Song meaning Occidentali’s Karma

This song won the San Remo festival in Italy. It’s about how we in the West use eastern philosophies:”It’s about the approach that we have in the West in searching inner peace. We try to approach the eastern practices and in doing so we are a bit awkward. For the other cultures we will always be a bit ‘tourists’“.

Below an interpratation, translated from Significato Canzoni.it

Translation

Essere o dover essere –
il dubbio amletico
contemporaneo come l’uomo del Neolitico.
Nella tua gabbia 2×3 mettiti comodo.
Intellettuali nei caffè,
internettologi,
soci onorari al gruppo dei selfisti anonimi.
L’intelligenza è démodé,
risposte facili,
dilemmi inutili.

To be, or have to be, the doubt of the Hamlet of these days
As the man of the Neolithic, make yourself at ease in your cage of 2 × 3
Intellectuals in cafes, internettologues …
Honorary Members of the group of anonymous selfie-addicts
The intelligence is out of fashion, easy answers, unnecessary dilemmas

A.A.A. cercasi (cerca, sì)
storie dal gran finale,
sperasi, (spera, sì)
comunque vada, panta rei
and singing in the rain.

WANTED stories from the grand finale, hoping for whatever happens panta rei and singing in the rain

Ritornello:
Lezioni di Nirvana,
c’è il Buddha in fila indiana,
per tutti un’ora d’aria, di gloria.
La folla grida un mantra,
l’evoluzione inciampa,
la scimmia nuda balla;
occidentali’s karma,
occidentali’s karma,
la scimmia nuda balla,
occidentali’s karma.

Lessons of Nirvana, there is the Buddha in a single line, for every hour of air, of glory,
The crowd shouts a mantra, the evolution stumbles, the naked ape dances. Western’s karma

Piovono gocce di Chanel
su corpi asettici,
mettiti in salvo dall’odore dei tuoi simili.
Tutti tuttologi col web,
coca dei popoli,
oppio dei poveri.

Drops of Chanel-perfume fall on aseptic bodies, save yourself from the smell of your fellow
All ‘we-know-all’s with the web, the people’s cocaine, opium of the poor

A.A.A. cercasi, (cerca, sì)
umanità virtuale,
sex appeal, (sex appeal)
comunque vada, panta rei
and singing in the rain.

WANTED virtual humanity, sex appeal, whatever happens plant rei and singing in three rain

(Ritornello)

Quando la vita si distrae,
cadono gli uomini.
Occidentali’s karma,
occidentali’s karma,
la scimmia si rialza.
Namasté, alé!

When life is distracted the men fall … the monkey gets up. Namastè go!

Interpretation

Translated from Significato Canzoni.it

Occidentali’s karma (“Western’s karma”) by Francesco Gabbani is the winning song of Sanremo 2017. Rhythmic and with an easy melody but with a text which is by no means trivial, full of references and which offers food for thought on our western habits. Gabbani said in an interview: “It’s about the approach that we have in the West in searching inner peace. We try to approach the eastern practices and in doing so we are a bit awkward. For the other cultures we will always be a bit ‘tourists’. So we analyze in detail the verses of this song to better understand its meaning.

“Essere o dover essere, il dubbio amletico contemporaneo” (“To be, or have to be, the doubt of the Hamlet of these days”) recalls the famous line in 0Shakespeare’s Hamlet “to be or not to be” but with a change, because in our society the real doubt is to choice between to be, to have substance, or have to be, that is the appearance.

“Come l’uomo del neolitico, nella tua gabbia 2×3 mettiti comodo” (“As the man of the Neolithic, make yourself at ease in your cage of 2 × 3 “). This verse seems to compare the prehistoric man [Neolitic is the New Stone age, ca. 10000-2000 BC, transl.], to the modern man. The first lived in a cave, but the second finds himself in increasingly small spaces. The reference to the 2 × 3 meters could refer either to the size of the offices, which are often only cubicles, or to the apartments, where many of us live.

Easy answers, unnecessary dilemmas

“Intellettuali nei caffè, internettologi… L’intelligenza è démodé risposte facili, dilemmi inutili” (“Intellectuals in cafes, internettologues … The intelligence is out of fashion, easy answers, unnecessary dilemmas”). Here it is stressed that now anyone with an internet connection feels himself like an intellectual and you think you know everything just because you can do a search on google. While true intelligence is overlooked and undervalued in our society, we want quick answers just a click away, but that, in fact, arises only silly questions.

This concept is also reflected in the second verse when he says “tutti tuttologi col web, coca dei popoli, oppio dei poveri” (“all ‘we-know-all’s with the web, the people’s cocaine, opium of the poor”). The reference is to the famous Karl Marx’s phrase “religion is the opium of the people” According to the German philosopher, the people, especially the poorer classes, seeking consolation from the misery in which they are in religion and in the promise of a better eternal life in comparison to the earthly one, just as you look for a distraction from reality through drugs. Today this is the consolation in the internet search, where we all are “we-know-all’s” believing to be experienced and knowledgeable enough to be able to have their say on any topic or event. Also in their social profiles, they all show to others a full and happy life trying to erase the pain and suffering in this way.

anonymous selfie-addicts

Soci onorari del gruppo dei selfisti anonimi“‘ (“Honorary Members of the group of anonymous selfie-addicts”). Westerner addiction of today is not the alcohol, but to take selfies, a sign of our vanity and narcissism; that’s why in this verse, Alcoholics Anonymous are replaced by anonymous selfie-addicts.

AAA cercasi storie dal gran finale, sperasi, comunque vada panta rei and singing in the rain” (“WANTED stories from the grand finale, hoping for whatever happens panta rei and singing in the rain” [The three A’s is a habit in Italy to put your announcements as first in the alphabetic list, transl.]). The singer recalls the famous Heraclitus’ “panta rei” phrase meaning “everything flows”, ie that everything is always in progress, everything changes and nothing stays the same. Western man seems looking for a glorious finale, but in any case, everything will go on, without giving yourself too much importance. It also refers to the song “Singing in the Rain” eponymous musical, symbol of carelessness.

WANTED virtual humanity

The second prechorus says “AAA cercasi umanità virtuale, sex appeal, comunque vada pianta rei and singing in the rain” (“WANTED virtual humanity, sex appeal, whatever happens plant rei and singing in three rain”. It recalls as more and more to us trying to establish relationships and relationships on the internet, with people who we have never even met; you feel the need humanity, but you prefer virtual contact.

“Lezioni di Nirvana, c’è il Buddha in fila indiana, per tutti un’ora d’aria, di gloria”
(“Lessons of Nirvana, there is the Buddha in a single line, for every hour of air, of glory,” [‘fila Indiana’ refers to a single line, one person wide, to make the queue/ennemy look smaller when you approach your ennemy. ‘Indiana’ refers to the native Americans. transl.]) The refrain, as explained by the same Gabbani, refers to how more and more Westerners are seeking inner peace in Oriental arts and then go to “nirvana school”. In fact nirvana in Buddhism is the ultimate goal in life where you find peace and you are free of pain. The moment of meditation becomes “the hour of air”, literally means the moment when the prisoners in jail can get out of their cells, and then the moment when the West tries to take a break from your busy life, but in reality we can not fully understand these practices because they do not belong to us and, as stated by the singer, we turn out “awkward” and maybe even funny, as the picture of “Buddha in single line.”

The naked ape dances

“La folla grida un mantra, l’evoluzione inciampa, la scimmia nuda balla. Occidentali’s karma” (“The crowd shouts a mantra, the evolution stumbles, the naked ape dances. Western’s karma”). The mantra is a sacred formula repeated continuously during meditation. In my opinion, this verse may refer to all those situations where we’re continuously repeating a phrase or slogan, as at the disco when we together sing the hit of the moment with our hands into heaven. At that moment, the evolution of the species seems to take a step back and the man dances. In fact, “The Naked Ape” is a book of the zoologist Desmond Morris, where he studied the man, watching him with a scientific approach as an animal, comparing its behavior with those of primates.

Karma, which literally translates to “act”, indicates in religions and Eastern philosophies the law for which man is responsible for his actions and each of these corresponds to a result that will have repercussions in future lives, and while a good action produces a result positive, negative action will have negative consequences.

the monkey gets up

“Piovono gocce di Chanel su corpi asettici, mettiti in salvo dall’odore dei tuoi simili” (“Drops of Chanel-perfume fall on aseptic bodies, save yourself from the smell of your fellow”). We Westerners are now devoid of authentic emotions, we are aseptic, and hide it with expensive perfume and in general with nice clothes and made attitudes. The reference to the smell, one of the many tools used by animals to interact with fellow beings, could be a reference to the theme of man as an animal, but tries to hide what it is really.

“Quando la vita si distrae cadono gli uomini…la scimmia si rialza. Namastè alè”

(“When life is distracted the men fall … the monkey gets up. Namastè go!” [I guess alè refers to the french allez, transl.]). I think this verse could mean that when our life is distracted, in the Latin sense of the word to go astray, the man drops the mask and goes back to be a monkey, an animal. Namasté, greeting of oriental origin, which could be addressed to the monkey that has resurfaced.

Translated from Significato Canzoni.it


“The inspiration for Occidentali’s Karma comes from a book by British zoologist and ethologist Desmond Morris, The Naked Ape. Lyrically, the song is a full-frontal attack on Western obsession with progress, selfie culture, and ;internetology’. He manages to quote Shakespeare. It refers to crowds matra, placing sex appeal of virtual humanity above singing in the rain. (…)

It talks of an alternative to the madness as ‘evolution’s stumbling’ and ‘the ape is dancing’. He sings about saving ourselves from the smell your own kind instead.”

Metro: Italy sends rising star Francesco Gabbani – and an ape – to win Eurovision 2017

4 Replies to “Song meaning Occidentali’s Karma”

  1. Mamma mia che Inglesuccio da interrogazione di letteratura inglese del liceo. Mi è bastato leggere “song of Francesco Gabbani” (si dice by non of) per dedurre la qualità della restante parte.

    1. Thank you for your feedback. I will change it. Hopefully the readers understand my broken high school English better than the original story in Italian 🙂 Have a nice day!

  2. Thanks for such interesting explaning of this puff😊 i was curiuos what is driving people crazy… after reading this i understood that i understood song correctly, i dont like irony about almost all in text😊 but you did fantastic job though!

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