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Pão de Queijo - Brazilian Cheese Bread

When I lived in Brazil, among the many things with which I fell in love, I fell hard for pão de queijo (cheese bread).

Made with tapioca flour (aka tapioca starch), eggs, milk, oil, water, salt and parmesan cheese pão de queijo (pronounced sort of like pow de kayjo) are non-gluten and easy to make. They go perfectly with coffee in the morning. Or even with an ice-cold beer on a summer afternoon. And a drop or two of pimenta (hot sauce) goes great with them as well.

There are different variations of the pão de queijo recipe that you can find online. But here is the recipe I use passed along to me by my Portuguese teacher who hails from Rio de Janeiro.

While you're making the pão de queijo, please enjoy this radio program created by Rocco's Música!Musica!  A nice selection of Brazilian music to play in the kitchen!

 

Ingredients:

1lb Tapioca flour aka tapioca starch (I use Bob's Red Mill brand)

1/2 cup whole milk

1/2 cup filtered water

1/3 cup vegetable oil

1 tsp table salt

2 medium eggs (beaten)

6-8oz parmesan cheese (freshly grated)

 

Preparation:

1) Grate parmesan cheese (you can buy pre-grated, but I find nothing beats the scent and flavor of freshly grated parmesan)

2) Mix milk, water, oil and salt in a sauce pan.

3) Bring to a boil. (careful! It boils quickly to the top!) remove from burner.

4) Pour contents of sauce pan into a large metal bowl.

5) Add tapioca flour. Mix with wooden spoon.

6) Add beaten eggs and mix until smooth (it will be sticky. patience.)

7) Gradually add the grated parmesan. Once dough is cool to the touch, you can start kneading it with your hands. Knead well. 

8) Once dough is fairly smooth, you can start making little 1-inch balls and place them on a baking pan.

9) Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. (Of course every oven is different. I've been baking mine in a Cuisinart toaster-oven)

10) Bake 18-25 minutes.

Serve hot with coffee or as an afternoon snack with the beverage of your choice. Bom apetit!

Mugs L-R: Copacabana, Ipanema, São Paulo, Ipitanga

Bacigalupo-Baciagaloop: The Evolution in Theory of an Italian-American Expression

Rocco'Shop's latest creation - I'm With Baciagaloop - was inspired by a word of slang which comes from the Italian-American vernacular.

Baciagaloop (Botch-a-ga-loop)

It has different connotations.  Some say it means an idiot, a moron or a goof.  Abbott and Costello often had a character named Mr. Bacciagalupe.

Joe Kirk played up the Italian stereotype as Mister Bacciagalupe on Abbott & Costello (1952). Joe's real name was Ignazio Curcuruto of Sicilian heritage. 

 

Others talk about baciagaloop meaning a romantic fool. The great Louis Prima from New Orleans, Louisiana with roots in Sicily once sang a song about this romantic fool, "Baciagaloop (Makes Love on the Stoop)"

Its origins may come from the northern Italian surname of Bacigalupo, which is found mainly in the region of Liguria. In doing some research about the name and this bit of Italian-American slang I came across this boccone saporito (tasty morsel), that just might shed some light. Mind you, this is merely speculation on my part, but please indulge me.

I found an obituary from the New York Times dated December 1, 1908. In that old, gritty, classic New York Times' typeface the headline announces: "LITTLE ITALY MOURNS IL GRAN' BACIGALUP'|Undertaker Who Has Buried 1000 At His Own Expense Awaits The Tomb."  The obit goes on to say: “In the history of Italian immigration in New York there has been no one Italian to struggle from the bottom to the enjoyment of such prestige as did Bacigalupo. In his fight out of poverty and into fortune his name came to be one to conjure with, for it is a matter of the colony's history that he allowed no Italian to miss a proper burial because of poverty..." 

Charles Bacigalupo (His name may have originally been Carlo Bacigalupo) started undertaking at night and shining shoes in the daytime.  For funerals, he acquired a second-hand hearse and rented horses from a local livery stable.  One of his first funerals was for an Italian who had lived in poverty. As an act of charity, Bacigalupo took care of all the funeral arrangements even though it was difficult for him to meet the expenses involved. For the rest of his life, Bacigalupo continued with this charity. 

Word soon got around as to what kind of a man Bacigalupo was, and his business grew as a result.  His funeral parlor at the south end of Mulberry Bend Park (which was located just outside the notorious Five Points neighborhood in Lower Manhattan) boasted a stable of horses as well as "the only automobile hearse" in the city at that time .

 

Mulberry Bend Park New York City.jpg
Mulberry Bend Park, NYC  By Unknown. Public Domain, Wikipedia Commons.

 

Bacigalupo didn't just serve the Italian community either: "Not alone with the poor of the Italian colony did Bacigalupo concern himself. Many an unfortunate white woman found dead in Chinatown was saved from Potter's Field by him, and when, several years ago, the bones of nine Chinamen were disinterred in Brooklyn to be shipped to China, Bacigalupo was called in by the wealthy Chinese to arrange for a funeral procession with 200 coaches.” 

Bacigalupo was held in such high esteem, that the people began to refer to him as Il Gran' Bacigalup' (the Great Bacigalupo).  Just the mention of his name garnered great respect: "...on one occasion a night worker in a more fashionable part of the town having suffered from the operations of a hand-organ man for many mornings cast about for some Italian of importance who might rid him of the nuisance.  A friend who knew Bacigalupo secured this note, which was handed to the organ grinder the next day: 'La tua musica non mi piacia. Anda via e non retourna gia. BACIGALUPO.' (Your music doesn't please me. Go away and never come back)  The Italian scurried away from that block and never returned."

And yet another example of how the people held Bacigalupo in such high esteem. The community of Little Italy entrusted him with the amount of $5000 to be delivered to the Catholic church on his visit to the Vatican in Rome. Not only did Bacigalupo contribute the money but also “a wonderful and costly garment to the Holy Father".

While Bacigalupo never talked much about his charity work, (It was said he buried over a thousand people on his dime), he did enjoy talking about his big funerals and even boasted about driving the second coach in the funeral of Ulysses S. Grant.  He is also credited with introducing dirge-playing bands at funerals in Little Italy, which: "...have taken on a splendor at reasonable prices, the like of which early immigrants in New York never dreamed of seeing..."

August 8, 1885: The funeral procession of Ulysses S. Grant. Charles Bacigalupo drove the second coach.

 

The obituary of Il Gran' Bacigalup' concludes with the reaction to his death  "In the Bend colony the news of the death of the undertaker caused general mounrning (sp) yesterday and last night, and when the funeral arrangements have been made thousands of Italians will turn out to pay tribute to the memory of 'Il gran' Bacigalup'.' Business will cease during the hour of the funeral."

Such was the life of Charles "bye-bye" Bacigalupo. An Italian immigrant who came to the New World and made his mark by embracing his newly-adopted country and its citizens regardless of their bloodlines.

I would like to suggest that perhaps the word, baciagaloop was derived from Charles Bacigalupo. Being a prominent, well-respected person not only in Little Italy but in much of New York City, I could see his name being used initially by the Italian community as a bit of good-natured ribbing; as a compliment in good fun to someone who had performed an act of charity or simply a small act of kindness. (“You brought cannoli? Eh, bacigalupo!")  The use of his name as slang could also have come from people's envy of Charles Bacigalupo. Seeing one of their own make such a name for himself in New York could very well have brought out a little bitterness, resentment or plain jealousy in some, and perhaps it was used sarcastically: (“Oh yeah. That guy. He's a regular bacigalupo").

And maybe, just maybe, this word and its spelling shifted over the years moving away from the person Charles Bacigalupo and becoming its own entity, a word separate from the person, to the current definition meaning someone who is not only soft-headed but soft-hearted as well. ("Whattya? A baciagaloop?")  But I am just speculating. A theory as it were.  

As one who has not only used the term baciagaloop but as been recipient of it, I can only speculate as to the origins of this wonderful expression that was founded in the New World with its roots firmly entrenched in the Old. May the conversation continue not just with baciagaloop, but with other other words of this unique vocabulary that help make up and celebrate Italian-American culture.

A toast, un brindisi a Charles Bacigalupo. Ti salutiamo. cin cin.

  
 

(This blog entry was first posted July 2, 2011 under my former eblogger blog: Nella mente di Baciagalou.)

 

Oh, For the Love of Spam...

Oh, For the Love of Spam...

Our latest collection features designs inspired by that most annoying, confusing, sometimes offensive yet sometimes highly entertaining form of communication – spam email.

One might wonder what could possibly be inspiring about spam email? On the surface, nothing.  Spam, with its oft strangely-worded English,  goofy lay-out and potentially evil, virus-filled links go exactly where they should – through the spam filter and into the spam folder where they will stew in a mire of apathy and neglect eventually finding their way into email hell – ie.  the trash bin.

But once in awhile, a bit of spam can entertain. It can read like poetry. It might not make sense, but it sometimes contains an amusing poetic cadence.

For instance, our design – Hiram.  This non-sensical spam has a poetic quality that conjures up images of another era...a Robert Frost-esque bit of verse...until, of course, one tries to make sense of it:

Just come out here and chuck.

Came in this news of food.

Reminded him out into Charlie.

Waiting for even worse than usual place.

Deep.

 

Then there is other spam that reads like something out of an old spy novel as is the case with our Spam Noir design.  On the surface, the message (which was discovered hidden in an attempt to sneak through spam filters) comes across as a veiled attempt at diplomacy, an olive-branch extended regarding some misunderstanding. A dark, menacing tone underlies it:

Let’s try be reasonable.

I think, that you are mistaken. Let’s discuss it.

Write to me in PM,

We will communicate.

Its tough, cocksure tone is something right out of a Mickey Spillane spam noir novel...if Spillane had written spam noir novels.

Then there is still other spam that is much more direct and to the point. It doesn't futz around with any poetic mumbo-jumbo or intimidating gangster-speak. Upon opening and reading, it invades your personal space and tells you exactly what it wants from you.

Such is the case with the spam that inspired our Spam of Love collection.

The tone of this particular message is aggressively complimentary. I hear the voice of Natasha Fatale speaking as well as feel the grip of a headlock and noogie

Oops

Sexy Rabbit

I found yr photos in Twitter

YOU ARE PRETTY BOY!!

Screen capture of the actual email with accompanying design.

While these designs and others to come will do nothing to combat the annoyance of receiving spam  (THE WAR ON SPAM...nah), we can at least have some fun with this virtual junk mail until someone can develop the perfect spam filter. 

Until then, FIND THE PERFECT BOYFRIEND

 

Le Radici di Rocco's Música!Musica!

 

Una giornata di lavoro nel 1998

Una volta ho avuto un lavoro facendo il walla. Da non confondere con doppiaggio, walla coinvolge un gruppo di attori da aggiungere suono nel sottofondo ad alcune scene di un film o programma televisivo in post-produzione.

ad esempio, una scena in un ristorante. Mentre i principali attori stanno parlando al tavolo, gli attori walla, in piedi intorno un microfono nello studio, aggiungono al sfondo di atmosfera del ristorante con mormorio e a volte call-out come, "cameriere!","vado prendere un Manhattan" o forse solo una ricca risatina. 

Registrando walla era sempre piacevole, perché ci ha permesso di improvvisare e, quando la produzione ha chiesto un po' di doppiaggio, ci ha dato la sfida di cercare di abbinare "i lembi" della bocca di un particolare esecutore sullo schermo durante la duplicazione di una specifica linea che aveva bisogno di essere ri-registrato per prestazioni o motivi tecnici.

The Wilhelm Scream Non é walla ma un effetto sonoro di voce più leggendario.

E mentre era un lavoro interessante e divertente, come tutto lavoro, di tanto in tanto un giorno potrebbe stare lunga e difficile. Questo è stato uno di quei giorni. Avevamo lavorato su un film da tutta la settimana e questo giorno é stato lungo con un sacco di riprese e ritardi. Avevamo avvolto la sessione, ho lasciato lo studio e mi diressi alla fermata dell'autobus. La persona che era a capo della seduta walla, Al, mi gridò, "Lou, vuoi un passaggio a casa?" Sì. Sì.

Mi sono entrato in lato passeggero della macchina di Al, allacciati e noi eravamo in viaggio. Abbiamo parlato un po del giorno in cui é stato passato e quello che era nella lista per domani. Come stavamo entrambi piuttosto stanchi, abbiamo presto cadde in un silenzio rilassante.

Con una mano sul volante, Al si chinò, raccolse un cd e metterlo nel lettore stereo. Che cosa è venuto fuori dagli altoparlanti ha attirato la mia attenzione.

E 'stato come una risatina ritmica. Una risatina quella sorta di scherzosamente mi colpì alle costole, ha messo il suo braccio intorno a me e disse: "stai stanco? Povero bambino! Dimenticalo. Relax."

Poi la musica ha iniziato. Era un suono che ricorda un tempo diverso. Il suono evocava immagini di bicchieri e ghiaccio, della moda poliestere, di baffi e grandi basette. Un fresco, sassofono e sala suono dell'organo infuso. Musica lounge per il 21 ° secolo.

Ho guardato Al, "Che cos'è questo?" Al mi ha dato la copertina di cd e ha detto:

“Montefiori Cocktail.”

Montefiori Cocktail sono due fratelli gemelli Francesco (Kekko) e Federico (Kikko) Montefiori, che vengono di Forlì in Emilia-Romagna. Kekko suona le tastiere e Kikko suona il sassofono, flauto e voce. Il loro padre, Germano Montefiori, era un sassofonista successo in orchestre e combo degli anni 1960 e '70 in Italia. Germano abbellisce non solo le copertine di primi tre album dei suoi figli, (Attualmente hanno undici uscite), ma anche ha pubblicato un album nel 2006 - Germano Montefiori & the Swinging Daddies.

Io ho il piacere di stare in contatto con Kikko e Kekko, così come con i loro partner sposati, direttore artistico della rivista Lazagne, Anna Bertozzi e l'artista Laura Gamberoni rispettivamente via le reti sociali. I fratelli Montefiori continuano a girare l'Italia e l'Europa, portando la torcia musicale del loro padre.

Montefiori Cocktail: Playlist

Il cd ha raggiunto la quarta traccia. "Ehi, Al, tu passa del negozio Virgin Records?" Al mi ha dato un'occhiata. "Già. Perché? " " Devo comprare questo". Al disse nulla. Si limitò a sorridere. Penso che ci sia sempre un po 'di soddisfazione personale quando si introduce a un altro qualcosa di nuovo con risultati positivi.

Al passato la strada dove si trovava il negozio di dischi e ha fermato la macchina."Grazie, Al! A domani."" Più tardi, Lou! " Al decollato, e ho iniziato a camminare al negozio di dischi. Stavo posseduto. Come il cd era un'importazione, si trovava una buona probabilità di non essere in azione, ma mi ha detto che avrei comunque ordinarlo.

Alla fine ho arrivato a Virgin Records (mi mancano negozi di dischi. Anche i mega-negozi) e ho fatto un beeline per la sezione internazionale. Ho cercato la sezione in un modo molto simile a Terminator Vision.

AFRICA, ARGENTINA, BELGIO ... FRANCIA, GERMANIA, ITALIA.

Ed eccolo lì. Mi aspetta. Uno dei primi CD nel rack. Montefiori Cocktail Raccolta No.1l'ho raccolto, fatto il check out e l'ho comprato. Allora l'ho preso a casa. E l'ho ascoltato. Molte volte.

Francesco (S) e Federico (D) Montefiori. 

E 'stata la musica di fratelli Montefiori che mi ha fatto conoscere un particolare suono italiano moderno. Un suono salone, che ha la sua impulso sul jazz americano e R & B. Su Jazz Latino, bossa nova brasiliana, colonne sonore cinematografiche, ritmo africano, vibes indiani Oriente e altro ancora. L'ho adoravo. E volevo di più.

E in quei giorni pre-iTunes, c'era solo un posto stavo andando a trovare più.

Nel dicembre 2000, su una promessa che avevo fatto alla mia agente ("Io voglio che tu vada in Italia", lei ha detto. Chi sono io per rifiutare?), Ho preso una parte del denaro che avevo fatto durante la mia prima pubblicità tv (Swiffer!) e prenotato un volo per mia moglie ed io in Italia.

Non vedevo l'ora di entrare in contatto con le mie radici nel paese vecchio. Ma ho avuto anche nella parte posteriore della mia mente che forse Montefiori Cocktail già avuto una nuova release. Una "Raccolta n ° 2", per così dire.

staviamo visitando Firenze da qualche giorno, facendo le cose turistici. Stavamo camminando in città, quando per caso o per destino ci imbattemmo in un piccolo negozio di dischi. Vorrei poter ricordare il nome.

Altrettanto rapidamente come avevo trovato Raccolta n ° 1, ci è stato. Raccolta n.2. In attesa di me. Un'altra cover colorate album, di nuovo con Germano sul coperchio.

Ho preso due copie (una per Al!) E mi diressi alla cassa. Il venditore guardato il mio acquisto e ha chiesto se poteva raccomandare qualche altra cosa per me. Come il mio italiano è stato bruttissimo, al momento, non stavo sicuro di quello che stava dicendo, ma mia moglie, che non parlava una parola della lingua, è stato in grado di dirmi quello che voleva. (A questo giorno, non riesco ancora a capire come ha fatto. molto impressionante)

Lui ha inserito un CD nel lettore, mi ha dato un paio di cuffie e premuto play. Poi ho sentito le note di un altro suono accattivante di apertura.

Nicola Conte - Jet Sounds 

Dopo aver ascoltato frammenti di una mezza dozzina di brani, mi sono tolto le cuffie, guardato il venditore che pazientemente atteso il mio verdetto, ho alzato due dita e disse: "Due, per favore."

 Il venditore sorrise. Anche in questo caso si trattava di un sorriso di soddisfazione, di orgoglio.
Ero appena stato presentato al musicista e produttore Nicola Conte. Nicola proviene da Bari nella regione Puglia. E 'un musicista prolifico, compositore, dj e produttore che ha collaborato e registrato su diversi progetti. Nicola ha un certo tocco magico aggiungendolo a numerose registrazioni di successo e remix per artisti come Rosalia de Souza, Sabrina Malheiros e anche Montefiori Cocktail.


Kind of Sunshine.
Nicola Conte on guitar.

Dopo essere stato presentato con il genio dei fratelli Montefiori e Nicola Conte, sono diventato ossessionato da questo suono. Scoprii presto la etichetta Irma Records. Irma porta il motherlode non solo di questa musica di lounge moderno, ma di acid jazz, elettronica, nu-jazz e molti altri generi. (Gran parte di questa musica può essere trovato su iTunes, ma per quelli che si piacciono al cd, si può trovarla da MusicShopOnline aka MSOL)

Artisti come Montefiori Cocktail, Nicola Conte, Italian Secret Service, Marcheselli Produzioni,BellaDonna, LTJ X-Perience, Bengi Jumping, I Shiffers, Robert Passera e altri hanno aperto un nuovo mondo di musica per me. E la mia passione per questa musica alla fine ha portato alla creazione di Rocco's Música!Musica! nel 2005.

 

Roots of Rocco's Música!Musica!



 

A work day in 1998.

I once had a gig doing walla. Not to be confused with ADR (Additional Dialogue Recording), walla involves bringing in a group of actors to add background sound to certain scenes of a film or television program in post production.

A restaurant scene for example. While the main actors on-screen are having a discussion at the table over their penne all'arrabbiata, the walla actors, standing around a microphone in the studio, add to the rest of the restaurant’s ambience with murmur and the occasional call-out such as, “waiter!”, “I’ll have a Manhattan”, “You want fries with that?” or maybe just a hearty chuckle.

Recording walla was always enjoyable, because it allowed us to improvise and, when the production called for a bit of ADR, gave us the challenge of trying to match “the flaps” of the mouth of a particular on-screen performer while dubbing a specific line that needed to be re-recorded for performance or technical reasons.

The Wilhelm Scream  Not walla but a most legendary voice sound effect.

And while it was interesting and enjoyable work, like all jobs, once in a while a day could be long and arduous. This was one of those days. We had been working on a feature film throughout the week and this particular day had been a long one with lots of takes, do-overs and delays.  We had wrapped up the session, I left the studio and made my way to the bus stop.  The person who was in charge of the walla session, Al, called out to me, “Lou, you want a ride home?” Yes. Yes I do. 

I got into the passenger side of Al’s car, buckled up and we were on our way. We talked a little about the day that had passed and what was on the slate for tomorrow. As we were both pretty tired, we soon fell into a relaxed silence and just cruised along.

With one hand on the wheel, Al reached down, picked up a cd and put it in the stereo player. What came out of the speakers caught my attention.

It was like a rhythmic chuckle.  A chuckle that sort of playfully poked me in the ribs, put its arm around me and said, “You tired?  Poor baby! Forget it. Relax.”

Then the music started. It was a sound reminiscent of a different time. The sound conjured up images of tumblers and ice, of polyester fashion, of moustaches and big sideburns.  A cool, saxophone and organ-infused lounge sound.  Lounge music for the 21st century.

I looked at Al, “What is this?” Al picked up the cd jewel box and handed it to me:

“Montefiori Cocktail.”

Montefiori Cocktail are twin brothers Francesco (Kekko) and Federico (Kikko) Montefiori, who hail from Forlì in the Emilia-Romagna region of Italy. Kekko plays keyboards and Kikko plays saxophone, flute and vocals. Their father, Germano Montefiori, was a successful saxophonist in Italy’s orchestras and combos of the 1960s and 70s. Germano not only graces the covers of his sons’ first three albums, (They currently have eleven releases) but he too released an album in 2006 – Germano Montefiori & the Swinging Daddies.

I've had the pleasure of staying in touch with Kikko and Kekko as well as with their married partners, artistic director of Lazagne magazineAnna Bertozzi and artist Laura Gamberoni respectively via Facebook. The brothers Montefiori continue to tour Italy and Europe, carrying the musical torch their father passed onto them.

Enjoy this playlist of a few of Rocco's favorite Montefiori Cocktail tunes.

By the time the cd reached the fourth track, I was fully hooked.  “Hey, Al, do you go by Virgin Records?”  Al gave me a look. “Yeah. Why?”  “I gotta get this.” Al said nothing. He just smiled.  I think there’s always a bit of personal satisfaction when one introduces to another something new with positive results.

Al passed the street where the record shop was located and pulled over. “Thanks, Al! See you tomorrow.” “Later, Lou!” Al took off, and I made my way down the street to the record store. I was possessed. As the cd was an import, it stood a good chance of not being in stock, but I told myself I would order it anyway.

I eventually arrived at Virgin Records (I miss record stores. Even the mega-stores) and made a b-line for the international section. I searched the section in a way much akin to Terminator Vision.  

AFRICA, ARGENTINA, BELGIUM…FRANCE, GERMANY, ITALY.

And there it was. Waiting for me.  One of the first cds in the rack. Montefiori Cocktail Raccolta No.1 (Collection No.1) I picked it up, went to check out and bought it. I then took it home. And played it. Often.

Francesco (L) and Federico (R) Montefiori. Montefiori Cocktail.

It was the music of fratelli Montefiori that introduced me to a particular modern Italian sound. A lounge sound, that has its pulse on American jazz and R&B. On Latin jazz, on Brazilian bossa nova, cinema soundtracks, African rhythm, East Indian vibes and more.  I was hooked.  I wanted more.

And in those pre-iTunes days, there was only one place I was going to find more.

In December of 2000, on a promise I had made to my agent (“I want you to go to Italy”, she said. Who am I to refuse?), I took a portion of the money I had made on my first tv commercial (Swiffer!) and booked a flight for my wife and I to Italy.

I looked forward to getting in touch with my roots in the old country. But I also had it in the back of my mind that maybe, just maybe, Montefiori Cocktail had a new release. A “Raccolta No.2” as it were.

We visited Firenze for a few days seeing the sights. We were walking around town, when by chance or by fate we came upon a small record shop. I wish I could remember the name of it.   

Just as quickly as I had found Raccolta no.1,  there it was.  Raccolta no.2. Waiting for me.  Another colorful album cover, again with Germano on the cover.

I picked up two copies (one for Al!) and made my way to the cashier. The salesperson looked at my purchase and asked if he could recommend something else for me. As my Italian was bruttissimo at the time, I wasn’t sure what he was saying, but my wife, who didn’t speak a word of the language, was able to tell me what he wanted.  (To this day, I still can’t figure how she did that. Most impressive)

He inserted a cd into a player,  handed me a pair of headphones and pressed play. I then heard the opening strains of another captivating sound.

Nicola Conte - Jet Sounds 

After listening to snippets of about half a dozen of tracks, I took off the headphones, looked at the salesperson who patiently awaited my verdict, held up two fingers and said, “Due, per favore.”

 The salesperson smiled. Again it was a smile of satisfaction, of pride.

I had just been introduced to musician and producer Nicola Conte. Nicola hails from Bari in the region of Puglia.  He is a prolific musician, songwriter, dj and producer who has collaborated and recorded on many different projects.  Nicola has a certain magic touch adding it to numerous successful recordings and remixes for artists such as Rosalia de Souza, Sabrina Malheiros and even Montefiori Cocktail.

Kind of Sunshine. Nicola Conte on guitar.

Having been presented with the genius of the Montefiori brothers and Nicola Conte, I became obsessed with this sound. I soon discovered the Irma Records label of Bologna located also in Emilia-Romagna. Irma carries the motherlode of not only this modern lounge music, but of acid jazz, electronica, nu-jazz and many other genres.  (Much of this music can be found on iTunes; however, for those into compact discs, they can be found at MusicShopOnline aka MSOL

Artists such as Montefiori Cocktail, Nicola Conte, Italian Secret Service, Marcheselli Produzioni, BellaDonna, LTJ X-Perience, Bengi Jumping, The Shiffers, Robert Passera and others opened up a new world of music for me. And my passion for this music eventually led to the creation of Rocco’s Música!Musica! in 2005.

 

Daniele "Bengi" Benati: The Face of Funk-Soul Italiano

I just recently produced a video for That’s Amore Music. That’s Amore specializes in “Authentic Italian Music” production music for tv, film, commercials, etc. That’s Amore is affiliated with Flippermusic, a large production music network located in Rome and Milan.

The latest release by That's Amore is Little Italy, which celebrates the Italian-American vibe along the lines of a style alla Louis Prima. It swings. This tune - Nuova York - is dedicated to the Big Apple:

I’ve produced a few videos for That’s Amore. One of the label’s founders (along with Fabio di Bari) is Daniele Benati. Benati, who originally hails from Lombardy Italy,  wears many hats: prolific songwriter, singer, musician, producer and promoter.

In the early 1990s Daniele  formed the band Ridillo, who had twice won the Japan-based international music competition, Yamaha Music Quest. In 1996 Ridillo released their first album and enjoyed success in Italy, not only headlining their own concert tours, but opening for acts like Earth, Wind and Fire and James Brown.  While Ridillo play funk-soul italiano, they cover other genres as well. (Tom Jones!) The band continues to record and perform, even touring with legendary Italian singer Gianni Morandi.

 

You can check out more Ridillo on iTunes!

Aside from Ridillo, Daniele also works on collaborations and solo projects. In 2007 he released a solo album under the nom-de-plume Benji Jumping and had a hit with his screamingly fun, Ice Cream Pusher.

His most recent release, 2014's Faccia da Soul (Face of Soul) had a number of hits including Bel Tramonto (Beautiful Sunset), L’Estate Sta Finendo (Summer is Ending) and the beautiful, bittersweet Vanoni:

Daniele is a man of many talents, not the least of which he is a husband and father. I have never had the pleasure of meeting him in person. I hope to one day. We have only ever communicated via Facebook and other social networks. Through his many posts, one is able to see Daniele as a friendly, positive, energetic and tireless performer, producer and promoter, constantly creating, composing, performing, recording and plugging his numerous projects be they concerts, collaborations or recording sessions. 

The music business is a tough racket, especially in these less-than-lucrative days of iTunes and Spotify. But this does nothing to dim Daniele's passion and enthusiasm for his band and his music. 

Here are a few other videos I have had the pleasure of producing for Daniele and That's Amore:

From Italiani Paparazzi Vol. 2

 

  From Spaghetti Western

 

From Arrivederci Italia

 

 

From Fellini's Rome

Of Lounge, Bossa Nova and the Girl From Ipanema

I’ve always had a passion for lounge music, be it older 20th century artists like Martin Denny, Juan Garcia Esquivel, Walter Wanderley or the current 21st century sounds of Montefiori Cocktail, Nicola Conte and Bossacucanova.  Whichever the millennium, this flame for the sound called lounge burns brightly. 

My passion for the genre comes from my youth. When I was too young to go to school, and my brothers and sister had gone off to classes, I would turn to the television for entertainment. But in those pre-digital,  pre-cable days, there were roughly five Seattle-area channels available, none of them containing children's programming at that particular hour, (if I was lucky, maybe a rerun of I Love Lucy) and one of them, the public broadcaster, had yet to start its broadcast day. 

This left me no alternative than to entertain myself by watching my mother work diligently around the house, while our family's hi-fidelity console accompanied her. My mother always listened to music while she worked. There was one station she enjoyed in particular: KIXI. “Oceans of Beautiful Music..." or so went the top of the hour station identification. KIXI primarily played easy-listening music featuring instrumentals by legendary composers such as Les Baxter, Nelson Riddle and Henry Mancini

For me, this music was like a soundtrack to the narrative taking place. My mother, cloth in hand, moving swiftly around our colonial dining room table, polishing the dark wood to the strains of Holiday for Strings.

Many of the easy-listening/lounge melodies from that period of my life continue with me today via Rocco's Música!Musica!  One melody in particular is not only a classic bossa nova/jazz standard, but it was also, in an indirect way, my introduction to Brazil. The Girl From Ipanema.  

If I had to fathom a guess, the first rendition of  The Girl From Ipanema I ever heard would be the instrumental arrangement by Percy Faith via my mother's radio station.  Percy Faith's breezy arrangement and other versions like it have given The Girl From Ipanema  a reputation as being a somewhat frivolous and kitschy number. But taking a look - and a listen - at the song's bossa nova roots, it is anything but. 

A Garota de Ipanema was written 53 years ago by Antonio Carlos Jobim and Vinìcius de Moraes. The two bohemians, hanging out with the other bohêmia at the Bar Veloso in the Copacabana neighborhood of Rio de Janeiro, were inspired by a young woman who often passed by the bar on her way to the beach and who occasionally stopped in to buy cigarettes for her mother. In his book "Revelation: The Real Girl From Ipanema", de Moraes waxes poetic about their muse:  "The paradigm of the blossoming carioca*; the golden girl, mix of flower and siren, full of light and grace, the sight of whom is also melancholy, carrying with herself, on her way to the sea, the feeling of passing youth, of beauty that is not only ours - it is a gift of life in her beautiful and melancholic constant ebb and flow."  (*carioca describes someone from Rio de Janeiro)  This sentiment is reflected in the song's lyrics. (Hopefully my translation will convey this. The lyric for the English version of the song was written by Norman Gimbel and can be viewed here). 

The first recording of  A Garota de Ipanema was recorded in 1962 by Pery Ribeiro; however, it wasn't until the 1964 release of the album, Getz/Gilberto that the song was introduced to the rest of the world.  João Gilberto, one of the artists credited with inventing the bossa nova sound along with Jobim and de Moraes, recorded the album with Stan Getz on saxophone and Jobim on the piano. João's wife at the time, Astrud Gilberto, also sang on the album helping to make The Girl From Ipanema and another Jobim classic, Corcovado, huge international hits.   Interestingly enough, Astrud had never before sung professionally, but João suggested she sing on the album and thus a star was born.

Here is a sweet clip of Astrud Gilberto singing The Girl From Ipanema from the movie Get Yourself A College Girl (1964). While Getz/Gilberto and The Girl From Ipanema won four Grammy Awards in 1965, Get Yourself A College Girl,  starring Joan O'Brien, Nancy Sinatra, Chad Everett and featuring The Animals, The Jimmy Smith Trio and the Dave Clark Five, came and went. (Stan Getz is also in this clip playing the powder blue cardigan).

 

Because of the song's popularity, many of the world's biggest stars covered The Girl From Ipanema. From Italy's Mina Mazzini to France's Jacqueline François to the Chairman of the Board himself, Frank Sinatra, who not only recorded an album with Antonio Carlos Jobim, but taped a medley with him for a 1967 television special.

Eventually, with the end of the 60's decade the bossa nova craze died down. But The Girl From Ipanema remains as the genre's signature tune. To this day it is still being covered by artists all over the world. Some versions stay close to Jobim's original arrangement, while others take another path entirely.  But whatever the style, The Girl From Ipanema is a classic for all time.

In celebration, I put together a version of The Girl From Ipanema using 17 different renditions of the tune. A pot-pourri if you will. Just to give you a taste of the many different arrangements of this wonderful song orbiting the planet.

Rocco Roundels and the Djibouti Connection

One of the collections offered on Rocco’Shop is the Rocco International collection, which features roundels representing different nations. 

A roundel is a circular symbol often used as a type of national insignia. The roundel is used in heraldy (“The practice of designing, displaying, describing and recording coats of arms and heraldic badges” – Wikipedia) and its origins are considered to go back as far as predynastic Egypt.

Bodl Canon.Misc.378 roll159B frame28

Shields of Magister Militum Praesentalis II. Page from the Notitia Dignitatum, a medieval copy of a Late Roman register of military commands Bodleian Library shelfmark MS. Canon. Misc. 378.

 

In the 20th century, the French Air Service originated the roundel on their military aircraft during the First World War. Countries such as the UK and USA soon adapted the roundel followed by a number of other countries after the war.

L-R: France, Great Britain, Italy, USA

Beyond its military usage, the UK’s RAF roundel also became a symbol for the Mod counter-culture in 1960s Britain.

The Who: Drummer Keith Moon sporting RAF roundel

 

I’ve always liked the roundel. It’s simple three-tier design, compact and colorful. Initially on Rocco’Shop I had been recreating the original WWI-era roundels. But I soon started to create original roundels based not only on countries, but cities and other themes as well.

The Djibouti connection

The country of Djibouti has always fascinated me. A tiny country nestled on the horn of Africa surrounded by its neighbors Somalia, Eritrea and Ethiopia. Having always been an amateur vexillogist (flag geek) I first learned of Djibouti while watching on television the opening ceremonies of the 1992 Barcelona Olympics. It was during the presentation of athletes, when the small contingent of Djiboutian athletes passed by. Their flag was a beautiful blue, green and white with a vibrant red star. I had never seen nor heard of Djibouti until that moment. I wanted to learn more.

In short, Djibouti has a population of roughly 810,000. French and Arabic are its two official languages and their currency is the Djiboutian franc (DJF). Djibouti is a major shipping port in the Gulf of Aden and Red Sea and it is also home to the only permanent US military base in Africa, Camp Lemonnier.

Djibouti is a multi-ethnic country, its culture interwoven with the Afars (Ethiopia), the Issas (Somalia) and the French along with Arabs, other Ethiopians and other Europeans. Due to its multi-ethnicity, Djibouti’s art and music are diverse as well with traditional Ethiopian, Somali and Arabic influences.

Popular Djiboutian singer, Awale Adan

 

Djibouti gained independence from France on June 27, 1977. Their motto is Unité, Égalité, Paix (Unity, Equality, Peace). And the colors of their flag are explained in the Djiboutian national anthem:

Arise with strength! For we have raised our flag,

The flag which has cost us dear

With extremes of thirst and pain.

Our flag, whose colours are the everlasting green of the earth,

The blue of the sky, and white, the colour of peace;

And in the centre the red star of blood.

Oh flag of ours, what a glorious sight!

 

I must agree. The flag is a glorious site. And it inspired a roundel incorporating its colors as well as the country’s two official languages.

 

After having created the roundel and adding it to the collection, I posted it on Rocco’s Facebook page. Choosing a demographic of Djibouti and other French and Arabic speaking countries, I then boosted the post, which is a service Facebook offers to ensure more eyes see the post beyond the followers and friends of one’s page.

 

 

I didn’t expect much in the way of a response. I didn’t expect to sell much, if any. I had merely created the roundel as I was inspired by the look and colors of the Djiboutian flag. I haven’t had much success with Facebook boosts anyway as many of the clicks my previous posts had received appeared to come as a result of click farms.

It was a big surprise, then, when I discovered that the roundel had gone “small v” viral within Djibouti. In the three days the post ran almost 8,500 people had seen it. Out of that number 277 people interacted with the link. (ie. liked the link, clicked the link, liked the page, shared the post). 

98.9% of those who interacted with it were from Djibouti. Aside from this rare and encouraging response via the boosted post, the Facebook and Pinterest shares on the product page of the Djibouti roundel were also pleasantly surprising.

No sales generated, mind you. But there was interest. The roundel had generated interest and likes and shares. The most I’ve seen since I opened Rocco’Shop on Shopify a few months ago.

And it motivates me. It motivates me to create more, to generate more interest, more likes, more shares and eventually more sales.

Merci bien, Djibouti. bisoux.

Rocco’s Música!Musica! 2005-2015: 15 Years of Music From Around the World.

Birth of a Station

When Rocco’s Música!Musica! first aired in 2005, the radio station focused solely on music from Brazil and Italy, which was and still is my passion. Bossa nova, lounge, jazz, samba, pop, hip hop, both vintage and modern sounds from the two countries. 

The station was inspired and named after my buddy Rocco Caramello, a cat, an orange tabby to be precise. How did he inspire this station, you say? Just by being the friendly, crazy, nutty, koo-koo cat that he was. And he would help me, too. While I would upload music to the station, Rocco would monitor the uploads by positioning himself underneath the computer monitor. Ok, so he may have been sleeping much of the time, but I know he was ensuring the station’s music was keeping in line with company protocol…

Rocco's Música!Musica! station manager, Rocco Caramello.

 

Rocco’s Música!Musica!: Logos

Having started the station, I now needed to add a logo to the station page. Something listeners would recognize. The very first logo was a simple cat paw.  Business cards were also created featuring the paw along with the flags of Italy and Brazil and a really long and complicated url address.

                                        

 

I could tell Rocco wasn't too thrilled with this logo.  And neither was I.

Then one day Rocco inspired an image that became the station’s new logo. Living in a small apartment in the city of Vancouver, BC, Canada Rocco’s only outdoor time was spent in a flower box outside the window. I had built a little bamboo fence in the flower box for security and planted grass for him to lay in and chew. This was Rocco’s jungle, and he loved it. 

The mighty jungle lion

 

This image of Rocco became a defining image for the station. Rocco in da jungle, the mighty jungle lion…exotic, ferocious…and a heckuva nice guy!

Finding a particular font - Velvenda Cooler – and a color combination of what I like to call lime, azzurro and rosso, I created a logo that conveyed well the color and good vibes broadcasting from Rocco's station.

 

 

             

   Rocco’Shop and the Birth of the Rocco Gatos

With the station up and running for about a year, I started to look into merchandising, which is always a good way to get one’s brand out there. A friend had told me about Cafe Press, and around August of 2006 Rocco’Shop (Rocco’s Shop) opened. 

Searching for ideas, and with very little drawing talent I began to play around with MS Paint in creating simple Rocco gatos caricatures. These little gatos were very simple, very rudimentary. And although colorful, they were pretty much expressionless:

 And while sort of meh alone, they did look colorful in groups:

 

 

Then one day, one of the gatos broke out into a big smile, and I began to experiment with different expressions, resulting in various degrees of je ne sais quoi: 

 

 

Rather then attempting to draw, I started to implement more shapes and lines (no-brainer stuff for graphic artists, but as an actor, I can only act like a graphic artist). Through this implementation, I was getting better results with looks and expressions:

L-R: Rocco Italia, Rocco Brasil, Rocco Croatia, Rocco Canada

 I also started to incorporate the flags and colors of different nations in creating these gatos. Adding more and more, there was soon a virtual United Nations of gatos! 

 

With the addition of all the Rocco gatos from different countries (Rocco Nation!), it was then that Rocco’s Música!Musica! began to expand its repertoire from Brazilian and Italian tunes to include music from other parts of the world as well.

These Rocco gatos began appearing on various items: t-shirts, mugs and mousepads, and from them came different ideas, designs and themes. Their creation (inspired by the big orange, himself) helped kickstart Rocco'Shop, which along with Rocco's Música!Musica! continues to grow and evolve.

Rocco's Música!Musica!

A simple commercial recently produced for Rocco's Música!Musica! The spot features the music of some great artists from Italy, Spain and Brazil. To hear more of their music, click on a link!

Artists in order:

 Ivana Parnasso - "Comb In Samba" - Episode 3
 Gigi El Amoroso - "Bonita Mañana" - Mechanical Dreams
 Ridillo - "Everybody Funky" - Single
 Luiz Macedo - "Boogie Woogie Downtown" - Orchestra Electromagnética
 Bebo Best & The Super Lounge Orchestra - "Bossamba Jazz" - Trip to Rio de Janeiro
 Montefiori Cocktail - "Easy Trip" - Raccolta no.3
 Robert Passera - "Musicarello Decamerotico" - Gringo On the Rocks

 

Rocco's Collections