Italian rock legend Adelmo Fornaciari, more commonly known as Zucchero (meaning ‘sugar’), has been slaying hearts all over the world with his gravelly voice and gospel-inspired music for more than 40 years. Speaking to him, you wouldn’t have a clue he’s anything other than someone’s sunny nonno, but the man’s list of collaborations and achievements is frankly staggering.

After years of sold out tours, innovative partnerships and many accolades, Zucchero has just released his eleventy-hundredth album entitled La Sesión Cubana which he decided to record after a wildly successful one-off concert playing with 70 Cuban musicians in Havana, Cuba. “The most difficult thing for an artist after many years, after many albums, is remain yourself but changing; or changing but remain yourself,” he explains thoughtfully. “I don’t like to repeat myself, and that’s why I decided it was the right time to do something with the Cuban influences.”


Recording with Cuban musicians was something the 57-year-old had been wanting to accomplish for a long time, and he clearly feels a sincere connection with the country’s essence. “I love the people; nothing to do with the political situation, you know,” he says. “I love the culture of the Cubans. I love the people because they are still very like in the ‘60s in Italy. It’s another world, what can I say? Musically, they are probably the best musicians in the world.”


This year Zucchero was awarded the Los Angeles – Italy Excellence Award, and in 2006 was bestowed the title Commander Of Italy along with Andrea Bocelli and the late Luciano Pavarotti. They were the first three artists to ever be acknowledged in this way. “Finally, finally in Italy they started to appreciate the music, and ... even the government, they start to honour the artists in Italy,” he says. “Like in England, they do this for many years, for a long time. In Italy the government has never been so... nice,” he laughs deeply at his word choice, “with rock music or music in general. Finally they start to recognise the excellence, the Italian excellence, and I was one of them.”


In 2004 Tina Arena sang with Zucchero on his wildly successful album Zu & Co, and she was in some pretty ridiculous company. “I did all my hits with the artist that I love, like Sting, Bono, Pavarotti, Bocelli, BB King, John Lee Hooker and many others, and there was a song that I thought was very good to do it in duet with a female voice,” Zucchero explains. “I was in Paris and I hear Tina Arena.”


Zucchero thinks it’s pretty amusing that I consider Pavarotti almost like a mythical figure of opera; sort of unreal in his mega legacy. “He was like my brother, because we know each other from 20 years, and he grew up in the same area where I grow up in Italy,” he says. “For example when we were together we speak in dialect, you know? And he was a very nice man, deep roots, and even if he was known everywhere, big everywhere, he keep playing cards with his friends, and of course he loved to enjoy drinking wine and eating and he was always very, very happy. So for me it was a fantastic companion. I always felt that he was very close to my soul.” Just two Italian guys playing cards, sure thing.


Love is All Around is the first single from La Sesión Cubana and is accompanied by a great video, following Zucchero through the streets of Havana. “It’s a lot of passion; even if they are poor, and they have of course big problems there, but they are always smiling, and they are always dancing, and everybody’s playing,” the musician explains simply. “It’s something that makes me thinking positive.”



ZUCCHERO plays The Palais on Friday April 12.