Federico Trufelli: Rock and Roll Dreams
The music stops suddenly and an expectant silence engulfs the piazza. Marilyn Monroe peeks out from between the folds of Federico Trufelli’s shirt as he teases the crowd. Federico, Fedo to his friends, peers over his retro Buddy Holly glasses, and he knows his fans are with him. A wry smile spreads over Fedo’s face, a flash of white parting his black beard, and with a quick bounce, his friends behind him start up again. The crowd explodes, and the band sends Italian rock pounding down the streets of Cagli. The night has come alive.
Not yet 30, during the day, Federico works in a factory just outside of Cagli, Italy, spinning plastic into bags like an ecologically unsound Rumpelstiltskin. He is thankful to have the job in a country with rampant unemployment. However, he is happiest on the weekends when he can truly be himself, grinding out Italian rock covers for the Cagliesi as the lead singer of “MDL”. The name stands for “Matti Da Ligare”, a play on words combining the name of band members and one of the popular Italian bands they cover. The Cagliesi are enthralled. They love live music and the locals who play it.
“It’s something very personal, and we choose songs to play that mean something to us,” says Federico, fingering the buckle on the thick leather band on his right wrist. “It’s based on some aspect that connects with our audience. When I see the reaction of the audience, I know I have managed to convey the feeling of the song. They clap. They cry. They move with the music and feel what I feel when I sing it.”
What he feels is acceptance and love from his people. While many of Cagli’s youth must look for work far from home, some even in other countries, Federico would rather take a job that is less fulfilling than leave the land he loves. Playing music is part of his well-loved life. The crowd returns the love – jumping in unison, singing along, and waving their arms on command. For that moment, he is the rock artist he has always wanted to be.
“My friends have told me I transform on stage, but I don’t see it,” Federico says. “I guess there are some times where I am in a zone where I truly am another person. However, I still think I’m just me.”
Federico is a product of a life of music. His mother was a singer and has been one of his biggest supporters. She and Federico’s father fostered his love of music from a young age, and they attend his concerts. After getting a set of drums at 13 and a guitar a short time later, Federico hoped to make his living as a musician. However, he felt his singing talent wasn’t star quality, so he funneled his creative powers into a graphic design job. At night, he performed, working as what Italian revelers call an “announcer” over house music at an electronica club, shouting choreographed dance instructions to the crowd over pulsating, repetitious tracks. But he didn’t like the hot, flashing lights of the club and the lack of creativity. Instead, his passions lie in making the music himself, and the personal connection to those he entertains.
Writing songs is Federico’s ultimate goal; that has proved more difficult than expected, though he continues to try. “We have a song called ‘Rock and Roll Dreams,’” says Federico, gazing toward the piazza as if trying to visualize his future in music. “It is my only dream to play rock and roll, but if it is only sitting on my bed to myself, that will be enough.”
The largest crowd MDL has played for is 300 people, but the band envisions playing larger venues. Someday the band’s members hope to ditch the covers to play their own music. Until that day comes and their song library eventually grows, they stand on the shoulders of other Italian rock bands.
Federico is winding up the crowd again, singing one verse and letting the fans, packed like sardines along the narrow, cobblestoned strada in the heart of Federico’s hometown, sing the next. The song ends, and a friend bursts forward through the crowd, throwing an arm around Federico’s neck, imploring him to sing an encore. Federico doesn’t push the man away but smiles and accepts the outward show of affection, obliging with another song. Federico is in his element, and as he raises the mike to his mouth once more, kissing it with every purse of his lips, the love affair begins again.