Foreign Policy Digital

According to Italy’s Leaders, Rap Music Is Un-Italian

When a rapper named Alessandro Mahmoud won the country’s most prestigious music contest, xenophobic leaders quickly took advantage of his victory to open a new front in the culture war.

The Festival di Sanremo is Italy’s most important musical event of the year. A four-day song contest not unlike The Voice in the United States, it’s a major national TV event, comparable only to a World Cup final. In a country of 60 million, about 10 million viewers tuned in to the show, broadcast in early February on Rai 1, the biggest channel on the government-owned TV network.

The 2019 Festival di Sanremo also became a political scandal, spurring a heated debate on immigration and Italy’s so-called liberal elites. The winner, Alessandro Mahmoud, was a 26-year-old singer from Milan. He is the son of an Italian woman and an Egyptian immigrant, who inspired his winning number, “Soldi” (money)—a song about irresponsible fathers. As a rapper going by the stage name Mahmood,

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