Nino Amoroso: Life on the island

Photo: Ikhwan Kim

Nino Amoroso is an artist with a diverse background. He has a degree in philosophy, dabbled in professional photography, worked as a PR officer for the Mayor’s office in Parma and has just completed his Popular Music degree at Goldsmiths.

 His musical background is just as varied : he published an EP with psychedelic-garage rock trio The Swanks, played in surf-rock band The Big Kahoona, and took part in acoustic trio Angolo di Piazza (Corner of a Square). More recently he played with Goldsmiths-based rock project Illogical Procedure and, aside from his native Italian, he also speaks French and German.

Born in Avellino, a small Italian village that is said to look down on the clouds, he moved to Parma when he was thirteen.  His father was a  musician and inspired him to take up the guitar. “Music has always been with me,” says Nino,  “I started singing when I was three. My father would take me to ‘mini-festivals’, or singing competitions for kids, and we would sing together. My relationship has been on-and-off with music throughout my life, though.”

Nino has struggled to come to terms with music. “I think I always doubted myself, like maybe music was not meant for me. Coming here, to London, has really changed that,” laughs Nino, rolling a cigarette. “ I still find it odd when people come up to me after shows and say things like they want to play with me. It makes me think wow, really? Are you sure?”

Amoroso’s internal struggle is evident in his solo work, with recurring themes of identity and self (re)discovery. “The three songs on my latest EP are linked by the idea of the island, a broad concept that is open to exploration. It’s a reflection of my personal experiences living in Britain as an island, a place of adventure where hidden treasures are buried. Isolation, shipwrecking and longing for home and love are the main motives.”

Nino Amoroso – Sailing Time

Motioning to the earth beneath us, Nino continues: “The island is quite a fertile concept to me…It reflects the condition of human beings in the sea of life, where both aspects of introspection and navigation are met. I loved the idea of looking at an island as a body of land, that is physically lying on a continental shelf, which is Europe, and yet the people of the island feel so separate, so distant from it.”

The lyrics try to capture such retrospective elements, as well as the anxiety that stems from ‘riding the waves’ and ‘diving into deep waters’– are they metaphors of his own anxieties of leaving Italy? “I think there was a search for my identity, as well as wanting to give myself a push. To me, very much like a quest for making music, coming here was a search for finding the core of who I am. It’s about being open to receive. Not just in terms of listening to different music, but in terms of opinions on life and such. I never had this in Italy.”

“The difference between here and Italy is in the way things are run. We don’t have a cultural industry. There are fewer opportunities to engage in music. It’s a terrible thing,” says Nino, drawing a long breath from his cigarette. “There was no attention at all to pop music. If you wanted to do music, you had to join a conservatoire. I feel Italy is more conservative in terms of music, they don’t take as many risks. They would rather spend more time on classical music and what’s been done before. They aren’t open to something new.”

Nino’s penchant for musical experimentation can be seen most clearly by his participation in the Goldsmiths Ensemble, sharing the stage with minimal house avant-gardist Matthew ‘Doctor Rockit’ Herbert and Zimbabwean soul vocalist Eska Mtungwazi. “The experience so far has been incredible. He samples sounds live, writes pieces for a jazz band to play, and then gets 40 people to do backing vocals,” exclaims Nino. “We would’ve never done this in Italy. I really admire that courage, that capacity to mix music. That’s what I mean by taking risks, you can only achieve that when you allow a variety of explorations to form.”

Photo: Ikhwan Kim

Nino has involved himself with many other musical projects as well. He recently performed with Orchestral Estique, an ensemble of eight musicians; he also shared the stage with fellow Goldsmiths musicians John Atterbury, Simon Cliff and Eiko Azuma.

If you were at the ELL launch party, you may have seen Amoroso performing with Akleriah, a performance artist collective founded by Anna Kompaniets and Lenka Horakova. “I feel honoured for being invited by these wonderful artists, having to do music in a context which is not my usual one. It was tricky because you have to make music that has a dialogue and a coherency with the art. We would start with a riff, a melodic phrase, and slowly build it up. It’s a good way of letting go of your perceptions about music. It’s quite free in this respect.”

The theme of the show is about connections – of different people, backgrounds, and cultures. “It was a glorious day like this one. We had performers from Japan, West Africa, the Czech Republic, and Russia…It was a very eclectic mix. Truly inspirational. It was so great to be able to bring art from its traditional context onto the streets. Art is about life, so I don’t see why it should be confined to traditional settings – it gives everyone an opportunity.”

Nino is about to embark on a new part of his life, now that his time at Goldsmiths is over. “I intend to carry on with music, hopefully with as many musicians on-board as possible. I think it’s important to find something meaningful where I can bring in my own contributions.”

Stay tuned for a review of his Island EP.

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