Hymn, him and her: a bilingual nostalgia trip

Mia Martini - Inno

Mia Martini – Inno (Photo credit: Fabio Meoni)

I feel like bursting into song. Not any old song, mind you. There is one I have had on the brain recently – Inno (Hymn or Anthem) by Mia Martini, who twice represented Italy in the Eurovision contest. Her real name was Domenica Bertè (a name that I much prefer to Mia Martini!) and sadly she died quite young in 1995, aged 47.

I came across this song by accident. It was one of those strange journeys that the YouTube ‘suggestions’ sometimes lead you on. While on a nostalgia trip I had gone from Chicory Tip’s Son of My Father to Substitute by South African all-girl band Clout (both songs charted in many countries). I then went listening to songs I heard in my youth in Southern Africa on the likes of Springbok Radio and LM Radio (including some by a great Mozambique-born singer known as Maria but whose fabulous real name was Carmelia Maria Neto Lopez, you can find her most popular songs I’m On Fire and Clap Your Hands And Stamp Your Feet here and here). One of the songs that was suggested too was I Won’t Give Up, by Bruce Millar. It made number one on the South African charts in 1976. I remember really liking it at the time. The person who posted it on YouTube noted that it was an “English-language cover of the 1974 hit ‘Inno’ by the Italian artist Mia Martini”. I had never known it was based on an Italian song, nor had I heard of Mia, so I had to investigate.

View of Lourenço Marques, ca. 1905

View of Lourenço Marques, circa. 1905. LM Radio is named was named after the city, now known as Maputo. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

So here in this posting we have the one great song (it has a lovely, haunting melody) in two languages, and both singers have remarkable voices, in my humble opinion. First off is Mia herself performing the song while she loiters behind futuristic-looking staircases and scaffolding (I’m not sure why). The song dates back to 1974 so the sound quality is not the greatest (there are other versions on YouTube that have slightly better sound but no video footage), but her enunciation is clear, it is a slowish song, so if you are not too familiar with Italian you should be able to hear it word by word and get a feel for the language. If not the lyrics are posted at the bottom.

Next is the English version by Bruce Millar, titled I Won’t Give Up. The words to this are not a translation of the Italian original, at all (he just uses the melody).

Inno lyrics translated into English

I asked people who know Italian better than me to help with the translation, although none of us is a native speaker. We agree the lyrics are sometimes rather strange, and suspect whoever wrote them was smoking something exotic round a bonfire at the time.🙂

Cantero se vuoi – ma non credermi – Sing if you want, but don`t believe me
Stelle nelle tasche piu non ho – I don`t have any more stars in my pockets
E tu – non sai – volare piu – piu – piu in alto – And you, don’t you know? fly higher, and higher
Nel viso della sera che nasce – On the face of the night that is being born,
Sulla spiaggia coi falo – On the beach by the bonfire
Cantero – per noi – che non siamo piu – I will sing for us, that we we will always be
Piu forti – di quel po – di gioventu – stronger, as strong as we can, and of youth
Che sta – bruciando dentro e poi – finira – That burns inside and then will end
Nel viso della sera che nasce  In the face of the night that is being born,
Sulla spiaggia coi falo – On the beach by the bonfire
Dimmi che vuoi – che puoi – darmi felicita -Tell me what you want, and if you can, give me happiness
E sotto – la mia pelle nascera – And below – beneath my skin will be born,
Per te un dolce fiume che – cantera – For you a sweet river that, will sing
La mia speranza desser donna – of my hopes of being woman,
E la tua bocca poi lo berra – And from your mouth i will drink
Dimmi che il posto mio non sto per perderlo – Tell me that I am not going to lose that place
Dentro la mia fiaccola tu sei – You are a torch burning inside of me
Ma se – non sai bruciare piu – resta ancora – But if – you do not know to burn more – remain
Insieme canteremo e legnia – Together we will sing and we will
Porteremo al nostro falo – bring wood to our bonfire

Dimmi che vuoi – che puoi – darmi felicita – Tell me what you want – and if you can – give  me happiness
Apri le tue braccia e se ne andra – Open your arms and it will not go
La mia tristezza finalmente sara un esplosione – My sadness will finally explode
Di stelle cadenti sopra i fuochi gia spenti dei falo – in a cascade of stars over the bonfire
Sole no! Non puoi – piu mandarci via – No sun! it cannot, it will not go away
Rosso stai salendo sempre piu – Red is going up more and more
Lui sta dormendo il mare sa – quanto amore – He is sleeping the sea only knows how much love
Mi ha dato e mi dara rubando il viso di una sera – He gave me and will give me stealing the face of the evening.

English: Midsummer festival bonfire closeup (M...

“My sadness will finally explode in a cascade of stars over the bonfire”

10 thoughts on “Hymn, him and her: a bilingual nostalgia trip

  1. Hey, nice post!🙂 I’ve read the English translation of “Inno” and there are a few mistakes, that’s why it seems to make even less sense!! Moreover the lyric is full of figures of speech, so it can’t be interpreted literally. If you want I can try to write for you a better traslation😉

    • Hi, thanks for that. We did struggle with the translation. I don’t actually know any native speakers of Italian that I could turn to. Your offer is very kind and if you are willing to do corrections etc I would really appreciate it. Thanks very much. Cheers

  2. Pingback: Anyone fancy a triple Mia Martini? | My Five Romances

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