Many years ago, I went on tour with a group of singers from the southern part of Africa. I was with them as a keyboard accompanist. The first tour was to Sardinia. Our digs were in a villa in Cagliari. The city felt like a perfect meeting point between Europe and Africa. The architecture seemed like an interesting blend of sensibilities from both continents. The Mediterranean climate was also a fusion of elements I am used to, so I had no problems feeling at home in the ambience.
I discovered to my surprise that the men I travelled with were incapable of doing anything in the kitchen. They would sit in the villa on our days off, waiting for someone to do something to feed them. I refused to take responsibility, on principle. I was younger than them and I didn’t want to end up serving the whole group, like a houseboy. I was there to perform as a musician.
In the evenings, the promoter would join us after a day of work in his office and he would cook a big pot of minestrone soup for the whole troupe.
Things were easier when we ventured out to perform in small Sardinian villages. The local people received us like long lost friends and they would feed us before or after the performances. This was the time that I discovered that pizza in its natural habitat is made on a very thin base of dough. My colleagues were dismayed about this and actually complained that they preferred the carbohydrate heavy pizzas they were used to eating in London!
I also learnt about the way that opera singing fits into the everyday culture of that region. There were times that we performed in variety shows, where singers of that sort would sing repertoire that would be regarded as “serious music” over here. I haven’t returned to Sardinia or even mainland Italy for a couple of decades, but I always felt comfortable when I was there. I hope things haven’t changed too drastically in the interim.