"Roberto Cassani is like the best street musician, the last troubadour, a clown; genuinely an enigma, I've never heard anyone quite like him. He's true to life, funny and says something different about Britain today" - Mark Coyle.
“Completely different! Unique! Quirky and humorous with a dark side of truth lurking underneath the chuckles”. Frank Hennessy (BBC Wales)
"A charming genius! One of my all-time favourite performers." - Martin Stephenson, UK songwriting legend and leader of the Daintees.
(This biography is mostly made up by anecdotes and quotes copied and pasted from interviews, articles and quotes of the past few years... I only added a few words here and there, because I feel like an idiot writing about myself in third person...the quotes are all true though!)
Roberto Cassani is a truly original, lovely, funny, honest and mischievous “human bean”. The rarest of breed: a genuine person who believes in the power of a song, a singalong, a laugh and being in this together. His social conscience and the urge to “do-his-own-thing” simply have never allowed Roberto to follow trends, jump on bandwagons or doing what he was told. Life and music are a long “apprenticeship”, he keeps saying...and it’s clear he has no idea when this apprenticeship may finish...nor he wants it to end.
Roberto was born in Milano, Italia, 12th August 1975 and grew up in the working class mad house of Rivolta d’Adda, a town which had more bars and osterie in its small footprint than it would be thought reasonable...and yet all were busy with people particularly fond of wine, songs and stories, of which Roberto’s father (and the boy himself) were proud exponents and disciples.
Roberto was always a loveable rascal, but so was every other boy and man of Rivolta d’Adda, hence he almost blended in well. Still however managing to stick out due to his fondness for Music (no-one else in the family could play a note), and the innate instinct for disobedience (the first conscientious objector of the town when his military service duties beckoned).
By then, his songs had been spotted and he was snapped up by the big record label BMG (now Universal). Working and rubbing shoulders with some of the elite of the Italian music biz only served to tickle Roberto’s rebellious nature and before a record was out, he did a runner....Why? Simply because his dad Marino thought him the importance of “fare la gavetta” (again, doing a hard apprenticeship, starting from the bottom). Well, a record contract at age 18 was hardly starting from the bottom... Roberto had this idea that he wanted to be a troubadour, a minstrel, a jester lampooning the powerful and singing for the normal folk... but to do this, one needs to know about life. Time to leave Italy then...
Roberto spoke no English of note and yet decided it would be wise to relocate to Britain, where he proceeded to eat beans for a full year, get himself into adventures of the kind no longer possible in our virtual times, and fall in love with the person of his dreams: his wife Lara.
After a few years he managed to build a sufficient vocabulary to start writing songs again...
In 2007 he played his first pub gig, by then having settled in the Scottish (wet) idyll of Perthshire. The songs were playfully boisterous and nothing the punters had heard since the bawdy days of the Music Hall, so Roberto soon graduated to playing big Festivals. The content of his songs made it impossible for him to be played on national radio, yet when “Chicka Boom” was recorded live in one night in the Perth pub “Mucky Mulligans” and released in 2008 under the now defunct Nessmp3 label, it sold out and gained incredulous yet enthusiastic 5 stars reviews. The whole record consisted of Roberto battering an acoustic guitar and shouting to be heard by loads of drunken punters: to say “raw” is an understatement. The album is now sold out and out of print.
Roberto spent 2008, 2009 and part of 2010 playing every nook and cranny in the UK, on land, river, loch or sea. He ventured twice into the Americas, he played to the thousands in the fields and to a man watching the football in a pub...He even won a couple of prestigious songwriting awards, best of all the Burnsong competition which led him to perform at the Scottish Parliament, BBC and especially meet his fellow musos of the superfolk band Kilmarnock Edition (more of which in a minute)... Had he done it? Was he a troubadour? A minstrel? Nah... comedy songs are great fun but there’s gotta be more... so the apprenticeship continued...
At this point Roberto decided to prove to himself that he could actually be a proper musician, and he did that through his love for the double bass, an instrument he first “met” under the tutorage of Italian jazz great Giovanni Tommaso in Rome. Roberto became a session musician first and then a funding member of Kilmarnock Edition, which released an acclaimed record on the Greentrax label and became one of the few darlings of the new folk circuit. A couple of years of performances in the UK and Canada followed before the band parted company.
In amongst all that, Roberto and Lara became parents to Ruby, to date the only magnificent masterpiece. One cannot wander about aimlessly when such cuties are at home, so the live concerts were drastically reduced to 20-30 per year, no more.
In 2014 Roberto and his double bass fancied trying out some comedy swingabilly and formed Roberto & the Tickety2 with his genial guitarist sidekick Owen Nicholson and the loveliest drummer on the planet Dave Clelland. Two albums followed in as many years, Man Flu (2014) and Middle Age Spread (2015), as well as several triumphant festivals and radio sessions on both BBC and local radios. As with every album, Roberto insists on recording live, like in the good old days, warts and all...
2016 saw Roberto returning to solo efforts for Badabadoom. On the album Roberto experimented with some unorthodox vocalisation as the accompaniment to the songs, with only his guitar, bass and voice as actual instruments. .The album was produced by UK songwriter Martin Stephenson and gained Roberto a whole lot of new fans. Festival performances in UK and Europe followed, as well as the usual sessions on private and BBC wireless.
Roberto used even less instrumentation on the 2017 “punky” live performance film of protest songs “Protest Panda”. All recorded live at TPot studio by legendary producer Robin Wynn Evans, Roberto spoke up against the political car-crash decisions of the previous year. Roberto accompanied himself only with a crunchy guitar, a foot drum and a kazoo...yes, a kazoo...the boy gives zero hoots! Protest Panda was an unexpected success with DJs on private radio and also received some superb reviews, which is quite something as Roberto did not promote it at all...now the performance is realeased as an EP out in 2019.
In 2018 Roberto worked with idol and double bass legend Danny Thompson to build a body of songs telling some truth about Roberto’s stories and feelings. The songs were recorded with producer Andrea Gobbi to become the album “Oh!...L’amore”, released in August 2019. The album pins down some necessary autobiographical nuggets: from childhood idiosyncrasies to migration, battling cancer, the joy of fatherhood and the touching yet hilarious post funeral odyssey of Roberto’s adored papa’ Marino. The title track ends the album shifting from personal to universal, whilst still honest and humorous, a precursor to Roberto’s future work.
So here we are, in 2019, “just” 25 years after starting to play and getting signed “overnight”, and 20 years after leaving Italy, the “apprenticeship” is starting to make sense. Roberto has lived, loved, suffered and laughed a whole lot and in a whole lot of places. He has proven to himself that he can play good music if he wishes to, but he has especially “earned” his right to be a real troubadour, a minstrel, a fella who has done “the gavetta” and has earned the “bottle” to stand before anybody and sing important social messages wrapped in a good bit of humour. Does this mean that the apprenticeship is finished??
Absolutely not!... Ciao.