We have come again with our folding chairs wanting to hear the music. Most of the words are not understood but we know these songs as well as we eat lasagna and pasta fagioli. These are the songs our parents knew. They are our songs too. They have a different meaning to us. Many of the songs were written when our families emigrated from Italy. The lyrics are stories in themselves. Some of them celebrate love. Some of them hold double meanings with sexual inferences. They are all heart-felt songs. They probably are not sung as many times in Italy as they are here.
Here we are, under these trees, on a summer’s night, watching the leaves rustle in the breeze. Is the breeze spreading music through this neighborhood? It used to be New Haven’s Little Italy. So many people have come here and it is good to see this. There are as many young as there are old. We are here blending ethnically and trying to hold on to what goes with our surnames.
We have our favorite songs. They are associated with memories of past feasts. I remember one woman who attended this feast every year. She would shout a request for Malafemmina. When the band did play the song she would shout “whoop” and raise her right fist as if she won a prize. It has become our shared family moment. We jokingly say it and know that eventually the performer is going to sing it.
Malafemmina is about a man’s torn love for a woman. She has a voice like sugar and the face of an angel and yet she is like a viper poisoning his soul. He doesn’t know to love her or hate her. The lyrics cannot be expressed like this anymore. How is it though that a man’s torment can be entertaining. There is a quality about these Neapolitan Songs that expresses melancholy, passion, earthiness, comedy, and love. They are the expression of the Southern Italian culture that hopefully will always be sung.