Italy’s Eurovision 2019 runner-up Mahmood talked to newspaper La Repubblica about Eurovision, his music and reaching people beyond cultural, geographical or musical boundaries.
Alessandro Mahmoud, commonly known as Mahmood, has become a superstar in his home country since winning the Sanremo Music Festival 2019. Achieving a very honourable second place at the Eurovision Song Contest in Tel Aviv has added to his popularity, reaching a new audience outside of Italy.
Talking to la Repubblica, Mahmood shared his thoughts about Eurovision, the power of music and the prejudices he faced as an Italian with Egyptian roots.
Mahmood went from the Sanremo Music Festival to Eurovision, a step that might seem small. Yet the two contests have a different approach, as the artist describes the Eurovision adventure:
It was a kind of circus, very different from Sanremo. Everything there is calculated minute by minute, perfected, they come to get you in the dressing room, I did five rehearsals, changing shirt every time, in the end the last one went very well.
The musician is pleased with his result which shows that, as he states, art breaks barriers.
Going beyond restrictions of culture, music or style is something that comes naturally to Mahmood, whose mother is Italian-Sardinian while his father is Egyptian. The artist doesn’t speak fluently Arabic, yet Italian, Sardinian, English and Spanish are part of his vocabulary. Mahmood stylistically conceives himself as a “songwriter of Moroccan pop or, in other words, music that is not there” – a sound that explores various traditions yet seeks to break out of specific genres, reaching a variety of people:
I’m trying to do what hasn’t been done yet.
Mahmood’s mixed heritage and unconventional style have been both lauded and criticized: his music was labelled as “not Italian enough” by some, despite his victory at the Sanremo Music Festival. His success and second place at Eurovision have certainly silenced many critics, but the backlash didn’t leave Mahmood unaffected:
I had never felt like a foreigner before this.
Mahmood’s winning Sanremo song and his Eurovision 2019 entry Soldi is an international hit and a kind of artistic revenge, validating the singer’s lyrical power and groundbreaking style.
On stage in front of a massive audience, the artist lyrically summarizes his feelings:
I think about how I fought.
That fight has brought the singer far, victorious beyond borders.
Mahmood at Eurovision 2019
Alessandro Mahmoud, professionally known as Mahmood, is a 26-year old singer-songwriter from Milan. His father is Egyptian, while his Italian mother hails from the island of Sardinia. Growing up in the Gratosoglio quarter in Milan, young Mahmood was raised by his mother after his parents had divorced.
The artist won the 69th Sanremo Music Festival on 9 February 2019 with the song Soldi, earning him the right to represent Italy at the Eurovision Song Contest 2019.
Soldi (“Money”) was composed and written by Mahmood in collaboration with Charlie Charles and Dario “Dardust” Faini. Incorporating rap, trap music, hip-hop and Arabic influences, Soldi is a very autobiographic song, recounting Mahmood’s relationship with his estranged father.
Performing Soldi in the Grand Final of the 64th Eurovision Song Contest in Tel Aviv, Israel, Mahmood eventually reached an honourable second place with 472 points.
Enjoy Soldi performed in the Grand Final: