Michael Barimo comes to this weekend’s Nevada County Italian Festival shortly after releasing his latest video, “24000 Baci,” a catchy, frenetic tune with roots in American rock ‘n’ roll.
Barimo will bring two of his dancers to the event, set for 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. Saturday and Sunday at Western Gateway Park, Penn Valley.
Baci is Italian for “kisses.” The young pop singer and world champion whistler — that’s right — will be glad to share some with audiences during performances at 12:30 and 3:30 p.m. Saturday and Sunday.
Barimo’s friendship with Italian opera-pop star Andrea Bocelli has led the younger man in a similar direction, and “24000 Baci” is Barimo’s latest foray.
“(Bocelli) has helped guide me to select great Italian songs from the ’50s and ’60s,” including “24000 Baci,” written by Adriano Celentano, Barimo said.
Celentano was influenced by Americans Elvis Presley, Little Richard and Fats Domino to create what was, for Italy, an exotic new sound, Barimo said. Celentano released “24 Mila Baci” in 1961 and that year took second place with it at the Sanremo Music Festival.
Barimo’s reinterpretation brings the sound and visuals to 2013 (visit http://TheUnion.com and click on this story to see the video). For the video, dancers wear black-and-white polka-dot shirts and red-rimmed shades and lipstick. Barimo sings and whistles from the seat of a retro red Stella motor-scooter and makes pouty-eyes at the viewer. The touch of juvenile silliness is intentional — and fun, he said.
“Baci” is enjoying a revival. International Mexican sensation Thalia recorded a Spanish cover, “24000 Besos,” in 2005. A YouTube posting of Celentano playing “24 Mila Baci” has had more than 3.1 million views from around the world.
And Barimo is enjoying increasing exposure both singing and whistling with performances at Carnegie Hall in New York (where he now lives), Lincoln Center in Washington, D.C., the BBC, the David Letterman Show and for Italy’s president. He recently performed with the Dream Bigger Tour by David Tutera of WE TV’s “My Fair Wedding.”
From opera to pop
Born in Chicago and raised in Florida, Barimo was exposed to a range of international sounds. He “fell in love” with opera as a child, leading him to learn Italian and earn a bachelor’s degree from Columbia University in Italian literature, he said. (He earned a second Columbia B.A. in anthropology.)
Barimo composes and produces, and he often picks out the flashy fashions for his dancers. He also spends hours in the studio with his band preparing live tracks, which he takes on tour and will use this weekend as back-up sound.
Barimo’s turn to pop “wasn’t easy,” prompted by the limited possibilities in opera, he said. But pop offers advantages.
Performances “are more relaxed,” Barimo said. “I can banter and connect with the audience. It’s more about entertaining the crowd rather than interpreting someone’s work.”
Performing for a live audience “is an amazing honor” in an age when most people can turn on anything they want to hear, he added.
“They’re giving time out of their life to listen to you, so it’s an honor.”
Grass Valley resident and freelance writer Trina Kleist can be reached at email@example.com or 530-575-6132.