Jo Squillo I’ve had four lives and I’ll tell you about them

From the punk period to the passion for fashion to the commitment against violence against women… “L’arti-vista”, which on April 6 will present the concert in Milan in honor of Cramps Records, here retraces the fundamental stages of its existence , aware that “this is my best time”

«DDecember 1979, my first concert with the Kandeggina Gang, in support of a political activist. There were Kaos Rock, there was Battiato, there was Alice… They asked me for an encore, and – having written only one song, I’m bad – I had to repeat that! Eventually Gianni Sassi entered the dressing room: “Are you ready to make a record?”. “Yes when?”. “Tomorrow”!”. Jo Squillo is grateful to the eclectic “cultural agitator” and, not surprisingly, it will be she who will present the concert that will celebrate Cramps Records on April 6 at the Teatro Lirico Giorgio Gaber in Milan, Lrecord company he created and founded in 1972. On stage – among others – Eugenio Finardi, the Skiantos, Carlo Boccadoro, plus a tribute to Franco Battiato

Jo Squillo

“Jo Squillo” is provocative

Thus began, at the age of 17, the career of Giovanna Maria Coletti, a former frequenter of the Santa Marta social center-music school in Milan, who immediately chose the pseudonym of Jo Squillo. «Jo because it suits strong and rebellious, joyful and “electric” women, like Jo March of Little Women; “Ring” because it has a provocation in itself, but it also alludes to the telephone: we are the duplex generation, we girls liked to talk and there was always someone else in the house who claimed it… We represented harmful music». “Harmful” in what sense? «Harmful to respectability – we are talking about the end of the Seventies; “harmful” for mothers and fathers. Punk, never banal, never homologated. I had a great teacher like Demetrio Stratos (the frontman of Area, ed) who taught me not to use my voice in the traditional and stereotyped way. We have brought rock towards an experimentation and also towards a social attitude»

“Fellini wanted me”

And why “Kandeggin”? What did you want to clean up? «The greyness of those years, the years of lead». You were absolutely among the first female bands in Italy. “Yes! Fellini called me for The city of womenbut I was in Germany for an important event, Rock Against Racism (there were big names, including Bob Geldof), and gave the contact of another group. The sisterhood already started from there…”

But how did your relationship with music begin? «My twin sister and I were a perfect duo: she played, I sang. We grew up among the notes – from Beethoven to the Beatles to Vanoni – thanks to the passion of our father, who was actually a lawyer who then moved on to trade (my mother was a yarn salesman, a pioneer)»

«After the art school, I enrolled at the Brera Academy. Today I don’t consider myself an artist, but an artivist: I do activism, the message is as important as the medium. Not only did I create the songs but also the first outfit, I cut off my kilt, made shoes with fluorescent fabric and a T-shirt with the inscription “Kandeggina Gang” (at the time we didn’t see any). We invented almost everything

Social commitment, not “social”

Jo Squillo with her twin sister (photo Ipa)

«I am now in my fourth life. I grew up with the idea of ​​social engagement – ​​not commitment social (laughs) – as a high form of empathy, and this has remained a constant: in music I have tried to affirm not myself but a world of needs, claims, demands for justice. At one point I dyed the Tampax red and, during a concert in Piazza Duomo, I threw them to claim the right to have free sanitary pads. I was radical: after more than thirty years the only result was a lower tax…

«I have recorded 150 songs: unfortunately, after such an iconic one as We are womenany other becomes a side dish: yet they were interesting for the innovation of the texts, from I want a microphone to Magic land to Ode to the bra. I I don’t carand (but who cares) I wrote it in ’81 and «We are women capable of going forward when everything stops and comes back» well before Miley Cyrus… Rape me it was the first song against violence against women: a girl had been raped on the subway and most of the people said “She brought it on because she was wearing a miniskirt”. From my punk, revolutionary point of view, I overturned the image, singing a woman who is not passive, who does not want to be a victim»

“Me and Sabrina, complementary”

Jo Squillo and Sabrina Salerno in Sanremo 1991 (photo Ansa)

When does the second life start? “After We are womenthe pop turning point of my music: I met a new transversal audience, which is still the one who comes to my concerts. Sabrina Salerno was a complementary woman to me, very famous abroad, she had never sung in Italian: at the 1991 Sanremo Festival we made a revolution and the audience peak is still ours, 17 million viewers. We arrived thirteenth, not bad: in 3 minutes our lives changed, we had to go around with ten bodyguards»

“Look Generation”

Jo Squillo in 1983 (Getty Images)

The third life, we imagine, will be that of the encounter with the fashion system: in 1999 his program started Fashion TV with fashion shows, backstage, and interviews with stylists. For a “disruptive” soul, isn’t it curious? «I’m part of what was called the “Look Generation” in the 1980s, we also expressed our way of being with clothes: on one side there were the “paninari”, on the other we unleashed the imagination… Like reporter, I have tried to lead the public to discover creative thinking, the path of designers between culture, art, a look into the past to go into the future. They are the ones who talk about a new woman, new men»

A wall of dolls

Jo Squillo testimonial of “Wall of dolls”, a wall of dolls to say enough to violence against women (photo Ansa)

And we are in the fourth act: in 2014 he has the idea of a permanent installation against femicide in via De Amicis 2, in Milan: Wall of Dolls – The Wall of Dolls. «For years I had been thinking about something that was visible to everyone and made us reflect on violence and the inspiration came to me from an Indian custom: in the houses of a raped woman, a doll is attached to the door. Some find it disturbing – I know Milan would prefer something design (laughs) – but it has to be: I always find people – and school groups – who look at and reflect on these dolls marked by time, and are touched by them. And this is the true meaning of art, it touches you and changes you

«Now the wall exists in eight Italian cities. Everything I do is at the service of social commitment, my popularity but – let’s be honest – my earnings as well. In 2019 with Francesca Carollo I created a non-profit organization, Walls of Dollsto give support to the victims (who often leave their homes without being able to bring anything) and to the childrenwho sometimes remain orphans of their mothers and with their fathers in prison…».

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“We are magical”

Jo Squillo with Giusy Versace and Francesca Carollo at the Venice Film Festival in 2019 (photo Ferrari/Ansa)

Other things not expected of her? «I launched “Scorribande”, an event to give voice to young people, and in this review I involved unknown groups, which I helped to record records: among these were Morgan, Timoria…». What place does music have in his life today? «I still do many concerts! As Michelle Yeoh said on stage at the Oscars: “Ladies, never let anyone tell you that you are past your prime”. This is our best time: we manage to be more understanding, calmer, more serene… And more visionary. more magical»


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