Conversazioni: with our Artistic/Executive Director Musician Daniela Nardi
When you think about being Italian, what is it that comes to mind first or that has the most resonance?
What has the most resonance for me is the reverence to beauty. My husband used to mistake my painstaking process when creating as perfectionism but it isn’t that at all. It seems to me that in the Italian DNA it is about doing something right, whether an espresso or a work of art. The time, care and attention taken to create something that will go into the world are qualities which Italians hold very dear in their hearts. What I have discovered that it really is about beauty; that whatever that thing is, it has to be a work of beauty. There is a pride in the work but it isn’t from ego. It is from knowing that one has done their duty, has done good work and put something of beauty into the world.
How does your Italian background influence your work?
This reverence to beauty is a big influence on my work: to take the time, whatever time is needed to create something which adds more to the world instead of just taking up space or making noise or, god forbid, is mediocre. To understand the “why” behind what you are creating instead of “just because”. This plus the values of pride, hard work, loyalty – qualities which I have witnessed in my parents and family but also I see as inherent in the Italian people. Whether I was conscious of it or not, this is the Italian part of me that does show up in my day-to-day life as a Canadian with Italian roots.
How does your Canadian identity influence your work? Would you say part of your identity is distinctly Italian? How is it different? Is it in conflict with the Canadian world around you?
The part of me that is Canadian I would say is that part that is more reserved, that expects the process to be more linear instead of allowing for a little chaos. In my time working in Italy I noticed there was always a level of chaos, organized chaos that is and that was perfectly fine and tolerated. We Canadians don’t get that kind of chaos. I don’t think these two parts of myself are in conflict anymore. At one time they were because I didn’t quite understand the two sides of my coin. But now there is more awareness and understanding how these two worlds do co-exist within me and they benefit one another.
Is there a performance or composition you think exemplifies your ideas about this?
The two recordings that I did in Italy are examples of this two sides of the coin living in harmony. Like a good Canadian musician, I had my road map, my ideas, direction, plans of what I wanted the albums to be. I had budgets. I had all the details nailed down. Once in Italy, all the well laid out plans needed to be put aside because I was being challenged to go further with my ideas, to dig deeper within myself, to go to a different place, to make it come from “la pancia” and not just some great idea constructed in the head. Again – dive into beauty. And that requires letting go, surrendering to what seems like chaos and let something divine come into being. I had no idea that “The Songs of Paolo Conte” or even “Canto” would have turned out as they did. Now that could be said about the recording process in general. Things do change, shift, happy accidents are had along the way. But what was prevalent to me was the main motivating factor that is, is there beauty in this? It wasn’t about money, time, who had what chops or whatever. It was about creating beauty.
So why Beyond Bella Now?
First off, this has been an incredible year for women. The work needs to continue nonetheless that is, to showcase, celebrate, bring to light issues. As an Italian-Canadian woman, I have had to navigate the ancient psychological terrain of how my heritage informs, influences, motivates my every move and as an artist, every choice I make. The images of Mamma, Nonna, Italian cinematic vixen are omnipresent in – who is this Woman? What is She and why? What demands have these images, the culture imposed on women of Italian heritage? This is what I want to explore through Beyond Bella. Every artist that night has a story to share about Her navigation through this terrain. We need to shatter some myths, misunderstandings and misconceptions, also crush the stereotypes of what it means to be Italian but also what it means to be a Woman and an Artist