Our long time, cherished, collaborator Lorenza Calamandrei has long been a vanguard figure in the music industry, especially in the Italian first, then London Hip Hop scene. But Lorenza is not one to sing her own praises, so we had to wheedle a lot of her remarkable history out of her. You will understand why we treasure her contributions so dearly.
Lorenza is a musical pioneer and innovator and has always been ahead of her time, first as a young girl in Italy when she flipped for the emerging Hip Hop movement and became, for that genre, the first female DJ in her country. She segued to New York, plying her trade as a DJ for the world’s most iconic street artists — namely Remmellzee, Toxic, and Jean-Michel Basquiat — before returning to Italy to bang a new drum on ControRadio. Lorenza would next go on to open concerts for the likes of Jamiroquai, Brand New Heavies, and Guru Of Gang Starr and Jazzmatazz, and she was featured on the album Bobby Digital by RZA of Wu-Tang Clan fame. Later, in London, the masses convened whenever Lorenza DJ’ed for legendary celebs at amazing events such as the Notting Hill Carnival and at hot hangouts like Rotation and Jazz Cafe. Most notably, there, she was resident DJ at Met Bar. Presently, Lorenza spends a lot of time in Los Angeles where she composes and produces brilliant original music for multimedia projects and documentaries like Yvonne Scio’s Seven Women.
You started at a very young age, watching Grandmaster Flash, then Jam Master Jay from Run DMC…
I always wanted to be a bass player and a drummer at the same time, and then I saw Grandmaster Flash doing exactly that — by cutting the best part of a song or groove and looping on the fly and scratching it on top, creating a whole ‘nother track. I lost my mind. It was like an alchemy – one that still has a huge impact in my life.
It sounds like you are very prescient about musical talent and trends. What else attracted you?
It’s about a fresh new sound, a solid groove, an emotion, an evolution of a genre that takes its own life, and it’s a beautiful thing to experience… like an ancestral necessity and expression that is everchanging. I got into this industry as a soul necessity. Music was — and is — my everything, I am so thankful to be connected to the one true mass comunication, the common denominator that can transcend languages and barriers. And, not to sound cliché, but it does bring us together.
Over the years, you worked for Taylor Dayne, Jamiroquai, RZA, Jay-Z, Beyonce, and Will Smith — to name a few. That’s quite an eclectic lineup. How do you switch musical gears so easily?
It’s my DJ background. It’s very natural to me because, even after the many years of consuming music, you end up absorbing it till it’s like second nature. You feel what works well for an artist or a project or a documentary film.
And how fun is an Elton John birthday party?
Aha, I would say fun! That specific party was all strictly ’70s – and trust me those cats know their tunes. Thelma Houston was singing “Don’t Leave Me This Way,” and RuPaul was dancing with so many other amazing guests. We rocked the night and there were many last-minute, freestyle performances on that mic. Truly a fun night!
Being a woman in this industry, I don’t imagine it’s always been easy – especially when you’re working on the road, but has it been a good challenge?
I never thought about it until later in my career. You kind of get used to it, the circumstances and environments would certantly forge you. It’s not always been a walk in the park, but I believe a good work ethic and a strong talent can get you way further – after all we are here to change things for the better. And I do feel things are getting better in terms of equality, although there is still a lot of work to do. But I like to focus on the positive.
Back in the United States, what is your next “destination”?
I’ve been writing and producing music for the sequel of Yvonne Scio’s Seven Women documentary series. The first one was a deep look into the lives of some exceptional women, like Fran Drescher, Patricia Field, Bethann Hardison, Rosita Missoni. Their struggles, their hopes, and their suceesses are very inspirational. I am very thankful to have contributed the soundtrack to this amazing project. It’s on all the platforms – iTunes, etc. I am now working on the second part of this project, which features more amazing creative women. It’s an awesome group. I can’t say their names yet, but it’s coming and it’s powerful and I can’t wait to share it with the world.
You’re also working on an album project with Deborah Anderson…
Yes, and I am so excited about it. It’s sort of a new genre we are experimenting with. The incredibly talented Deborah Anderson has the voice of an angel and I’m so thrilled about the direction we’re taking.
And, in the best possible way, it sounds like another amazing new direction.
I keep going through this amazing journey, or realization actually, of how really we create our own reality. We’re still working on release dates. But it’s on.
It’s at that moment I realize that, with Lorenza, it’s never off.
Interview by Dominique Cipollone
Photography by Don Cunningham.