In recent years, the Italian music industry has experienced several pockets of transformation in the realm of diversity and inclusion. The rise of second generation Afro-Italian artists we are to thank. Those who actively advocate against racism with their own stories as testament. One of the champions of this movement has been Afro-Italian rapper Tommy Kuti. Through his own personal experiences, Kuti had long taken note of the lack of diversity within the music industry. Not only this, but he also faced the overwhelming presence of racism in Italy’s general social fabric. The artist chose to speak about it by way of his musical craft.
Kuti’s awareness of social reality has been a part of him long before the beginning of his music career. His journey began with the launch of a mixtape created while in his group entitled ‘Mancamelanina’ (translated: “Lack of melanin”) was one of his first successful projects speaking to the Black Italian experience. Not long after, the artist signed with Universal Music. It was not long before he noticed that he was the first visibly black artist represented by the label in Italy, after which he released “La Cura” and “#Afroitaliano.” These records told stories of his experiences as an Afro-Italian man and episodes of racism he witnessed in the local society. Over the years, Kuti has continued to allow his music to act as a beacon of hope and form of activism. Today, he continues to speak out even while many others remain silent.
Introducing “We Have A Dream”
Tommy Kuti’s most recent project is entitled “We Have A Dream, ” featuring video and audio material created to raise awareness of racism in Italy. In addition to this, the work combats stereotypical representation in the entertainment industry. Sparked by the Black Lives Matter movement and the killing of Willy Montiero earlier this year, Kuti joined forces with photographer Frederic Blondel and video maker Riccardo Moka. The partnership birthed two videos and a song entitled “We Have a Dream.” The project was created with the intent of expressing the frustrations of a community underrepresented on platforms to speak out.
The first video is entitled “We Have A Dream”, and is inspired by Martin Luther King’s “I Have A Dream” speech. We are introduced to three Afro-Italian men from different generations who discuss their desires and hope for changes in Italian society from their perspectives. The second video features an interview of a third-generation Afro-Italian family who discuss the various realities for a multicultural family Italy in 2020. On the occasion of the launch of his new body of work, ATPB sat down with the artist himself. Join us as we dive into the details of Afro-Italian Rapper Tommy Kuti’s creative process and the events leading up to it.
JA: Tell me a bit about your journey, you’re one of the few Black Italian contemporary artists in the music industry. Did you experience any resistance from the mainstream industry?
TK: “I definitely feel a resistance, we can say that as of 2020 Italians have embraced a lot of the aspects of black Culture ranging from rap/Trap music, Braids, Afro-beats, Afro-American slangs , but they don’t seem to be ready to accept Black Italians in high positions inside the music industry. They are ready to embrace American Politicians like Obama and Kamala Harris, but they are not willing to see black Italians in this position, the proof of this is the absolute lack of representation.”
JA: Racism is something that has always existed within the Italian community, what is it that pushed you to create this body of work right now ?
TK: “I felt like making this song to celebrate the various Afro-Italians that have decided to actively take part in the fight against racism, through this year, a lot of people decided to use their platform to speak up and be helpful to the future generation.”
JA: Talk to me about your process of writing this song, what was it that you were feeling during this time?
TK: “I have different types of creative processes, sometimes I force myself to write something on a beat, sometimes I listen to a song and it inspires me to make a new one. Sometimes, like it happened in this case, I just find the urge to write something. I remember I was on the train during the period of George Floyd protests and I decided to write these words, it was like something from the inside spoke to me.”
JA: What impact do you hope for this work to have on its viewers and listeners? What is it that you’d like them to feel?
TK: “I believe in the past years there has been an alarming lack of Humanity by people around the world, and I believe this happens because people don’t sit and listen to each other. What I hope is for black people and white people to sit and listen to these words and really reflect on them”
JA: You’ve described Italy’s reaction to Kamala Harris’ win as VP of the United States as hypocritical , can you tell me more about that?
TK: “It is Hypocritical because the Italian media is always ready to praise other countries’ advancement regarding integration, but they always fail to talk about the serious problems that are faced by black people in this country. Even during the BLM protests, people kept on talking about how the US has serious problems with racism, just as if certain dynamics do not manifest in this country as well.”
JA: This new age of Afro-Italians are filled with promise and talent but aren’t acknowledged in comparison to African-Americans. We see an example of this in the celebration of Kamala Harris in our country, but not the celebration of accomplished Afro-Italians. Do you think there is an active resistance or just a general disregard?
TK: “I do believe that they can be considered separately , we Afro-Italians have failed to be strongly united in anything so I believe our voice can be stronger and more compact, there is of course a lot of racism, but more than racism I strongly believe that there is very little knowledge about us and our stories. I feel lucky enough to know a lot of successful Afro-Italian people, but I believe a lot of Black Italians don’t even know that they also have the possibility to reach certain high positions and a lot of times, people in power undervalue our abilities.”
JA: What is something you hope for the younger generation of Afro-Italians to experience that you weren’t able to experience growing up?
TK: “I hope they have the possibility to experience the type of representation of themselves that my generation never had the chance to experience. I can say that things are changing quite a lot since I was a teenager, there are writers who’ve had success, musicians, a few politicians, but it’s still not enough, I dream of the day where people like me will be celebrated because of their talents without so much focus on our origins and skin color.”
Images: Tommy Kuti Team
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