Sanremo Music Festival 2019: Songs or Politics?

Sanremo is not just a music festival

The debate between militant and neutral artists is not recent at all. Particularly discussed already back in the 19th century, the notion of ‘art for art’s sake’ (originally in French, ‘l’art pour l’art’) has always been disapproved by those who believe in the social and moral role of the artist. This is probably the position of Claudio Baglioni, a very popular Italian singer-songwriter who was appointed for the second year running art director of the 69th edition of Festival di Sanremo, the most important Italian music festival.

This event is probably the most popular among Italians, who keep following it year after year on the first national television channel, Rai 1. As a consequence, the festival represents somehow the mirror of our society, continuously changing since 1951. Therefore, you can easily figure out the central role of Sanremo’s art director and of the social or political issues the management decides to introduce every year. For this edition, however, the most relevant topics for the public appeared since the very beginning of the Festival, and more specifically from the initial press conference of last January.

The 1957 edition of Sanremo Festival

Claudio Baglioni’s words

While presenting the 2019 edition, indeed, Claudio Baglioni pronounced very significant, harsh words, speaking about his aim to transmit harmony to people, since “the country is disharmonious, confused, blind in the direction to be taken.”, and he added: “the political class, the ruling class and public opinion have failed spectacurarly. We are a wicked, rancorous country: we look suspiciously even at our shadow, and this is a disaster, first of all an intellectual one. This is why we hold on to an idea of ​​frivolity and fun: to meet each other”.

The migrant crisis

Baglioni also expressed an opinion regarding the Sea Watch and Sea Eye, two boats full of immigrants which were not allowed to dock in Italy: “If it weren’t dramatic, it would be funny. You can’t expect to solve the situation of millions of people on the move and coming from situations of unease, by avoiding the landing of forty people (I take them or you take them…!). I do not believe that the political leaders of today have the ability to resolve the situation, but at least we should say that we are facing a major problem and we must put ourselves all in a position to solve it”.

Matteo Salvini’s reply

The Interior Minister Matteo Salvini replied on Twitter: “Baglioni? Sing, it’ll pass! Leave issues such as security, immigration and terrorism to those who have the right and duty to deal with them”. Apparently, this kind of argument is quite one-sided, given that Salvini usually weighs in about 360-degree matters. Besides that, the art director of a folk and popular event like Sanremo Festival participates at many press conferences and, question asked, he is also free to reply and express his opinion about anything concerning our society, in order to create an opportunity to reflect beyond mere entertainment.

The most remarkable comment

In any case, Baglioni and Salvini later cleared the air on the phone. However, the argument left behind the statement which stuck me the most about this whole situation, especially considering the person it came from: Teresa De Santis, director of Rai 1, the public TV channel broadcasting the festival: “They are just little songs, or at least they should be, a week of great entertainment and national show ceremony. Instead, and not only for the responsibility of Claudio Baglioni, they were transformed into the usual rally”. A clear trivialization of a symbolic show that should represent much more than this for its history and role in Italian society.