De André: a long love story between the songwriter from Liguria and Sardinia
“I feel more like a peasant than a musician. Here I wish to live, to get old”. Are the poet and songwriter De André’s words as he describes Sardinia, an island in the hearts of the Mediterranean which was deeply loved by the artists and was also were he had one of the most dramatic episodes of his life.
In Italy he is considered a timeless legend, the great songwriter whom renovated Italian music and is one of the major poets of the 20th century. Fabrizio De André, nicknamed Faber by actor and friend Paolo Villaggio, finds his human and private dimension in Sardinia.
In 1975 the singer together with Dori Ghezzi whom he married in 1989, bought Agnata, a typical “stazzu” house in granite surrounded by oak trees. The property is just a few kilometers from Tempio Pausania and Nuraghe Majori, one of the most important Sardinian nuraghi.
Faber’s buy was considered suspicious by SISDE, the Italian secret service, who surveilled him thinking he was a “BR supporter” and got to the point of believing Tempio Pausania was used to hide members of the left wing extra parliament movement. Between the 60s and the 70s, Italy passed one of its most difficult political, social and cultural moments. A moment which is remembered in De André’s songs gathered in the famous album Storie di un impregato in 1973.
Faber’s life was therefore divided between Genova, his hometown, and Sardinia, the home he chose. The artist restored the stables of Agnata and used them for storage and as a fridge room. He also rebuilt a small ruin to be used as a kitchen and then built a house with eight rooms and a swimming pool dug in the rock. He also took advantage of the running water of Caprineddu stream which ran through the estate, to create an artificial lake and guarantee water reserves to for the drought and fires in the community.
Agnata became a symbol of love in Sardinia, a return to nature. It was the long life dream of a boy who had began to love the countryside when he lived at his grandfather’s house in Asti to escape from the war also in Genova when he was just 5 years old.
Faber explains his decision to spend most of his life on the island by saying: “Life in Sardinia is probably the best life a man could wish for: twenty four thousand kilometers of forests, of countryside, of coasts embraced by an immense miraculous sea, all coincide with what I would advise the good god to give as Paradise”.
De André: the sequestration doesn’t make Faber leave the island
One could say Sardinia is De André’s soul. Luisa Vittoria, nicknamed Luvi by her family, was born at Tempio Pausania in 1977, the artists second child after Cristiano who was son of his first wife Enrica “Puny” Rignon. In 1979 the family moved to Agnata for good and Fabrizio and Dori got married in 1989, also at Tempio Pausania. There are no better words that the poets to describe the relation between the artist-farmer, the island and its people: “This land is magic, it gives joy to the spirit, even when you go back home exhausted. It nourishes and doesn’t leave space for bad thoughts. To live in this dimension is the most simple but also the most profound way to live on earth”. About the Sardinians he would say: “they are people looking at the future with respect of the past”.
Faber loved and respected both the land and the people that had received him. Both elements were a great source of inspiration over the years for many songs and poems which clearly describe the connection between the artist and Sardinians, especially farmers.
Sardinia was also where one of Fabrizio’s most difficult life episodes occurred. On the night of the 27th of August 1979, Fabrizio and Dori were kidnapped by anonymous Sardinian sequesters and held prisoners near Monte Lerno in the municipality of Pattada.
The bandits has observed the couple the previous days and took act when they were alone in the house after having an evening with friends and family. It was Dori who noticed first there was something wrong when she heard someone quickly coming up the stairs to the first floor of their home. Since she knew her companion was bear foot, she knew it couldn’t have been him, she only just managed to face the corridor when two hooded, armed men aggressed her while a third man pointed a gun at De André. The couple later said: “after making us put closed shoes on and make us bring extra socks, we were taken downstairs. They made us go out the back door and sit on our car, a Citroen Diane 6 plated MI. Before closing the door they asked Fabrizio where the switch was to turn off the lights in the garden”.
The couple was set free four months later one day apart from each other. Dori in the 20th of December at around 23:00 and Faber at 21:00 the next day. It was De André’s father who payed the ransom of 550 million lira. The group of bandits was made up of 6 men from the province of Nuoro, 1 Tuscan and three from Pattada, also two other men were accused of fraud and money laundering. They were arrested some days after they released Fabrizio and Dori who during the trial forgave the prisoners and stood against the accusers. A few years later, the songwriter and Ghezzi signed a petition directly to the President of the Republic to help one of the sequesters, a Sardinian farmed whom was sentenced 25 years.
De André wrote about being kidnapped and his prison experience in the song Hotel Supramonte and Fraziska in the album L’Indiano (or album dell’indiano), the 10 albums in which the songwriter explored the analogies between the Sardinian culture and native Americans, without neglecting happenings of that time as inspiration.
After the kidnapping De André could have left Sardinia, but he did not and they decided to continue living in Agnata. A journalist named Vincenzo Mollica asked De André why they decided to stay on the island to which the artists answered:
“for various reasons. The main one is the many civilians in Sardinia, no matter the substantial differences including culture and language, their fundamental value is respect as it is also mine. Therefore I enjoy living here with them. Another reason is the environment. I would say it’s useless to describe it, all you need to do is look around. I think it’s one of the most spectacular and clean in Europe”.
Photo: Fabrizio De André in the 90s. Shot by Carlo Silvestro/Marka, image archive fabriziodeandre.it
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