Italian Canzone d'autore and Greek Entechno tragoudi: a comparative overview

Franco Fabbri, Ioannis Tsioulakis

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter (peer-reviewed)peer-review

4 Citations (Scopus)


Early attempts to renovate Italian popular song, freeing it from old-fashioned escapist lyrics and pre-WWII music styles took place in the late 1950s. Most lyricists and composers active then had started their careers in the 1920s and 30s, and their songs circulated thanks to the Sanremo Festival (established in 1951) and RAI’s broadcasting monopoly. No trend comparable to the renovation of cinema (neo-realism) or literature could be found in post-war (and post-Fascist) Italian popular music, until a group of composers, poets, and singers established ‘Il Cantacronache’ in Turin in 1958, with the aim to ‘escape from escapism’. Influenced by French auteurs-compositeurs-interprètes (ACI) and by Brecht’s collaborations with Weill and Eisler, Cantacronache was a marginal group of engagé intellectuals (including writers like Italo Calvino, Franco Fortini, Umberto Eco), and their work left traces mostly in political song and folk revival. In 1958, the winning song at Sanremo was Domenico Modugno’s (and Franco Migliacci’s) ‘Nel blu dipinto di blu’. It was a huge international hit, composed by its performer: a rare feature in Italian popular music history. Modugno’s success encouraged young recording industry executives to sign new lyricists and/or composers as performers (as they wouldn’t find proper interpreters for their songs), or to persuade singers to write their own songs (rather than cover foreign material or interpret songs by old-fashioned professional authors). Between 1959 and 1961 some of these singer-songwriters (Umberto Bindi, Gino Paoli, Giorgio Gaber, Gianni Meccia) hit the charts. A new term, cantautori, created by one of the first (and few) female representatives of the category, Maria Monti, was adopted to designate them: by 1961 it was firmly established in Italian language. Initially, it was intended almost as a joke - a lighter term compared to the cultural connotations of chansonnier. However, during the 1960s cantautori became more and more involved in the debate on cultural and political commitment (versus commercialism) in popular music, also under the influence of foreign examples: from French ACI to Bob Dylan, and also Theodorakis (especially after the 1967 coup in Greece).

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationThe Cambridge Companion to the Singer-Songwriter
EditorsKatherine Williams, Justin Williams
Place of PublicationCambridge
PublisherCambridge University Press
Number of pages12
ISBN (Electronic)9781316569207
ISBN (Print) 9781107063648
Publication statusPublished - Apr 2016

Publication series

NameCambridge Companions to Music


  • Music
  • Greece
  • Italy
  • Entechno
  • Canzone d'autore
  • Popular culture

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Arts and Humanities


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