Empty beer bottles and old bent beer caps litter the floor of a small music hall reminiscent of a barn, on the outskirts of Urbino. The creaky wooden doors open outward and a stale smell of cigarettes wafts out of Club Do 7.
Fabio Barrone enters through the doors with his saxophone case and the rest of his band mates follow with their instruments. The echoey club has poor acoustics but the group, B.D.P.C. practices at Club Do 7 because it’s cheap and they can rehearse at almost any time.
B.D.P.C., an Italian ska band from Urbino, has been playing together since December 2003. No outsider knows what B.D.P.C. stands for, says Federico Del Bianco, the band’s lead singer and guitarist. “The name is a secret – it’s untranslatable.” He puffs on his cigarette and laughs, getting lost in his own thoughts. The band’s name can be translated but the band likes to keep it a mystery for personal amusement.
“I love music and I’ll play until I can’t play any longer,” says Del Bianco, waving his cigarette in the air. Unfortunately for Del Bianco and the rest of the band, Italian musicians can rarely make a living at music. Even the most successful rarely come close to reaching the fame and fortune of their counterparts in the United States.
Italian musicians have been overshadowed by American music. Italy has its share of famous recording artists, like Grammy award-winning pop stars Laura Pausini and Eros Ramazotti. But they’ve won fame as much for singing in Spanish as Italian. In the local boutiques, restaurants and pubs in Urbino, the music blasting from the corner speakers is usually from The Game, Black Eyed Peas, Eminem and a long list of American hip-hop, rap and pop artists.
The Italian girls working the boutiques unconsciously sing along to “My Life” by The Game featuring Lil Wayne. “People, I’m just wondering why you haven’t taken my life,” the clerks sing as they fold jeans. They raise their braceleted wrists and pulse their hands up and down to the sound of the music. Do they even know what they’re singing?
At the 2008 World Music Awards held in Monte Carlo, Monaco there were nine categories ranging from World’s Best Female Artist to World’s Best DJ. Of the 36 world nominees, 10 were European, one artist (Rihanna) was from Barbados and the rest were American. The awards show just how dominant American music is throughout the world, including Italy.
Del Bianco admits that his music influences are American punk and rock. He lists off his favorites like The Clash, Foo Fighters, Green Day and the Ramones. However Del Bianco says the music scene here in Italy “es una merda;” musicians here struggle and it is a losing battle. Italian artists do not have the marketing power to make it big.
Del Bianco knows that his struggle to be a musician is a labor of love but it is not a sustainable profession. He wisely has pursued degrees in communications and event promotions, yet his work always brings him back to music.
Earlier in the school year Del Bianco joined a program to teach elementary schoolchildren how to play musical instruments. “I like to teach and I like to entertain, says Del Bianco, 27.
Despite the daunting reality that faces up-and-coming Italian musicians like B.D.P.C., the band members continue to practice, hustle for gigs and promote themselves. They do not have the marketing or capital to promote their concerts, but they do utilize MySpace to reach out to fans and promote upcoming concerts. The band has no shame in sending out what they call their “groupies” (really their friends) to advertise their new album “Eccitazione Poi Un Brivido,” (Excitement and Then the Chills.)
Carla Pacini, a “groupie”/friend of the band for three years now, takes every opportunity to help B.D.P.C. She says that she has been spreading the word about the band’s next upcoming concert on August 10, in San Lorenzo. Even though they have played big venues (like opening for a recent concert at the Piazza della Repubblica that at night’s end had about 1,000 attendants), Del Bianco says, “Without our friends as our fans we would not have any support.”
B.D.P.C may never reach superstardom but the group’s musicians seem to be comfortable with their underground status.
The six-man-band continues to practice at Club Do 7 surrounded by blinking fluorescent lights. Lining the wall are tattered posters of American music icons like Elvis Presley and Jimi Hendrix mixed with unknown Italian artists.
The band warms up and plays throughout the hour a mix of their own songs like “Linda,” a romantic ballad about an imaginary perfect woman, and covers of Green Day and other American bands. ” Though he barely speaks English, Del Bianco belts out the lyrics of American songs with ease.
Del Bianco continues to look ahead optimistically to the band’s future. “I continue to do this [music] because I like it…. Never say never, always hang on.”