Photo by Carina Najia
When I first moved to London, I befriended many European students who exposed me to a genre of music I had never really heard before: European rap. It didn't take long for me to become obsessed. As I downloaded album upon album, I developed a particular fascination with Ghali, a young Italian rapper with a contagious sound subtly influenced by his Tunisian roots.
In keeping with his status as an incredible role model to many young Italian migrants, his fans formed long queues outside Electric Brixton for his show, the atmosphere already electrifying before anyone had even entered the venue. Although Ghali only arrived on stage at 9:30 PM (2 and a half hours later than expected), he was greeted by an exhilarated crowd and deafening shrieks of excitement.
He opened the show with ‘Ninna Nanna’, which is arguably the song that represents him best as an artist. Ghali’s music is deeply rooted in his background, growing up poor “con papa in una cella” (with dad in a cell), and raised by his beloved mother who, despite poverty and instability, strongly encouraged Ghali’s talent for writing. Sleeping on carpets and using camping stoves to cook, Ghali really went “da una stalla a una stella” (from the stables to a star), and quickly. ‘Ninni Nanna’ was released as a single in 2016 and set the record for the highest number of listeners on the first day in Italy.
Unsurprisingly, his fans knew every single word to every single song. But the extent of their admiration for Ghali was only clear to me when the young man next to me wearing a Tunisian football jersey leaped over a pair of barriers and bodyguards onto the stage to give Ghali a hug. The crowd was also full of Tunisian flags, one of which Ghali seized proudly and waved on stage as an ode to his culture.
In a genre saturated with music about women, guns and money, Ghali stands out. His music is relatable to many, uniting those with mixed cultural identities and lovers of Italy. ‘Cara Italia’, Ghali’s love letter to Italy, is a perfect example of this; his fans spoke in unison especially for the line, “quando mi dicon va a casa, rispondo sono già qua!” (“when they tell me to go home, I say I’m already here!”). Another song of note is ‘Ricchi Dentro’, where Ghali describes his difficult upbringing as lucky, explaining that although he grew up poor, he is rich on the inside.
Ghali closed the show by jumping into the embrace of his fans, who cheered louder and louder as he sang his final song. The crowd ultimately engulfed Ghali, and his voice was almost completely drowned out by his fans’ singing. As his bodyguards fished him out of the crowd, he continued to reach for everybody’s hands. He left the audience begging for an encore, and although his show was incredible, he left us all wanting more.
Edited by Talia Andrea, Music Editor