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Autobiografia Musicale di Krsna Prema (Paolo Tofani)-versione inglese-

I was born in Florence, the 19th of January 1944. The incredible atmosphere of this city full of art must have had some sort of influence on me; the city seemed to nourish and expanded my propensity towards many different forms of art, in particular the musical and visual arts. My parents were very simple people and I was their only child. My mother had a great passion towards singing. She was a dynamic personality; and after the misery and tragedy she had experienced during the war (WWII duh) that had just ended, she energetically engaged herself in different activities endeavoring to improve the economic conditions of the family. During this intense time she would often travel in our little car. Sometimes I would accompany her, and I remember how she would sing and I would join in and sing with her. These were popular songs about common folk and with very simple melodies. Soon I discovered I had a tenor type of voice, I started to sing both in the car and bath tub the famous melodies from the classic Italian opera, like Il Barbiere di Siviglia, Rigoletto, and many others. I really enjoyed singing aloud like that for it made me feel older and important. There came a time when my parents wanted to verify my tendency and real potential in music; they decided to buy a musical instrument for me to study and learn. I was not sure what I wanted yet, so they chose for me and selected a trumpet. At first I was very happy but quite soon I realized that this was not the instrument for me. I had to use so much energy to play it, and it made so much noise! The neighbors started to protest, especially when I was trying to imitate the great Rock & Roll artists of those times. I would run out of breath after a few minutes, and had no more energy. My trumpet playing career ended rather quickly to everyone's satisfaction, but we were all disappointed with the result. Music was becoming more and more important for me as time went by. I would watch films with the great American Rock & Roll artists like Bill Haley, Jim Vincent, Elvis Presley, and the guitar was becoming more and more attractive, to the point where it became clear that this was the instrument for me. I spoke to my parents about it, but because of the previous failed experience with the trumpet, they had no intention of helping me purchase a guitar. I was very determined, I found a job, a temporary job as a delivery boy for a local shop, so I could earn enough to buy my dream instrument. After about two weeks of hard labor I managed to buy my first guitar (which was a real piece of crap). I started to learn the guitar alone in the house, and the guitar was always with me, even in my bed. My friends called me mad. At the end of the 50's I had my first gig, an unforgettable experience. This was a fun time, I would go into huge ballrooms, in the Florence area, and play in a trio formation, this was 1966 and before the beginning of the famous trio's like "The Cream" and "The Jimi Hendrix Experience". Here are a few samples of our playing that where recorded by a friend. After various other experiences playing Rock & Roll with friends, I joined my first professional group "I Samurai". We began playing in different nightclubs all over Italy, we even had a great opportunity to go to England for three months and play in a chain of nightclubs that were copies of Los Vegas clubs. In the 60's England represented the heart of the music for the youth of that time. This was an incredible experience for me. I had an opportunity to see and hear the most popular and famous groups of that era. Everything seemed full of magic and energy. At that time I started to define more precisely my guitar playing style. There was an American guitarist that I really admired, he had an incredible way of playing, his technique was called "finger picking", he was amazing. I bought some of his records while in England, for these were not available in Italy, and then I traded my Fender Stratocaster, which I had acquired sometime at the end of the 50's, with a the Chet Atkins model of a Gretsch guitar. I started to learn his style. (It must be obvious that the American guitarist I admired was indeed Chet Atkins) The English adventure with "I Samurai" was a great success. The money I was making was huge for a boy of my age. I was appreciating this kind of life, full of energy and independence, away from the family and the social atmosphere of intolerance of new things, to have long hair in London was no problem. But Like every fairy-tale this one also had an end. We had to return to Italy. However when we came back we discovered we had become an international attraction, so that meant no more small nightclubs, but theaters where people listened to our music. This situation went on for some time, but then I started feeling the need for a change of scene, so I left the group. I started playing with some friends in Florence. Then after some time we put together the group "I Califfi". This group differed from "I Samuari" , now we would play only music we liked. So our repertoire was comprised of our personal favorites with many of the popular songs as well as our own improvisations in blues and rock. This created a joyful and dynamic mood. " I Califfi" became a very well known group in Italy playing pop music, especially Italian versions of successful international hits, such as The BeeGees, Procol Harum etc. Plus we wrote our own music. Good life, good money, good Karma. Slowly this group started making its way into the Italian music business. We started to hear about contracts and record deals and going on tours with other great Italian music groups of the moment. (Italian groups such; Celentano, Modugno, I Dick Dick, I Ribelli and many others) Then came the TV shows. Everything seemed to be going well, but then came the call of duty for an obligatory stint in the Italian Army. I had turned 21. Despite the possibility of avoidance using a pay-off system that was frequently used by others to get out of this situation, my father who had always been a military man did not agree with that solution. He personally escorted me to the train station and deposited me in my compartment to ensure I went to "boot camp". He told me that this experience would be good for my future. The time that I spent in the military was unusual. I found myself in a position of responsibility that was new for me. In reality it was useful, for I had the opportunity to better know the human character, anyway during my entire time there I continued to play, and along with others I would organize shows for the troupes. As a result I was able to get a lot leave time and I returned to Florence quite often. When the military service ended and I had returned to Florence, the group " I Califfi " was very glad to have me back into action. We had more success than before with our music. It was great, records, money, popularity with concerts throughout Italy, and satisfaction. Even my father, who had always been skeptical about my musical activity, would come to our gigs in disguise without telling me anything. Some times I would recognized him in the crowd and we would spend some time together. Even my love life became stable and satisfied, I had met an English girl and very soon we got married. Life was perfect. But as time passed, again I began to be tired of that life; I started feeling the need to spend more time for my family and myself. Everything that had always seemed important became oppressive and had no meaning. Music had become commercial to the point that I didn't like to play it any more. I felt like I was inside a gold box without air, and I lost the taste for being myself, a free spirit who only wanted to play music without borders and restrictions. Success became an intolerable oppression. I felt just like a mannequin without life. I came to understand that I had to leave everything and find myself again. My wife Rowena and I decided to leave Italy, the group and everything else, One early morning without saying anything to anyone (except my parents) just to avoid any discussion and misunderstanding with the group, we just drove away to England where we hoped to find a life that was simpler and more inspiring for our vision. We were aware that this meant to start all over again from scratch. No friends, no work, no money. Our only reference point was my wife's parent's house in London. They agreed to give us shelter in their house. So despite all this inconvenience we again felt enlivened and full of energy. In England I needed to improve my communication skills. Up until that point I had always relied on Rowena as an English translator. I figured getting temporary jobs would force me to learn. After a short time I felt the need of making music again, but after a few attempts to join other musicians, I decided to do it alone. An Italian company that I was very familiar with was interested in opening a branch in London, by helping them; I was able to get some free equipment. With that equipment I set up a small studio in the corner of the living room in the house. The most important piece of equipment in this set up was a Revox stereo tape recorder. I was able to utilize it in a rather unique way, practically I could move sound from one track to another, and during that process I would add new sounds (quite common today called bouncing) in this way I could gradually add more instruments. So despite the limit of 2 tracks it turned into at least 10 tracks for me. In this way I would start to compose music and express what I was experiencing in my life. An LP then much later a CD with the songs that I compose and sing during that time was released by Cramps Records; this was call "Electric Frankenstein". (A sample of that is available at the bottom of this page) As time passed my English improved and I was free to go on my own. I started visiting record companies trying to get a contract by presenting my work. One day I happened to meet Muff Winwood (brother of the famous Steve Winwood of "Traffic" etc). He was a talent scout for Island Records. A few days later with all my equipment on hand I was ready for the audition. I had the base tracks on the Revox and played the guitar and sung with that. I also used a small keyboard and flute. Everything went incredibly well. They were all happily amazed by the music that I had written and present to them, they decided to test the effect of my music with people in a pub, and this was their standard way of seeing how potential artist for them preformed. So one Friday night on March 1971 I found myself playing alone in London at the Greyhound Pub. The owner of the Pub was so satisfied with my performance that he requested I play there 3 times per week. Then other pubs asked me to play. After a short time I was engaged every night of the week. This was good for it resolved our financial problem and we could move to our own apartment, small but our own place again. It was amazing, I would arrive at a pub in the late afternoon, then assemble all the instruments, test the sound, I would leave for a bit and change cloths. I would return again as "the artist" and would play. At the end I would again disappear and after some time reappear and dismount all the gear. All was stowed into my VW Van and I would disappear into the early morning night. It was a wonderful time, full of important encounters, I met all sorts of well known and not so well know musical artists. I remember going to the "The Speak-Easy", a small place in the heart of London that would open at 1:00 AM where you could see the most important artist of the moment, "The Beatles", "The Rolling Stones", "The Yardbirds", and many others. They would have great jam sessions with each other and anyone else who wanted to participate. It was a hard place to get into, very exclusive, but the owner was Italian and would always let me in. One time Keith Emerson (the well know organist) came to the Westminster Pub were I was playing, and during the break he asked me if I wanted to go to Palermo for a big concert. I remember during the flight we played chess the entire time. After 3 days I was back in London. At that time I started becoming more interested in electronic music and for many months during the day I was going in a new lab/company named EMS (Electronic Music Studios) where one person named Peter Zinovieff was making small synthesizers. That experience opened a new world of sound for me. Finally I could explore different sound spaces that gave me an incredible opportunity for expression. [Later on in 1972 when I came back to Italy to enter the group called "Area", Peter and EMS practically gave me two AKS synthis. These looked like 2 black brief cases with their own digital keyboards, inside the case, also I received one pitch to voltage converter unit that was an amazing piece of work, I had never heard anything like that before, I could play the synthi with my guitar. (Remember this is 1972) "Area" fans will remember this sound in the introduction of the famous piece "Luglio Agosto Settembre Nero" (Black July August September) and other pieces that which were done with the guitar thru this unit. Click to hear a short sample of that intro] This was a very intense and satisfying time for me musically. One day while still in London a talent scout for a record company came to see me. He was very impressed with the result I could get out of my home studio. He offered me a contract. So we decided to make a 45, a single. For this I recorded an instrumental piece called "The Land of the Magic Wizard" , composed entirely with sounds coming from my AKS synthi. For the B-side I wrote a tune called "Moon Walk" also instrumental, taking inspiration from the American astronauts that I had watched on Television. For this single a professional studio was booked, and I found myself in this fabulous studio with the most up to date stuff in the center of London. After two days of intense work I finished my recording, but despite all the wonderful facility provided the result sounded worse than the recording I had made in the makeshift home studio; obviously if was not just a question of sound, but of feeling. At that time a famous Italian group "PFM" came to London to make an English version of one of their albums. The manager contacted me and he told me there was a new group in Italy who had a huge potential. They asked him to contact me about joining this group; their name was "Area" . So despite the fact that many possibilities were on the horizon for a good musical career in England, I was tired to be playing alone and decided to check out this new proposal. From the first encounter with the group I realized the great potential, because of the variety of personalities involved there was an opportunity for innovative creative stimulus. We started working immediately. At first I was traveling constantly between Milan and London until I finally moved back to Italy 1973. To describe the experience with "Area" I would need a book with more than one million pages. I can only say I lived an unforgettable experience. There was an amazing amount of energy and a new way to make music. Thanks to the genius of Gianni Sassi the director of Cramps Records and the author of all the lyrics. The methodology we used for working was changed; we had long discussions on the intellectual significance of each piece, and the connections of every piece with the reality of that time. We would start composing music only after we were sure of what we wanted to express. And this was the reason why every piece we played was very involved and also engaged the listener in a new way. On our first tour the crowd whistled catcalls from the beginning to the end of our set, they just didn't understand our mood. But for us the public wasn't there. The music we were playing was completely satisfying and if the crowd also liked it that was fine too. When the first album came out, "Arbeit macht frei" , it was clear to everyone that "Area" was destined to leave a deep mark on the Italian music scene. "Arbeit macht frei" is available on iTunes music store as well. PAOLO TOFANI - INDICAZIONI (1977) Paolo Tofani made a solo record that probably would make Robert Fripp or Henry Kaiser raise their eyebrows and maybe even blush from envy. It is partly played on a Les Paul mounted with an EMS prototype guitar-synth, making sounds that I have not heard anywhere else! The situation with the group " Area " was becoming too intense. The pushing of the image of being a political symbol and a reference point for the angry and disappointed youth of the time was crashing with my nature. It was becoming clear to me that we could not change the world and especially human nature. Many who were under the flag of equality and rebellion against the establish order were just using this as an opportunity to show their frustration. Despite the fact that some people honestly believed in the possibility of a better society through discussions and reason, there was a minority that were just creating a useless chaotic mess instigating people to react, making them forget their real need, and getting them involved in confrontations that sometimes where very violent, causing pain and misery to everyone. Even under normal circumstances I was never attracted to success and popularity. Just a few years back I had left the group "I Califfi" during a very successful moment of fame and money to start a new life in England from scratch. To me the real challenge has always been to go deeper into my capacity to understand music and the real meaning of it. The social circumstances and the subsequent inevitable environmental changes, despite being able to influence the quality of my musical experience, were never very important to me. When things start to become ordinary and static, for me that was the time to move on to the next phase, to the next opportunity to understand more my real values, and I guess (at that time I was not aware of my spiritual identity) my real nature. "Area" had attracted too much attention, the noise was increasing rapidly and I did not want to get used to it. Also my interest in music was pulling me in a different direction, there was too much tension in our compositions, I needed to cool off from the militant and angry approach and reset the sound spectrum to go to a more simple but introspective range, so I decided to leave the group. My first encounter with the devotees of Krsna was in 1970, during the time that I was living in England. I remember seeing them in London on Oxford Street, chanting and distributing incense and some literature. I was not disturbed by theirs appearance, in reality I liked them, and I remember I bought something from one of the girls, but I did not enquire about their religion and philosophy. My mind was going in a different direction at that time. The second time I met them was in US in 1973. I was waiting for a friend in front of the Modern Art Museum in New York when I heard this tumultuous sound, looking around I saw a huge procession full of people with colorful banners and heard the tumultuous sound of many drums coming down the street at a very fast pass. This time my reaction was completely different from the previous one. I felt very uneasy and nervous, I was convinced that they were coming to get me for some reason. I became scared and I started walking in the opposite direction very fast, but despite my rapid pace, I felt they were getting closer and closer to me. I was consumed by total anxiety and I entered the first door that I saw, it was a bank. My rushed entrance made the security guard come towards me with his gun under his hand shouting something that I could not understand, I did not move, my eyes were staring at the street, and when I saw the procession passing by, I felt relief, safe, and everything went back to normal again. It would not be until almost the end of the 70's that I had another chance to meet the devotees of Krsna. I was in Milan Italy, and my life had become very simple. I had left all the major involvements with society and the opportunity for material success. After I left the group "Area" in 1977, the boys ask me if I could help them with the technical production of their new album, something that I had always done when part of the band anyway. After sometime they had left the Cramps record company, and had gotten a new record deal with the CGD company. Since leaving the group I was not playing with anyone when Gianni Sassi, the head of Cramps record, put me in charge of a few new music productions and that was enough to cover my material needs without being heavily engaged. I was tired and disappointed, and I just wanted to be peaceful and do as little as possible, just enough to keep my eyes open, and maintain my sentimental relationship with Elisa, my girlfriend, the only person that I felt had any real value at that point of my life.We were living in a small apartment in Milan and I was often visiting Demetrio (the singer of "Area"), who had also left the group, and we started getting involved in experimental music with John Cage and other contemporary musicians. It was a great time, I was feeling free to explore my imagination and get into new ways of expressing and developing my musical needs. Since my trip to the US (first to N.Y. and then to L.A.) a couple years before, I had become fascinated by a beautiful modular synth made for me by Serge Tcherepnin (pronounced "Cher - epp - nin") in L.A. He was also a musician, but according to John Cage, this machine was the best musical composition that Serge had ever made. He was an amazing guy. I remember when I was in his shop ln L.A., I saw some of the members of the "Tangerine Dream" band who were also having some synths made for them. During my visits with Serge when he was working, he was always playing this cassette about the life of wolves, explaining to me that they were not dangerous animal's, and how he very much liked the sounds that they were making. I set up a little studio in my Milan bedroom apartment and start writing and getting deeper into electronic music. Sometimes I was doing some solo performance in avant-garde music club's and different theaters. I liked that very much for it was always a gratifying experience. I met many interesting artists and I really liked the personal approach, it was nice to be a person again. A that time I had a confirmation that in the future it would be better for me to stay away from heavy involvement and keep this personal independence to avoid somebody else's mental problems and concentrate on my artistic and human needs.(I did not know what the future had prepared for me) One afternoon a friend (Claudio Rocchi) phoned and invited us over to his house, he wanted to introduce me to some interesting people that were passing by his place. Claudio had become a good friend and during that time we discovered that we had many things in common. He was a successful musician, but he also had a strong inclination toward the spiritual and philosophical point of view of the Indian culture, and that was very attractive to me. To be able to go to India had always been one my greatest dreams. For some reason I felt very fascinated by that culture and the mystery of the mystical atmosphere that I knew was still present there. The musical culture of India in particular had, and still has, a deep interest for me. I always thought that if I wanted to find the roots of the real musical art, I had to go there. I remember during my staying in England in the early 60's I had visited an Indian music shop in the east of London, they had all sorts of musical instruments such as Sitars, Tambouras, Tablas, Sarods and many others. I was on the one hand fascinated by them, and on the other very comfortable with these instruments. At that time I bought a book about Indian raga's that later became one of my most important reference points in relation to the understanding of the music of India. The desire to move toward that part of the world was so strong that Elisa, my self and George (an amazing black Belgian shepherd dog), decided to leave everything and everybody for good. We had a VW camper van, so we took everything we believed useful and we left. We had a great time but we never made it to India, for reasons that are not relevant to this narration, so we had to go back to Italy. Obviously it was not our karma to reach India at that time, because despite all our effort, we did not make it. Anyway let's go back to Claudio's invitation. We where not doing much that day, and he was not so far from our flat, so we decided to go. When we arrived I notice that the atmosphere had changed from the usual hippy one, everything was cleaner than usual, more orderly, and there was a strong but pleasant smell of incense everywhere. As soon as we entered I saw some shaved headed people dressed in saffron robes. The light of the sunshine coming thru the windows mixed with their shining figures gave me the impression that we were in a different dimension, very calm and peaceful. My friend introduced us to these people and as I recall on our way back to our place I had a very good feeling about this encounter. We were not confronted with heavy philosophy, nor some dogmatic behavior, but we just had a very simple and pleasant discussion about ourselves and our views on life. This was a pleasant surprise, and so we decided to follow the devotees to Rome together with Claudio and his wife Manuela. The time spent in Rome was again very pleasant and we had some opportunity to understand a little more about the devotees of Krsna and their way of life. I wanted to go deeper into this new experience; so I accompanied them on a short trip to Athens. I remember that I was feeling out of place with my regular pants and shirt, so I ask them if was possible to have the same dress they where wearing, so in no time I looked like a devotee of Krsna, apart for my hair.

- 釋恒禅 Shì-Héng-Chán
- 釋恒定 Shì-Héng-Dìng