book. Or potential readers might hear the album first, then be curious about the book.
The album is very much an invitation to read the book. It offers another entry point into the novel, and complements the story with real period sounds and songs. It also stands on its own as a audio document: a brief musical survey of Italy from the last 130 years that covers historical events in song. It allows a listener to travel in time through music.

5. How did you choose the tracks for the CD?

I wanted the music to cover the same period in the book, from 1880 to today, so I consulted ethnomusicologists I know, Italian musician friends and others for suggestions. I also did a lot of research, online and in person, through interviews and scouring the Montreal library’s Italian music collection. In the end I chose some traditional period songs, composed new ones, and asked for contributions from Italian friends. I visited Italy twice this year to do field recordings and meet and work with local musicians. This resulted in a few amazing collaborations.

6. Where did you record CAZZAROLA!?

Everywhere! I recorded at home, in a Montreal studio, and in different regions of Italy, in cities in studios and on the street, in villages and mountain meadows. Collaborators recorded in their own studios here and abroad and sent me pieces.

7. How did you meet and work with your collaborators?

I met Italian musicians during previous book and album tours of Italy, and more recently online. They invited me to return to Italy to work directly with them. I met other musicians there and invited them to contribute to the album. Otherwise, I asked local friends and bandmates to play on it.

8. How many artists besides yourself are on the album?

Two incredible bands (DisCanto and Obsolescenza Programmata ) plus two separate singer/songwriters from Italy. One band is folkloric from Abruzzo, the other, an underground ‘noise’ band from Rome.
There are three of my bands from Montreal (Crocodile, DaZoque! and SANN), and an assortment of other local and Italian musicians.

9. You have 30 tracks on this album?

Yes, running from 30 seconds to 6 minutes long. They range from full band instrumentals to single folk singers with guitar, a few spoken word pieces set in soundscapes, including recited extracts from the novel.

10. Who co-produced the album?

David Sturton, a renowned Montreal sound engineer/friend with unlimited talent and a track record of working wonders with everyone’s music, from Jean LeLoup to Bran Van 3000 among others. He also engineered two of my earlier albums, with one of my bands, DaZoque!, and my solo cd, Duck Work.

11. What was your last album?

“Letters from Poland/Lettres de la pologne” (Les Pages Noires, 2008), a bilingual collection of letters set to music from my short story collection, The Anarchist & The Devil Do Cabaret’ (Black Rose Books, 2003).

12. What are your current music projects?

I have a new band, Crocodile, from Montreal. A bar owner once said we sounded like The Ex from Holland. We will record a first album later in 2013. I am also working towards another cd based on the Quebec student strike of 2012, setting my poems to music. I continue to perform many solo violin shows, sampled and looped, with and without spoken word.

13. Other stories about making CAZZAROLA!, the album?

In Italy, we drove through the mountains of Abruzzo one day looking for a shepherd with his flock. We found one, and with the permission of the shepherd and his 7 sheep dogs, I walked through the herd recording them live. Musician friends in Italy introduced me to other musicians, colleagues at work for example, and I invited them to play on the album and recorded them after work the same day. One night, I discovered a marching band in a mountain village and recorded them and fireworks on the spot. In another village, I recorded the sounds from a metal sculpture dedicated to emigrants, and gave the recording to some friends and asked if they could compose a piece based on them. I was incredibly fortunate to meet generous, creative, talented musicians all over Italy. I am deeply grateful to them for their contributions.

14. Is it true that you actually sing on this album?

Ha! I am not a singer, everyone knows this, and I would never pretend to call myself one, but for the first time since I started recording albums, in 1986 – and that’s 24 albums and about 35 compilations – I actually do sing a few songs, sort of. Mostly I do the vocals and play violin, some keyboards, accordion and a wee bit of percussion.

15. Will the Italian song lyrics be translated and included with the CD?

They will be translated very soon and available online from my website.

THE ALBUM, “CAZZAROLA!by Norman Nawrocki & amici,”
OCT 24 – DEC 3RD, 2013, or online from Les Pages Noires
or from his publisher, PM PRESS:






Cazzarola! Anarchy, Romani, Love, Italy by Norman Nawrocki, might just be one of my favourite books of all time. I have never read a more delicate portrayal of a Romani woman in my life…I highly recommend to Roma and non-Roma alike. With the rise of neo-Nazi and neofascist groups throughout Europe, this book is definitely timely and a must read. It's a history lesson and a lesson about racism, love, and fighting for what you believe in at all cost.’

– Qristina Zavacková Cummings, Romani journalist/activist





1. You’ve always thought outside the box. When you wrote your first book, did you have an idea of how you wanted to bring it to an audience?

No. I lucked out. My very first book back in the 1990s, REBEL MOON: @narchist rants & poems, was published by AK Press, the biggest American anarchist press at the time, who thankfully brought it to a worldwide audience for me. That was back in the day when I got reviews in daily Canadian newspapers, including a full page in The Montreal Gazette, and a prime time CTV news crew live, with a satellite truck parked outside at my Montreal launch in a local micro-brasserie, Le Cheval Blanc.  So given that I was already a tour-hardened musician with my bands, it was no big deal to take to the road with the first book.

Just another show and tell, only without a rock and roll cabaret. I've pretty much done that with all my other books, here and abroad.

2. When you decided to write CAZZAROLA, did you have an idea of how you wanted to bring it to an audience?

First, I had no idea when I started to write CAZZAROLA! that this particular book would result. In fact, the book started as a collection of short stories

based on my then, just completed book tour of Italy with a previous book. I realized as I wrote the short stories that there was a larger, more important story here that needed to be told. The CAZZAROLA! demons seized my typing fingers and directed that narrative. It came on its own. No force, no pushing, no directing. As CAZZAROLA! unfolded, I had no idea what to do with it. But I sensed early on that this book would take its time to be written, and that part of me desperately wanted to share the story sooner. So, I was inspired to write some dramatic monologues based on the story. I turned these intoCAZZAROLA!the theatre piece. I performed a world premiere of the theatre piece at the Montreal International Anarchist Theatre Festival, as the opening act for the Bread and Puppet Theatre. I realized then that once the novel was completed, I already had a vehicle to help me bring it to a larger audience. Later, I was inspired to create the musical soundtrack, giving me a second tool to help share the story. Then, it was only natural, to embark on a 'rock 'n Cazzarol' national tour, combining the theatre piece with the cd and book launch for a triple bill presentation. This never occurred to me five years earlier.


3. You are also a musician. Your book tour looks much like a concert tour. What gave you the idea to treat it as such?

It's the only way I know how!  Every new creation needs to be celebrated. I always tour my music, my 'sex' shows, and my books. And I like to drink in the company of others, old fans, new fans, the curious of the world. It's also a way to keep in touch with the country. What are people really doing in Saskatoon these days? But also, I usually add live music to my book tours and do readings/performances that are theatrical. I'm also an actor. I don't draw lines. No boxes. No lines. I mix everything up. Again, it's how I live, how I create, how I like to share my work. I also want the tour to be 'fun' for audiences and myself.

4. Do you expect book “groupies”?

Always. They will ask: 'Is this a true story? Why didn't you kill off this character?' They will buy two copies of my books. They will bring my other books for me to sign. They will buy me beer. They will offer me places to stay. They will tell their family, en route, to check out my event, because, every book launch on this CAZZAROLA! CANADA TOUR  is a triple treat: live theatre (with a soundtrack and visuals); live music (me on violin playing excerpts from the novel's soundtrack); and live me to answer all their questions about all the above and about how I make perogies.


5. The tour takes you across the country from east to west and visits a variety of places like bookstores, coffee houses, music venues. How did you decide to choose the places for your launches?

Thankfully, I have a wonderful network of dear friends and friends of friends in each city who stepped forward to help me book the tour. They chose the venues based on affordability. This is a DIY tour. I am financing it myself. No Canada Council grant. No publisher support. handouts. I am not an oil company, so no Stephen Harper handouts. The Canada Council for the Arts said: "You are not playing PROFESSIONAL venues and not being paid a PROFESSIONAL rate....' WFT!? No! Of course not! This is why I am asking for your support! I am performing FREE for people in small venues all across the country! And you won't give me any support?' So, we aimed for no-charge venues. I am just passing a hat between my performances to help defray my travel expenses. This is the reality of being an artist, a writer, a performer in Canada today. Money for useless jet fighters. No money for Canadian working artists trying to make a living.


6. There is also an original soundtrack to the book that will be out at the same time. Did you see the album as another way of interesting people in the book? Was the music there from the beginning?

The CAZZAROLA! soundtrack came as an after-thought. But for me, a natural one. I hatched it this year, and went back to Italy twice to research music and collaborative musicians. Yes, the CD is another way to lure people into the depths of my novel. It can also be listened to before, during, or after a reading of the book. It's a sonic complement, an aural context, a musical framework. It's also just some beautiful, moving and reflective music that you can enjoy with your next glass of Lemoncello.


7. There will also be a “live dramatic adaptation” of the book at the launches. What can people expect?

I will portray four characters from the book, from 1926 to today, delivering monologues excerpted from the book. There will be a soundtrack and projections. It's a 30 minute performance. Afterwards, I play live and sampled and looped violin extracts from the new CD.


8. Publishing continues to struggle and adapt to the changes happening in the world. How do you see the future of publishing?

More struggle, more adaptation. As long as people hunger for stories; as long as writers have stories to tell; as long as we remain a literate society; as long as we continue to cultivate an appreciation of books – there is hope. There is an explosion of online publishing. This is good. There are readers groups; writers groups, online and off. This is heartening. With this tour, I am doing my little bit to keep books and the pleasure of discovery very much alive.

More info: www.cazzarola.ca





Last Updated on Monday, 14 October 2013 16:29

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