December 29, 2021
Music is my weapon to defend human rights
The voice of Luca Neves, interviewed by Sara Manisera, FADA Collective
Blackn[è]ss fest is the first festival in Italy which presents a re-elaborated version of the African lineage universe. Events and roundtables are organized both to think about the concept of being black, following a path of decolonization of the language, and to discuss topics such as mental health issues linked to racial profiling, discrimination, racism, and also music, cinema, media and representation of black people.
Voice Over Foundation chose to accompany the festival in this path and it decided to tell stories about it through the protagonists' voices during the whole year.
Interview with Luca Neves, musician and chef.
Q: Could you introduce yourself? Who are you and what do you do?
A: My name is Luca Neves and I was born in Rome in 1988, from immigrated parents. They arrived in Italy between the '70s and the '80s from Cape Verde. I studied in Italy and I started writing music when I was younger to tell what was happening to me. My mother always wanted me to work, and for this reason I became a chef. Therefore, today I play music and I cook: these activities are like medicine for me. Going back to my story, as all immigrants' children, when I was 18 years old I asked for the citizenship. However, it takes a really long bureaucratic time to retrieve your birth certificate in Rome. For this reason, I delivered my documents with one month of delay and I could not obtain the Italian citizenship. I decided to appeal, differently from others who were happy with their residence permit, because I have always thought that this was my right and they were trying to prevent me from enjoying this right. Despite all these injustices, I went on with my life working off the books for employers who took advantage of my situation and who have always paid me less than the required amount. And, as a matter of fact, one of my dreams is being able to pay taxes. In the last few years I started working for myself with a home delivery catering, where I mix the Italian cuisine with the Capoverdian one. It is not an easy life, I had a paresis due to the stress linked to my condition, but I try to remember everyday that I am a person with dignity and I want to respect the sacrifice and the blood spitted by my mother to give me a notebook and a pen.
Q: For you, music means social commitment. Why is it important to include specific battles in music?
A: Because no one listens to us. Because in our life we are chefs, painters, mechanics, but no one represents us. And therefore, for me music became the biggest weapon to protect my rights and the rights of many others. When I play music, I do not talk only about my problems, but also about the same hell many other people live in. Playing music helps me to put on paper what I live and what others live. The verse "Ninna nanna sottovoce per non disturbarli", from my piece "Sono nato qua" written by Amir Issaa, refers to my story and to my mother, who cradles me avoiding to disturb the Italian. Thanks to my music, many things changed, but my life is still complicated today. However, as my mum used to say, if you get depressed you are taking away time you should use to solve problems. This is the legacy left by my mum, not money but this inner strength.
Q: Let's talk about the Blackn[è]ss fest. What does this festival symbolize for you? What's your opinion on the different souls which take part in it?
A: I completely fell in love with the Blackn[è]ss fest. They organized out of nowhere a festival with no precedents. I met people who want to be firmly joined together and this is a unique reality in Italy. In general, I am very open to extend this project to other people, despite we having been excluded until now. For instance, no one has ever talked about black chefs or black lawyers. However, I think it is necessary to avoid the ghettoisation, but at the same time we need a safe space.
Q: Which are your future projects?
A: There's a musical project to be released soon which is called "Documento". It is composed of seven tracks and in this album there's also the song "San Gennaro", where I talk about the day in which I was jailed for no reason. This song tells about my strength, my spirit and San Gennaro who whispers to me "everything is gonna be ok". This is a project I have been working on for 15 years. Beyond music, there's also the cooking part and I am coming back with my mango and chocolate panettone. However, I am also struggling due to the lack of documents. There is a hotel which wants to employ me, but I am still waiting for my residence permit which should arrive in March. This situation frustrates me a lot, my blood pressure is really high and I had face paresis due to this stress. Anyway, my last medical analysis went well, so let's hope that, from my health, everything's gonna improve.
Photo credits: Francesco Pistilli