Italian Language Blog

Cantanti Italiani Contemporanei – Teresa De Sio Posted by on Jan 23, 2010 in Culture, Italian Language

Teresa De Sio is an outstanding cantautrice (singer-songwriter) firmly rooted in the Italian folk tradition. Her distinctive powerful and passionate voice, which combines typical Neapolitan folk tonality with refined contemporary overtones, is instantly recognizable.

Born in Napoli on the third of November 1955, De Sio initially contemplated becoming an actress, the chosen career of her well known sister Giuliana De Sio, but a concert by American folk singer Joan Baez, which she attended when she was fifteen, changed her mind, and she set her heart on a career in music.

De Sio began work as a singer in 1976 with Eugenio Bennato and the Neapolitan folk group Musicanova. Her first solo album, ‘Sulla Terra Sulla Luna’ was released in 1980, but she had to wait for the release of the second album, ‘Teresa De Sio’ to meet with the success she deserved (500,000 copies sold). The success of this and the following album, ‘Tre’, released in 1983, allowed her more freedom to experiment, and she teamed up with the innovative musician Brian Eno for her next album ‘Africana’. For the fifth solo album, ‘Toledo e Regina’, De Sio returned once again to her folk roots.

Throughout her very successful career Teresa De Sio has continued to  pursue this fluctuating course between experimentation with modern or multicultural music and a return to the Italian folk tradition. On many of her tracks De Sio sings in her own dialetto Napoletano (Napolitan dialect), which can be quite challenging for the uninitiated! Our favorite album is ‘Un Libero Cercare’ released in 1995, and I’ve chosen un brano (a track) called Animali Italiani (Italian Animals), from this album to translate for you today. The meaning of these lyrics will become clearer if you bear in mind that gli animali della canzone siamo noi Italiani! (us Italians are the animals in the song!).

Animali Italiani

Noi siamo piccoli pesci
in questo grande mare,
a malapena seguiamo le rotte
mentre impariamo a nuotare,
noi siamo piccoli pesci,
però ci piace strafare,
e pinna dopo pinna
ci riprenderemo il mare.
Noi siamo piccoli uccelli
in questo immenso cielo,
senza le ali da grandi sparvieri,
però noi siamo leggeri,
noi siamo piccoli uccelli
imprevedibili e veloci,
e penna dopo penna
ci riprenderemo il cielo.
Perché noi siamo animali italiani
leoni e clown di uno spettacolo comune
tutti sporchi e tutti puliti
tutti agnelli e tutti tigri.
Noi siamo piccoli lupi
in questo grande bosco,
ne conosciamo tagliole e dirupi
e ogni profumo nascosto,
noi siamo piccoli lupi
piccolo branco in attesa,
e morso dopo morso
ci mangeremo il cacciatore.
Perché noi siamo animali italiani
puttane ed angeli di questo grande circo generale
tutti nudi e tutti vestiti
tutti liberi e tutti legati
Perché noi siamo animali italiani
perché noi siamo animali, animali di qui
un colpo d’ala un colpo di coda
gabbia aperta, gabbia richiusa


Italian Animals

We are little fish
in this big sea
we follow the routes with difficulty
while we learn to swim
we are little fish
however we like to go over the top
and fin by fin
we’ll reclaim the sea

We are little birds
in this immense sky
without the wings of the great hawks
but we are light
we are little birds
unpredictable and fast
and feather by feather
we’ll reclaim the sky

Because we are Italian animals
lions and clowns in a common show
everyone dirty and everyone clean
everyone lambs and everyone tigers

We are little wolves
in this great woods
we know of traps and precipices
and every hidden scent
we are little wolves
a small pack waiting,
and bite by bite
we’ll eat the hunter

Because we are Italian animals
whores and angels in the big general circus
everyone nude and everyone dressed
everyone free and everyone bound
because we are Italian animals
because we are animals, animals from here
a beat of the wing, a beat of the tail
cage opened, cage closed.


In 2009 De Sio published her novel “METTI IL DIAVOLO A BALLARE” (Make the Devil Dance). I haven’t read it yet but it has had some really good reviews. For more information about Teresa De Sio and her current projects visit the official web site:

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  1. andreas:

    Salve, Serena!
    Grazie per le informzioni interessantissimi. Dopo aver letto il blog, sono andato al youtube per ascoltare Teresa: e’ davvero impressionante. Che cosa significa tammuriata?

  2. John K Cook:

    How should I say “there was” and “there were” when I am referring to an event that occurred once at a specific time in the past? I know about c’era and c’erano, but they are imperfetto and I think for events that happend frequently in the past.



  3. Serena:

    Salve Andreas, la ‘tammurriata’ è una parola napoletana che significa “cantata e abballata ‘ncopp ‘o tammurro” (canto e ballo sul tamburo). È una tradizione antichissima della zona Vesuviana e Costiera Napoletana. Io però non la conosco perché non sono di quella zona.

    A presto!


  4. Chris:

    Are there any Italian music blogs out there similar to Stereogum or Aquarium Drunkard – sites that chronicle the newest Italian bands and musicians?


  5. Serena:

    Salve John, “c’era” (there was), and “c’erano” (there were) are commonly used to refer to something that happened over a long period of time, or happened frequently in the past. To talk about an event that occurred at a specific time in the past we use “c’è stato/a”, and “ci sono stati/e”. For example: “ieri c’era molto traffico perché c’è stato un incidente” (yesterday there was a lot of traffic because there was an accident). We say “c’era molto traffico” because the heavy traffic lasted over a long period of time, whilst “c’è stato un incidente” signifies that the accident happened at a specific moment. It can be difficult to grasp, because in English you only use was, or were, and in many situations it’s hard to know whether to use the imperfetto or the passato prossimo. For example, you might think that we would use the imperfetto to say “last year there were lots of road accident” but in fact we use the passato prossimo i.e. “l’anno scorso ci sono stati molti incidenti”. We would use the imperfetto on the other hand to say “quando ero bambina c’èrano meno macchine” (when I was young there were fewer cars), in which case c’èrano implies “used to be”. Don’t forget that “c’è stato” changes gender and number, e.g.: “ci sono state molte frane a causa della pioggia” (there were many landslides because of the rain). I hope this is clear.

    Auguri da Serena

  6. Serena:

    Salve Chris, I’m afraid I haven’t heard of either of the sites you mention, however you might find it useful to use a site like and do a search for an Italian musician that you like. It will then give you a list of similar artists and you can hear some of their music. For example, here is the result of a search for Jovanotti: which suggests other similar musicians with links to their music.

    Buona fortuna, a presto, Serena

  7. Job:

    Goodmorning Serena,

    although a bit late, I’d like to thank you for bringing Teresa de Sio to my attention. I bought the album Tre at the iTunes store and am enjoying it very much.

    Thanks again.

    Job Brugman
    ‘s-Hertogenbosch, The Netherlands

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