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Franco Battiato

Background information
Born March 23, 1945 (1945-03-23) (age 64)
Origin Riposto, Sicily, Italy
Genres Easy listening, experimental, pop, classical, progressive rock, opera
Occupations Musician, filmmaker, painter
Instruments Vocals, piano, guitar
Years active 1965–present
Labels Ricordi
Sony Music
Associated acts Alice, Juri Camisasca, Giuni Russo, Milva

Franco Battiato (born 23 March 1945) is an Italian singer-songwriter, composer, filmmaker and, under the pseudonym Süphan Barzani, also a painter.

He is considered one of the most original personalities in Italian music from the 1970s to now. Together with Alice, Franco Battiato represented Italy at the Eurovision Song Contest 1984 with the melody "I treni di Tozeur". Battiato's songs are dreamy, controversial collages of images and sensations, very experimental and convoluted, rich of esoteric, philosophical and East Asian religious themes.

His collaborations (from 1994 onward) with the nihilistic-cynical philosopher Manlio Sgalambro have added further depth to his apparently nonsensical lyrics, with references to Emil Cioran, Friedrich Nietzsche and other anarchistic and problematic thinkers.




Early years and experimental period

Franco Battiato was born in Jonia di Riposto, in the province of Catania (Sicily).

At the age of 20 he moved to Milan and in 1968 he obtained the first musical contract. He scored some success with the romantic song È l'amore. After further covers of pop songs, he met the experimental musician Juri Camisasca in 1970 and collaborated with Osage Tribe, an Italian psychedelic-progressive rock band. As a solo artist, he released the science-fiction single La convenzione (The convention), one of the finest Italian progressive rock songs of the 1970s.

Starting from 1971, Battiato devoted much of his efforts to experimental electronic music, producing a series of LPs that remained almost unknown at the time, but are now eagerly sought by collectors worldwide. Starting out with electronic progressive rock with some emphasis on vocals, his music became increasingly experimental, gradually moving into the realms of musique concrète and minimalism: Fetus (1971, whose cover was censored), Pollution (1972), Sulle Corde di Aries (1973), Clic (1974) and M.lle Le Gladiator (1975). Clic is a haunting yet largely conventional exploration in the electronic style reminiscent of Phillip Glass and even German experimental rock band Can.

In 1975, he moved to the Dischi Ricordi label, producing Battiato (1975), Juke Box (1976) and the experimental L'Egitto prima delle sabbie (Egypt Before the Sands, 1977), which won the Stockhausen award for contemporary music.

National success

After having been fired by Ricordi, Battiato signed a contract for EMI. Largely, though not wholly, abandoning the experiments of the early years, he moved to a more pop-oriented style which afforded him ever increasing popularity with Italian audiences. In this period his albums were usually in collaboration with the renowned musician and violinist Giusto Pio, whose two later albums were produced by Battiato.

After L'era del cinghiale bianco (The Era of the White Boar, 1979) and Patriots (1980), Battiato obtained astounding success with La voce del padrone (The Master's Voice) in 1981, which was the first Italian LP to sell more than one million copies. The commercial success was confirmed by L'arca di Noè (Noah's Ark) in 1982. Songs like "L'era del cinghiale bianco", "Prospettiva Nevskij" ("Nevsky Prospekt"), "Centro di gravità permanente" ("Constant Point of Gravity"), "Bandiera bianca" ("White Flag"), "Voglio vederti danzare" ("I Want to See You Dancing"), with their original mix of Oriental and philosophical fashions with pop rhythms, established Battiato's status as one of the most capable and intelligent musicians in Italy. Many of the songs of this era contained parts in English and, most notably, Arabic, a language that Battiato had started to study after a trip to Turkey. Battiato's albums were also released in Spanish and English versions.

Orizzonti perduti (Lost Horizons, 1983), which Battiato himself called a kipper, was followed by the successful Mondi Lontanissimi (Very distant worlds, 1985), which featured a solo version of the popular "I treni di Tozeur" ("The Trains of Tozeur)", originally a duet with Alice performed at the 1984 Eurovision Song Contest, the science-fiction/metaphysical "Via Lattea" ("Milky Way") and "No Time No Space".

More than 300,000 copies of 1988's Fisiognomica (Physiognomy) sold, confirmed Battiato's status. The album, which is considered by the composer his best for the balance between music and lyrics, contained the hit "Nomadi" ("Nomads"), originally recorded by Alice and written by his old friend Juri Camisasca, who in the meantime had retired to a Benedictin monastery. The album also included the songs "E ti vengo a cercare", which was performed by director/actor Nanni Moretti in his 1989 movie Palombella Rossa, and "Veni l'autunnu" with lyrics entirely in the Sicilian and Arabic languages.

Come un cammello in una grondaia (Like a Camel in a Gutter, 1991), was divided into two parts, the second made up by classical German lieder. Among the pop songs, "Povera patria" ("My Poor Father Land"), a poetical denouncement of Italy's lack of culture and honesty, became a kind of hymn of the civil society rebelling against the 1992 mafioso bomb attacks against judges Giovanni Falcone and Paolo Borsellino.

Pio and Battiato also worked as composers, musical arrangers and producers for several singers, including Alice and Giuni Russo, and for two of Milva's albums.

Starting from 1987, Battiato also produced several classical operas: Genesi (1987), Gilgamesh (1992) and Il Cavaliere dell'Intelletto (1994). In 1990 he also began to experiment with painting, initially under the pseudonym of Süphan Barzani.

Collaboration with Manlio Sgalambro

In 1994 Battiato began to collaborate with the Sicilian philosopher Manlio Sgalambro, who was to write almost all the lyrics of his following albums.

After the tentative L'ombrello e la macchina da cucire of 1995, in 1996 the duo published what is considered their best work so far, L'imboscata, containing the romantic hit "La cura" ("The care"), elected best Italian song of the year.

Gommalacca (1998, with an unusual stress on hard rock), Ferro battuto (2000) and Dieci stratagemmi (2004) continued on the same path, with variations mainly set by Battiato's unceasing desire for musical experimentation.

In 2003 Battiato released his first feature film, Perduto amor (Lost love), for which he also composed the soundtrack. The movie won the Silver Ribbon for the best debutant director. However, heavy criticism struck against his following movie, Musikanten, a rather experimental work about Beethoven's last four years of life. The German musician was played by the Chilean director Alejandro Jodorowsky.

In 2004 he hosted a cultural show named Bitte, keine Reclame for a satellite channel of RAI, the Italian state network.

Battiato in concert during the Notte Bianca 2007 in Rome

Personal life

Battiato is not married; he had been very attached to his mother Grazia, who died in 1993. He prefers spending time in a personal retreat in Milo, a little town near Mount Etna, rather than hooking up with the so-called "cultural elite".


  • In 1999 Battiato released a collection of covers of Italian love songs, Fleurs. He repeated the experiment three years later with an album inexplicably numbered Fleurs 3. The median album Fleurs 2 was released unexpectedly in November 2008.
  • Battiato's cover of The Rolling Stones' "Ruby Tuesday", originally released on Fleurs, is prominently featured in the 2006 film, Children of Men.
  • In his album Fleurs 2 (2009) appears Anthony Hegarty, who sings in italian in "Del suo veloce volo", Battiato's cover of Antony and the Johnsons song called Frankestein.



  • La Convenzione (1971)
  • Fetus (1971)
  • Pollution (1972)
  • Sulle corde di Aries (1973)
  • Clic (1974)
  • M.lle le "Gladiator" (1975)
  • Feed Back (1975)
  • Battiato (1976)
  • Juke Box (1977)
  • L'Egitto prima delle sabbie (1978)
  • L'era del cinghiale bianco (1979)



  • Come un cammello in una grondaia (1991)
  • Caffè de la Paix (1993)
  • Unprotected (1994, live)
  • L'ombrello e la macchina da cucire (1995)
  • Battiato studio collection (1996, collection)
  • L'imboscata (1996)
  • Shadow Light (1996)
  • Battiato Live Collection (1997, live)
  • Gommalacca (1998)
  • Fleurs (1999)


  • Campi magnetici (2000)
  • Ferro battuto (2001)
  • Fleurs 3 (2002)
  • Last Summer Dance (2003, live)
  • Dieci stratagemmi (2004)
  • Il vuoto (2007)
  • Fleurs 2 (2008) (3X Platinum)
  • Inneres Auge – Il tutto è più della somma delle sue parti (2009) (Platinum)


  • 1965: L'amore è partito (Love's gone)
  • 1965: E piu ti amo (The more I love you ...)
  • 1967: La torre / Le reazioni (The tower / The reaction)
  • 1967: Triste come me / Il mondo va così (Sad like me / The world goes like this)
  • 1968: È l'amore / Fumo di una sigaretta (It's the love / Smoke of a cigarette)
  • 1969: Sembrava una serata come tante / Gente (It seemed that it was an ordinary evening / People)
  • 1969: Bella ragazza / Occhi d'or (Beautiful girl / Gold eyes)
  • 1970: Lacrime e pioggia (Rain and tears)
  • 1971: Vento caldo / Marciapiede (Warm wind / Pavement) - recorded 1968
  • 1972: Energia / Una cellula (Energy / A cell)
  • 1972: La convenzione / Paranoia (The convention / Paranoia)
  • 1978: Adieu/San Marco - Elektra Records, t 123 310
  • 1979: L'era del cinghiale bianco / Luna indiana (The era of the white boar / Indian moon)
  • 1981: Bandiera bianca / Summer on a Solitary Beach (White flag / ...)
  • 1984: I treni di Tozeur / Le biciclette di Forlì (The trains of Tozeur / The bicycles of Forlì) - with Alice
  • 1985: No Time No Space / Il re del mondo (... / The king of the world)
  • 1985: Via lattea / L'animale (Milky Way / The animal)
  • 1996: Strani Giorni/Decline and fall of the roman empire (Strange days / ...)
  • 1996: La Cura (The care)
  • 1998: Shock in my town
  • 1998: Il ballo del potere (Power's dance)
  • 2001: Running against the grain/Sarcofagia/In trance (... / ... / Into a trance)
  • 2004: Tra Sesso e Castità/Le aquile non volano a stormi/Ermeneutica (Between sex and chastity / Eagles don't fly in flocks / Hermeneutics)
  • 2007: Il vuoto (Vacuum)
  • 2007: Aspettando l'estate (Waiting for summer)
  • 2007: Niente è come sembra (Nothing is as it seems)
  • 2008: Tutto l'universo obbedisce all'amore (The whole universe obeys the love)

singles in Spanish

  • 1985: La estación de los amores (Love's season)
  • 1991: Pobre Patria (Poor homeland)
  • 1996: Yo quiero verte danzar (I want to see you dancing)


  • Genesi (1987)
  • Gilgamesh (1992)
  • Messa arcaica (1994)
  • Il Cavaliere dell'Intelletto (1994) - not published on CD


  • Perduto amor (2003, also screenplay)
  • Musikanten (2005)
  • Niente è come sembra (2007)

External links


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