Scirocco is a hot dust-laden wind blowing from the Sahara deserts towards the Northern Mediterranean coast and beyond. When raging over the Mediterranean Sea, it picks up moisture which causes a rainfall in the southern part of Italy known locally as "blood rain" due to the red sand mixed with the falling rain. The sand and dust can travel as far as Belgium and The Netherlands - next time you wipe that thin layer of dirt from your bike’s saddle on a smoggy afternoon, think of the camel that didn’t bite the dust. Scirocco is also the excellent debut album from Rome-based artist Maria Violenza that came out in 2018 on the Swiss label Kakakids Records. Originating from Palermo, the heart of the Sicilian Inquisition, Christina Cusimano (her real name) is blowing her cold waves of Arab-influenced synthpunk into the Northern parts of the European continent. She sings in Italian, French, English and Sicilian with a raspy voice, mixing folk riffs with repetitive rhythms that she builds up with a looper. Haunted by Sicilian ghosts and the whisperings of the “donas de fuera”, this lady of the underground for sure didn’t bite the dust.
You grew up in Palermo in the ‘90s. Where did you hang out, what music did you listen to, and which haircut did you have?
More punk, rock n’ roll, hardcore and garage than now. A lot of jazz like now. The only time I cut my hair it was the time on the cover of Scirocco, and after that it’s always been long hair.
The history of Sicily is one of many conquests by other nations who left their ethnic traces on the island, causing a unique climate for art, music, literature and religious traditions to blend into a rich culture. How does that resonate through your music and songs?
Culture is the acceptance and knowledge of different things, and finding a good way to use them. That’s what I do with my music.
Who is “Il Palermitano”? (song 3 on the B-side of Scirocco)
Anyone, ah, every Palermitano. Madness and sympathy live in harmony in the same heads!
In “Sbirri Reprise” you’re furiously ranting, spitting out lyrics in an almost hip hop-like style. What’s this song about and how does it relate to the political climate in Italy at the moment?
This song is about Stefano, a boy killed by the Italian police in a police station in Rome. Who wouldn’t be furious about it? I really don’t want to speak about the political climate in Italy. It makes me want to puke and cry at the same time.
During your performances you build up your songs with a looper, shifting between different instruments. How did you develop this way of playing?
The set up has grown up with me according to my needs and the possibilities that my sets have given me.
Sometimes you start over again when a loop is out of sync. Do you always restart or do you sometimes choose to improvise with the spontaneous “errors” that happen?
I just evaluate whether the error is manageable or not, and that it won’t give me too much trouble to finish the song. If it does, I restart.
You’re part of the documentary Linfa, written and directed by Carlotta Cerquetti, about the female underground scene in the eastern outskirts of Rome. How did you end up in the movie?
Someone talked to Carlotta about me and she wrote me an email asking me if I was interested in being a part of her project. She wanted to show independent women in the world of music with a non-canonical life.
The last song on Scirocco is a version of the beautiful and melancholic “Quanno Moru” from Italian singer and musician Rosa Balistreri (Sicily 1927 – 1990). Can you tell me a bit about this song? What does it mean to you?
People die but a song lives forever. It’s a way to hand down a feeling, a thought, an ideology, a way of life. This song is really powerful in that regard.
Last but not least: if you would have been born during the Sicilian Inquisition, would you have been a heretic? If so, which song would you sing to avenge your own demise?
For sure they would have burned me at the stake like a witch while I was singing “XI COMANDAMENTO”.