This Italian hard neomelodic electronic producer melds hardcore with traditional Neapolitan song to riotous results. Nziria chats to their fellow producer, DJ and label-owner mastermind Gabber Eleganza whose Paris-based raves casual gabberz captured our hearts before Nziria caught our wandering eye.
Nziria’s album xxybrid gives sound to hybridity. The opener ‘ E Riavule echoes in a way that brought another non-binary experimentalist, Dorian Electra’s Monk Mode to mind in its ritual catholic inspiration. Yet, rather than exploding out in teeth-gritting guitar and metal vocals, like Electra’s Monk Mode,E Riavule pushes into the base of our stomachs through deep reverberating pulses that are sure to stir and inspire on the dance floor. This album is best experienced as embodied in movement. E Riavule meanwhile references the devil and its number 77 in the Italian tombola, that traditionally would be seated. Each song evokes an activity: already available to stream or buy, the song Amam Ancora takes us for dinner and an industrial folk dance. The title of Nziria’s album appears to reference physical as well as sonic hybridity; xxybrid starts with xxy, the chromosome pattern that is associated with non-binary and intersex biology. It’s interesting to note the xxy pattern can give rise to unique physical attributes to bodies and experiences during puberty - medically this is described in an ironically binary way: people with xxy chromosomes can be men with wider hips, larger breasts and less facial hair or as women who don’t have periods amongst other variations. Hybridity and existence outside or between the frontiers of genre and gender is a special quality that xxybrid proudly wears its sonic DNA. The full album drops 20th May on Gabber Eleganza’s label Never Sleep.

In the meantime, Nziria won’t stop cooking up bangers and released Musica Nova on 21st April with Mai Mai Mai, the title has a smirk but the album cover looks like something not to be messed with. Ancient and contemporary, Nziria is one to watch as their resurrect art from the past to dance with the ghouls of Italian history, present and future. Gabber Eleganza says of the interview, “It’s an honour to release on Never Sleep this debut album with not only an artist with extreme integrity and talent, but also that fits the ethos of the label. We are strict at the label not on musicality but on the fearlessness of a DIY artist and we prefer to work with people with such spirit and Nziria is all that and more.” They both talk eloquently.
Gabber Eleganza: To start at the beginning, what is your favourite childhood memory involving music?
Nziria: I have a few actually. I remember my mum bought me a karaoke station when I was 4, all the Italian 90s kids will remember Canta Tu, it was a tape player with a microphone, you would load the tape with the instrumentals and sing along with the mic, I used to love it!
Another memory relates to my grandparents. They had this hi-fi system in the living room with a big collection of vinyl records. I used to spend whole afternoons rummaging through their discs, some of them were Neapolitan music, such as Gigi D’Alessio, Renato Carosone and Pino Daniele.
GE: What inspired you to make your project?
N: I was born in Ravenna, in northern Italy, from a family of Neapolitans who emigrated in the mid-80s. The environment in which I grew up was quite hostile towards southerners, they called me terrona, which is a derogatory word for people from the south of Italy. This led me to be ashamed of my origins, to reject them in order to adapt to this closed, regionalist social context. When I grew up, I started to travel a lot around Italy, and every time I went to Naples I found aspects of my childhood spent with my grandparents, that generated in me the need to rediscover my roots, that are embedded in the rich and varied cultural context of Naples.
Being a musician, the most natural way to investigate these aspects was through music, especially singing. I’ve been doing music for several years and had always moved inside the underground environment, especially industrial techno, noise, wave.
But I’ve always felt frustrated as I couldn’t fully express myself vocally: my journey in music started as a singer and though I’ve spent a long time focusing on production and programming, my voice will always be my main instrument. Neomelodic is a genuine method to express myself in music through my voice, and it came out pretty naturally, no one taught me how to do it. It’s powerful, dramatic, emotional, baroque, and this is something I can personally relate to. Then when I first listened to Gabber Eleganza’s Never Sleep, the first thing I heard in my ears was a tarantella. That was the very first input that triggered me the urge to try new practices to reinterpret the neapolitan tarantella (or tammurriata) in a new contemporary way. That was my first step towards Nziria.
GE: If you could work with any artist - dead or alive - who would it be?
N: Well, in production, I’d definitely love to collaborate with Roly Porter, Lanark Artefax and of course SOPHIE. As a singer, I’d love a featuring with Eartheater and Rosalía.
GE: Community and social constructs are changing in music. What do you think of these generational changes?
N: I think this is a time when old social structures are starting to crumble. Teens today are much more aware and sensitive about issues like environmentalism, gender identity, transfeminism and diversity, therefore I have faith in the new generations.
It’s no longer possible to look the other way: years and years of wrong policies and cultural impoverishment of cities are leading to a break that is not only inevitable but also desirable.
People are increasingly aware of the fact that all the dynamics of oppression are interconnected and if we really want to change things we have to start from the bottom.
In my opinion, this is the only way to break down the structures and social distortions that have shaped the world, where only some privileged can live well on the backs of all the others, using as an excuse for their own looting a false morality, that has led only to divisions and discrimination.
GE: Could you please define the essence of hardcore?
N: I discovered Hardcore when I was 12 at a friends’ place. I remember I saw them dancing Hakken and I found it extremely fascinating. When I used to come back home from school, I used to listen to compilations from Rotterdam Terror Corps and Masters of Hardcore, it was a sort of escapism to me. Hardcore is a force able to take the aesthetic experience to its limits and even beyond, it’s powerful, cathartic and can lead you to euphoric states of consciousness.
GE: Let’s talk about some history and folklore, how has the Femminielli influenced your work, especially in the video for Amam Ancora?
N: The figure of the Femminielli is almost a unicum in the Italian cultural landscape, a very ancient figure, liminal and full of mystery and magic. During my research into the folds of Neapolitan subcultures, I came across the figure of the Femminiello or Femmenella, a biological male sex person who identifies as gender non-conforming, typical of the ancient Neapolitan traditional popular culture. The Femminiello is closely linked to the anthropological reality of Neapolitan alleys and their strong sense of community, through also propitiatory practices and rituals intrinsically connected to the Catholic religion and paganism.
During the writing of the script for the video of Amam Ancora, we (me and Bianca Peruzzi, the director) decided to represent, through a precise aesthetic, defined above all by the use of tableaux vivants, a community that could support, in an almost physical way, the pain of the protagonist of our story, Charlie, at the precise moment in which they realise they’ve lost their loved one.
In distorting the imagery of marriage, we took great inspiration from the Femminielli’s ritual practices, especially the sposalizio masculino, a ritual in which a Femminiello stages a symbolic wedding, not necessarily aimed at tying themselves to another person, with the support of the whole community, which helps them prepare and accompanies them to the altar in a participatory and celebratory manner, transforming the streets into a big neighbourhood party. The element of sacred is one of the cornerstones of this project, where pagan rituals intertwine with catholic religion, and the Femminiello stands exactly in between this syncretism. In the first track of the record, ‘ E Riavule 77, I manipulated a sample from a night of tombola, a lottery-style board game originated in Naples, where a Femminiello tells a myth on the figure of the Devil, which is associated to the number 77. My idea was to start the record with a Femminiello because I wanted this album to inherit some of the traits of this magical figure: hybrid, mysterious, lucky and of course queer.
GE: What is it like breaking gender stereotypes: being non-binary and queer in Italy.
N: Being non-binary in Italy is not easy. Many times I have to explain to other people what my gender is, how I feel, how I want to be recognised, and it’s not easy: it is very difficult to make people understand what it means to be non-binary, what it means to be gender non-conforming. You can either do medicalisation or not, you can keep your name and use other pronouns, or continue to use the pronouns assigned at birth, the nuances are many and all of them must be respected.
DDL Zan was yet another failed attempt: a decree-law against homobitransphobic crimes, already present in many countries, rejected by the Italian Senate in 2021, which clearly indicates the level of political debate on the protection of the queer community.
This climate leaves room for so much discrimination, in 2020 Italy ranked first in Europe for the number of transphobic murders. I’ve often walked down the street with my girlfriend, and received harassment from guys, from making a pass at us to real provocations, and in those moments you have to keep your calm because the harassment could also become a real aggression. Despite the fact that institutional politics refuse to understand that things have changed - and certainly this is also reflected in the discrimination, harassment, violence and aggression that queer people suffer everyday - I also think that the Italian queer community is lively and creative and increasingly strong, and I hope that this push from the bottom one day will reach beyond the glass ceiling and destroy it.
GE: Who are your favourite neomelodic artists?
N: I love Tony Colombo’s voice, his songs are actually my favourites, such as Si Bella Comm’ e’ Napule although some of his lyrics are very hetero-cis normative and far from my ideals, but I can detach from it and, as a singer, can appreciate his vocal performance. Among my favourites voices there are Franco Ricciardi, Mario Merola and Angela Luce. Moreover, compared to other singers, Nino D’Angelo’s has never played the macho stereotype, which is why I really appreciate him, plus Popcorn e Patatine is such a timeless hit!
GE: What is hard neomelodic music?
N: I imagined the genre hard neomelodic as a hybridisation of romantic songwriting of neomelodic and gabber influence. To me it also means pushing boundaries to get straight to people's guts. There’s a special connection that links neomelodic music to hardcore: both are instinctive and sanguine, they touch an emotional sphere that strips away all intellectual and rational superstructures to communicate on a visceral level.
GE: What are your plans for the future?
N: I’m already working on a second album, which will be like a chapter 2. This project is firstly a personal journey aimed to re-discover my roots through music, so to me the journey has just started.
Nziria 6 by Alice Gangemi.jpg