Making music without boundaries
Yes, Marco Calliari is one of the guys behind the quirky, feel-good club hit We No Speak Americano.
But don’t expect the “disco” version of the song when Calliari performs on Friday, July 18, at Fratters Speakeasy in Red Deer.
“I don’t put a D.J. up on stage,” said the chuckling guitar-playing singer, who instead intends to perform as a quartet with three “spectacular” female musicians who play the tuba, trumpet and accordion. (“Nothing against guys, but I find women really add something — it changes the ambiance,” said Calliari.)
The Montreal-born performer of Italian heritage first recorded a cover of the traditional Italian tune Tu Vuo Fa L’Americano on his 2006 album of standards.
A few years later, a Quebec D.J. asked Calliari if he could sample this version for a 2010 Montreal House Mafia remix, and the singer said sure, why not?
The remix was titled We No Speak Americano.
“I’m a fan of any good music when it’s done in an intelligent way,” explained Calliari, who appreciates that the D.J. kept his “organic,” acoustic approach to the tune to balance out added synthesizers.
It so happened that the Australian duo Yolanda Be Good also recorded a less acoustic, some might say less charming, version also called We No Speak Americano in 2010.
Whoever was first to the studio, the colourful Calliari/M.H.M. remix video that features ponies, wagons and circus people, has drawn 1.8 million YouTube hits — yet the singer still doesn’t believe the song has really made a huge difference to his career.
“You know the Internet world, it’s not like I sold 1.5 million copies,” he said, with a laugh.
What Calliari did accomplish in his 11-year solo career, some would consider impossible — the performer who only sings in Italian has managed to sell tens of thousands of records in Quebec and across the world.
He believes the reason for this is consistently producing the kind of music that transcends language barriers.
“At first I used to think, man, why are these people coming to see us? They don’t even understand what I am singing,” Calliari admitted.
“Now I realize the most important thing at the end of the day is the music.
“If you make the kind of rhythms that make you feel something, that go right through you from one side to the other, then the music is so powerful, you don’t need to understand the words because you feel the vibe,” he added.
“Listeners think you must be saying good things, because it feels so good!” Calliari, who used to be in a Quebec metal band called Anonymus, has released four albums since softening his musical style for his solo career.
The first, Che la vita (2003) and the third, Al faro est (2010) were singer-songwriter efforts of original acoustic songs he wrote.
His debut album helped Calliari win a Rising Star/Galaxie award from the CBC in 2004.
The second album, Mia dolce vita (2006) was a tribute to the Italian classics his parents loved.
And his fourth and latest album, Mi ricordo (2013), is a tribute to the French-language Quebec songs that made up the soundtrack of his Montreal upbringing.
Calliari said he wanted to draw more listeners to the beloved originals by such Quebec artists as Robert Charlebois, George Dor and the band Offenbach.
“It was a way for me to push forward these songs from authors I grew up with.”
Calling himself a “child of Bill 101,” the 39-year-old singer said he was one of the kids from immigrant families had to go to French school under Quebec legislation that sought to preserve the French language.
And it was a wonderful thing, according to Calliari, who’s tri-lingual as a result.
As well as learning French in school and Italian at home, he learned to speak his more-than-passable English from a neighbouring boy he used to play street hockey with.
The boy’s Mexican parents had put him in private English lessons, so this neighbourhood friend would speak to Calliari in English and Calliari would answer him in French. “Because of him, I speak English and because of me, he speaks French . . . we thought nothing about it.”
The barriers between all the different languages eventually broke down until everyone on the street could make themselves understood — “it was as simple as that,” said Calliari, who doesn’t rule out singing in French or English one day.
For ticket information about the 8 p.m. show, please call 403-356-0033.