From winning Sanremo to representing Italy at the Eurovision Song Contest 2019: who is Mahmood?
From the very beginning, the victory at the Sanremo Music Festival of Mahmood (Alessandro Mahmoud his real name) has turned into a political issue, highlighting that in Italy two different schools of thought exist, even in music: one which believes different roots are good for our country, and the other claiming that any kind of foreign influence destroys our culture and identity. The controversy generates from the origins of the singer: born and raised in Milan of an Italian mother and an Egyptian father, many people consider him as a foreign and only “half Italian”. As a matter of fact, televoting had awarded another singer, Ultimo (48,8 percent of preferences among the three finalists), but since 2015 the winner is chosen by combining audience’s preference, jury voting and press voting. And, in this case, the last two overturned the verdict.
Who is Mahmood and what you need to know about him
Alessandro Mahmoud grew up with his mother. When he was a little boy, his father abandoned him, and this episode left a deep scar on his heart and affected his song’s lyrics. Not only a singer, but also a composer and a songwriter, Mahmood thus studied hard and put himself on the line: in 2012, he took part to the sixth season of X Factor Italy, but he was controversially eliminated after only three soirées. After this experience, he worked in a bar and attended a music school, studying piano, solfeggio and music theory, where he also started to write songs. In 2016, his piece “Dimentica” (Forget) placed fourth at the Sanremo newcomers section. In the meanwhile, he started to cooperate with other famous artists, such as Marco Mengoni – with the song “Hola” (I say) – which rocketed up the chart with more than 12 million views on YouTube.
About his song: “Soldi” (Money)
The song, whose melody is influenced by trap, R’n’B and elements of Middle Eastern sounds, narrates the absence of his father. Mahmood pointed out that the song “Soldi” (Money) does not refer to specific money matters, but his aim was rather to show how money can change relationships, even within a family. Although he does not speak Arabic, in the song there is a quote which reminds him of the happy moments of his childhood, when his father was present and used to play with him and say: “waladi waladi habibi ta’aleena” (my son, my son, my darling, come over here). Some parts of the songs have other implicit meanings: for example, another part translated into English says “you drink champagne during Ramadan”, referring to the father’s religious hypocrisy, while the expression “you ask me how I’m doing” represents the cliche dialogues and his lack of interest in his son. These days, the song obtained the Gold Record, having sold more than 25 thousand copies, and will represent Italy at Eurovision Song Contest in Tel Aviv, on May 14.
Music is a form of art which should raise awareness in people, albeit creating discussions and divisions amongst listeners. It should thus provoke a reaction, whether positive or negative, so that everyone will remember it. And I am sure that we will hear a lot about Alessandro Mahmoud.