Backbeat: "It's Not All Bocelli and Opera"--Italian Musicians Invade L.A.
Backbeat: "It's Not All Bocelli and Opera"--Italian Musicians Invade L.A.
Members of the ska-punk band Apres La Classe makes the rounds Wednesday at the Italian Cultural Institute in Los Angeles. Among the people there to greet them was Italian trade commissioner Carlo Angelo Bocchi, who said "music is just as important to export as fashion and machines." Photo by Aki Kaneko

Hit Week, the traveling Italian music festival now in its third year, touched down in Los Angeles on Oct. 11 for three nights of concerts featuring acts making their U.S. debuts. Opening night featured the jazz guitarist/DJ/producer Nicola Conte and Erica Mou, a singer-songwriter from Puglia who records for the same label as Andrea Bocelli, performing to a full house at the Catalina Bar and Grill jazz club in Hollywood.

Prior to the evening's show - and again at mid-day on Oct. 12 - receptions were held to introduce musicians and their entourages to various Italians based in the U.S. with government and cultural jobs. "Piacere" - Italian for "pleased to meet you" - was the phrase most heard in the courtyard outside Catalina's Tuesday and the Italian Cultural Institute on Wednesday.

"We bring in artists that people do not expect to come from Italy - folk singers, jazz, electronic rock," Hitweek curator Francesco Del Maro told "It's not all Bocelli and opera."

Hit Week played New York before coming to Los Angeles and will head to Miami Oct. 14-16. Among the acts on the three-city trek are the quirky pop-rocker Carpezza, trip-hoppers Casino Royale, ska-punk Apres La Classe and the electronic rock band Subsonica.

Guitarist Nicola Conte led his sextet Tuesday at Catalina Bar & Grill through original compositions and renditions of Max Roach's "Freedom Day," "Scarborough Fair" and "Ode to Billie Joe," emphasizing songs from his fifth album "Love & Revolution." Photo by Dan Fredman

Marco Valente, who manages Mou and owns the jazz label Auand Records, said that while many of the artists are starting to find popularity outside Italy's borders, the language restricts others. In the case of Mou, whose lyrics have been compared to Alanis Morissette, "it's her ability to say thing so clearly in Italian that you wouldn't want to hear it in another language."

Once, Hit Week finishes in Miami, Valente will return to New York for a festival of his own, Auand Meets NYC, to celebrate the 10th anniversary of his label. Held in venues such as Smalls, Zebulon Café, Barbes, Galapagos and Seeds, the festival will bring together Americans (trombonist Ray Anderson, Tim Berne), Italians (Francesco Bearzatti, Giancarlo Tossani, Francesco Diodati) and international performers (Ohad Talmor).