Neomelodica: The Italian Pop Loved by The Mob and Hated by The Law

Neomelodica singers are often accused of colluding with the Camorra – sometimes by their actions, sometimes through their music.

Neomelodica was born in the 1980s as a reaction to societal change and the crisis of the canzone napoletana, the traditional, hyper-sentimental Neapolitan song (sometimes accompanied by mandolin or guitar) that bloomed in the early 19th century. By the 70s canzone napoletana had fallen out of fashion, and around the same period its hotbed, Naples, underwent a transformation, with the creation of neighbourhoods completely segregated from the city’s polite society.

“In a way, neomelodica was to Naples what hip-hop was to America, it gave a voice to impoverished neighbourhoods,” says Marcello Ravveduto, a history professor at the University of Salerno. Whereas canzone napoletana was representing a picture-perfect, idealised Naples, neomelodici began depicting the harsh reality of its peripheries.

Blending Neapolitan dialect with Italian, neomelodici sing of lost lovers and betrayal, teenage sex and divorce, drugs and broken homes. Some of them also sing of organised crime, a topic the fanbase would be familiar with, touching issues such as latitanza, mob soldiers going into hiding; and pentitismo, arrested mob soldiers collaborating with the police.

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