EXCLUSIVE! GALA OPENS HER HEART AND SHARES DETAILS OF HER LIFE.
I feel so proud to have a very interesting interview with Gala Rizzatto aka GALA. You probably known her for the Classic House music hits, such as “Freed From Desire”, “Let The Boy Cry”, among others. Well, the good news is that she’s back with more energy than ever before and has many new projects in mind. Read the full interview below.
1 – How did you get into House music?
When I was about 12 years old, I was told by an insensitive Italian doctor that I could not dance. Dance was my passion, it was the way I expressed myself. I would come home from kindergarden and primary school and the first thing I would ask my mother was to “put on the apple” (which meant to put on The Beatles’ vinyl records – they had a green apple on them and I would watch it spin on the vinyl player) so I could dance!
The day I was told that I could not dance something inside of me broke, it’s still in pieces now… I told myself that anything that I would live from that moment on was like a second life that I granted myself, but I didn’t really care about, because if it was for me I would rather die then. It wasn’t like: “I want to be a prima ballerina…” …it was worse, the doctor told me that I could not move too much in general in my life, try not to walk too much and dedicate myself to studying. I spent most my high school on books, reading and studying up to 12 hours a day. My body and my personality were born to live the exact opposite life, I was born to move, to dance, I still now have more energy then 20 years old kids…it’s just my nature, I am full of energy and it was almost a violence for me to have to spend those years sitting down.
On top of it, my parents were not religious, even if they came from religious families. So I didn’t have a church to go on Sundays, a community where to celebrate or pray… so the clubs became my church. Music is my world… 🙂
The clubs became the place where I would go to lose myself and find myself (In 2012 I wrote a song called: “Lose Yourself In Me“…that I realize now might have something to do with that desire to lose oneself…) I never did drugs, never tried any drug: cocaine, acids, ecstasy, mushrooms…nothing interested me, I just wanted to dance and listen to music and lose myself in a trance state… like the African dancer loses herself in the rhythms of the drums.
The clubs had the music, the kick drum that would vibrate inside me and the people of the night felt like me, outcasts.
At the time the clubs where different from clubs now, it wasn’t for everyone….it was the eccentric, the artists, the night “creatures” who came out at night in certain kind of clubs , the originals, the outcasts…NY in the early 90’s… the clubs were darker, no VIP areas or bottle of champagne and all that bullshit..it was the House music crowd, and now we are going back to that vibe, and I am very happy about it. (I also went through a period of more EDM remixes : the two singles I released “Lose Yourself In Me” and “Taste Of Me” had remixes more in that direction, and it was cool in that moment, but I never really cared much about those remixes and more about writing a good song and focusing on the original version, now with House and Deep House coming back in trend , I enjoyed the process of collaborating with DJs and doing remixes so much more.
In NY, as an art student in the early 90’s I started to dance again, forgetting all about what the doctor said and I started dancing Sabar, an African dance from Senegal, and other dances from Mali, Guinea, etc. The live sound of the drums reconnected me to rhythm, the essence of music, and dance.
“Freed From Desire” was dedicated to my first love, one of the younger dancers of the National Ballet of Senegal at the time…and his wonderful Senegalese community of dancers and drummers.
2 – How did you start the new year?
I was in Dakar, Senegal for New Year’s Day 2015 and I was supposed to go to Youssou Ndour concert but unfortunately I arrived too late and he was on stage already! I went into the crowd and just watched the show. Youssou Ndour didn’t know me or my face so he didn’t recognize me.
At one point Pape Moussa Sonko (best dancer in Senegal right now from the National Ballet Du Senegal who corresponded to my boyfriend twenty years before….) comes on stage to dance and he plays with the crowd; I start dancing with him from the crowd,
He was so surprised to see me dance Sabar that he called me up on stage and we started dancing together while Youssou Ndour was singing.
I left stage and Youssou’s friend started asking who I was. When he found out that I was Gala (my song was a hit in Senegal) he was able to let Youssou Ndour know that I was there (while he was performing for thousands of people) so Youssou called me up on stage again and I got to sing acapella a little bit of “Freed From Desire”, and I started 2015 like that! A magical coincidence!
The crazy thing is that my hit song was dedicated to the Senegalese dance community in NY and in particular to a guy who at the time was part of the National Ballet Du Senegal just as Pape Moussa! I was never before in Senegal and in 2015 we are celebrating the 20th anniversary of this song!
So I explained on stage this unbelievable magical coincidence and circle that closed for me… And what made me so damn happy is that I got on stage not for my name but for my uncontrollable need for dancing!!!
3 – In 1996 you released the song “Freed From Desire”. It was an unbelievable success played by all the Top Dance DJs. What is this song about?
The song is a Buddhist prayer. FREED FROM DESIRE, MIND AND SENSES PURIFIED.
As I explained in my previous answer, the clubs were my “church” and if I ever had a religion or philosophy of life, Buddhism would be probably the only philosophy that I could feel close to. So, you have no idea how is my pleasure when I see an entire club dancing and singing to these lyrics like a prayer.
I was and I am still shocked every single day by the injustice, the unfair distribution of wealth in the world. The night I wrote the song I went from a famous uptown restaurant in NY eating with some people I knew, to going back to my boyfriend in Harlem who was sleeping with other 5 people in a small house and even had big rats in the apartment.
But what was more interesting to me is that he and his friends were so much happier and had the life I dreamt of: playing music and dancing and having a community to support them, while the people uptown seemed so unhappy talking about the jewels they could not afford…and the frustrations they had about not getting a bigger house or boat, comparing themselves to richer friends.
“Freed From Desire” talks about this. Happiness is connected to how meaningful our lives are, not how much we have.
4 – From who do you take inspiration?
I am inspired by music itself. When I listen to great music I am inspired in many ways, I am inspired to be a better person and a better artist. Music can make you feel sexual if you weren’t feeling so, or hopeful when you were down, it can make you want to change the world, or cry..it’s incredible how powerful music is.
It’s not easy for me to listen to music because it can be too powerful actually… when I saw my first concert, it was Prince… and I was depressed for a year… because I felt I could not create what he created… I was in school and had to study greek, latin, math and philosophy, stuck to my desk… when I just wanted to drop it all and study music instead… but in Italy unless you were studying at he classical conservatory, there weren’t many possibilities to create and study music… and that’s another reason why the clubs were the place where I could find that energy… now I see all these famous artists coming from music schools like Berkley or the Brit School and I wish I had the possibility to go to such schools it would have been amazing.
5 – What are you working on at the moment?
I am looking for music collaborators to create something new and interesting. I have a great idea for a new project that involves also DJs and clubs but I am not sure I will have the budget and support to be able to make it, so I’m working on it… my dream is to mix genres (I love rock and blues, electro and house) I would like to create music that is eclectic, I normally create music like this, but the music that gets released and promoted is usually a genre that people can put into a box, my dream is to tour for two or three years straight with a band.
6 – Are you planning a concert tour?
I would love to… I think people don’t understand that without a label/manager and a booking agent it’s not easy to do it. People put me in the 90’s box and book me for 90’s events and I want to perform new music. it’s a constant struggle…I booked a show as a headliner show at the Winter Olympics in Sochi on my own, without a label or manager, it took me 3 months of work.
You can check it here:
7 – Do you have any performance rituals before you go on stage?
Shower.. In a hot shower I go over the whole show in my head…I read Agassi’s bio and he did the same with a tennis match.
8 – What do you enjoy other than creating music?
9 – What was the worst song of the 90’s?
I didn’t like Eurodance… so all Eurodance for me wasn’t good. This is funny because I am known for that music, but it’s not what I listened to… I did like Deep House, underground House and Tribal House. I liked Le tigre, nirvana, etc.
10 – What do you miss most about the 90s?
I miss having met Steve Fargnoli who was Prince’s manager and he became my manager in 1998…I miss the support of someone professional and good, I never met another manager or label who understood me as he did and supported me.
I have been on my own since 2000, and it’s been lonely and not easy… but definetly a life lesson.