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Italian pianist Rita Marcotulli mixes Pink Floyd with jazz

Imagine a prominent saxophone and piano backing Pink Floyd’s signature rock tunes. Italian pianist Rita Marcotulli will make it possible this weekend

HT48HRS_Special Updated: Jan 28, 2016 19:21 IST
Poorva Joshi
Poorva Joshi
Hindustan Times
Rita Marcotulli,HT48Hours,Pink Floyd
Marcotulli’s biggest strength is jazz covers of songs by Pink Floyd

Pink Floyd released Cirrus Minor in 1969. The track was originally used for More, a film on heroin addiction that released in the same year. The song prominently features the organ — a keyboard-like instrument with multiple divisions — and bird sounds. With the absence of drums in the background, the song embodies dread — a signature style of the English progressive and psychedelic rock band.

Forty two years later, in 2011, a cover of the song was released by Italian pianist Rita Marcotulli (57). In stark contrast to the original, the cover is backed by a piano, a drum set and a saxophone. Replacing the eerie sound of the original song, this version is mellow, romantic, and transports you to a world that is not entirely devoid of hope.

This is Marcotulli’s biggest strength: jazz covers of songs by Pink Floyd, that, without changing the arrangement of the song, strip off the melancholy and uplift the mood. Winner of the David di Donatello award for best musician — the Italian equivalent of the Academy Award — in 2011, she is now set to perform in the city this weekend, as part of her global Pink Floyd tribute tour.

The India connect

Marcotulli’s tryst with music began in 1964, when she was five years old. Her favourite childhood activity was to create stories with musical notes instead of words. “Even then, more than learning the technique and nuances of the art, I was the happiest simply improvising for hours at length,” says the musician.

Marcotulli spent years developing a personal style, that was influenced by everything around her. “I am a curious person. So, anything that is expressed with creativity, imagination and vision, attracts me,” she says. And being a lover of percussion and rhythm, Marcotulli found some of her greatest influences in Indian music. “The concept of the tal (rhythm) is something that I’m passionate about, and I often try to compose songs that incorporate the tabla,” she adds.

All that jazz

Marcotulli’s heart still truly lies in improvisation, a style that comes through in her covers of classics like Money and Us and Them (from Pink Floyd’s 1973 album, The Dark Side of the Moon). She works with an eight member band, all of whom are all deeply moved by the legendary English bands’s music.

But how did jazz come to feature in Marcotulli’s works, we ask her. She promptly reminds us of Pink Floyd’s jazz origins. Be it Nick Mason’s signature drum crescendos or Roger Water’s guitar-laden singles, the composition technique is similar to the slow progression of a jazz track, she says. “Jazz gives the freedom to improvise on a strong idea. Pink Floyd did exactly that through their long, meandering soundtracks. What set them apart were their lyrics and hypnotic sounds,” says Marcotulli.

Be there

What: Rita Marcotulli will perform Tribute to Pink Floyd on January 30, at 8pm.

Where: Tata Theatre, NCPA, Nariman Point

Call: 6622 3737

Tickets: Rs 300 onward on

First Published: Jan 28, 2016 00:00 IST