Rocco Loves Irma



Previously on this blog, I had written about the roots of Rocco’s Música!Musica!,  about a moment in time late in the 20th century when I was introduced to the music of Federico and Francesco Montefiori aka Montefiori Cocktail.

It was through their music I began to discover a new sound that was coming from Italy.  It was a familiar sound, a sound with its pulse on American jazz and r&b, on latin jazz, Brazilian bossa nova and other genres. It was a lounge sound, but modern lounge.  Cocktail music for the 21st century.

And it was at this time I also discovered a record label, that focused not only on this modern lounge, but was at the forefront of house, electronica nu jazz and many other genres not only in Europe but in the Americas as well.

Irma Records of Bologna, Italy was founded by Umbi Damiani and Massimo Benini in 1988. Initially their focus was on House music, and they had international dance hits with artists such as Soft House CompanyBe Noir and Double Dee.

Irma then began to delve into album production. Jestofunk was their first project with Love In A Black Dimension. The album was an international hit with tracks such as Can We Live, Say It Again and I’m Gonna Love You.

Irma branched out and began to produce other genres such as acid jazz and trip hop. They brought in artists such as Sarah Jane Morris, Bossa Nostra, Ohm Guru, Black & Brown and Gazzara.  The Italian Hip Hop scene also appeared at this time and Irma discovered one of the scene’s most important artists, Frankie Hi Ng and his song Fight Da Faida.

In the mid to late 1990s, Irma was at the forefront of the modern lounge-chillout scene. Their  compilation cd series Irma Chill Out Café was a big success. In addition, artists like Montefiori Cocktail brought a fresh take to the lounge-cocktail sound just in time for martinis in the new millennium.

Irma continued to experiment with different genres, adding to their repertoire breakbeat, jazz house and nu jazz. They also gave focus to artists exploring Brazilian sounds. Bossa Nostra with Bruna Loppez, Man Sueto, Banda Favela, Arcoris, Nu Braz. Their compilation series “Sister Bossa” was extremely popular.

In  2004, they had huge international success with the duo from São Paulo, Brazil Janaina Lima and Ramilson Maia aka Kaleidoscópio.  Their single “Você Me Apareceu” was a smash in Italy and the rest of Europe as well as in Japan.

2008 saw Irma take on indie music. Artists such as Silvia’s Magic Hands (Their song A Soldier’s Lament won the ‘Voices for Freedom – A Song for Amnesty” award), Captain Mantell (check out Uri Geller) and Drunken Butterfly (check out L’Ultima Risata [The Last Laugh])

In 2010 Irma released the debut album by Italian composer Nerio Poggi aka Papik. The album Rhythm of Life, an excellent lounge album featuring the voices of Alan Scaffardi and Ely Bruna, along with the single Staying For Good, received rave reviews in Europe and Japan.

The spectrum of genres and artists is vast at Irma. And they continue to explore and produce new sounds from all over the world. If one visits their online store, where vinyl and cds are still available, one can see the wide genre selection they offer.  (They also carry a great collection of some of the early works of Brazilian artist Eumir Deodato.)

I have a certain affinity for Irma.  In a way, they, along with Montefiori Cocktail, saved my musical life. A bit melodramatic? Yeah. But please allow me to explain.

I’ve always had a passion for music. I was influenced by the music my older brothers and sister played on the stereo. The Beatles, Herman’s Hermits, Hendrix, The Association. As I started to develop my own musical tastes, Elton John became my first pop hero. As I grew into my teens  Bowie, Iggy and the Sweet  as well as Aerosmith, Rush and the Rolling Stones.  UK punk then became a passion. The Clash, Sex Pistols, X-Ray SpexSlaughter and the Dogs, et al. After high school, in the 1980s, I listened to punk closer to home – Black Flag, Dead Kennedys, Wasted Youth, Angry Samoans.

August 24, 1990 I went to check out a band, that was receiving a lot buzz around the city of Seattle – Nirvana.  They were the opening act for Sonic Youth at the Moore Theatre.  The opening strains of their cover of Shocking Blue’s Love Buzz sent me into a tizzy. I was hooked. I became a fan.

Nirvana along with Soundgarden, Pearl Jam, Mudhoney  –  the grunge sound came to the forefront globally.  As one who was born and grew up in the Seattle area, I was proud of it. It was also around this time I was leaving Seattle to find myself,  but I would never be far from home as the global appeal of grunge would help keep me connected.

I was living in Vancouver, BC, Canada, when Kurt Cobain took his life.  April 5, 1994. I still hate the newspapers for printing that fucking photo of Cobain dead on the floor of his house.  It felt like with one click of the trigger, not only did Kurt leave us but the grunge scene died.  Something died inside me as well.  I lost interest in music.  I no longer wanted to put any emotional investment into it.  I continued listening to rock (In that decade, Canada had some great artists like 54-40, The Tragically Hip, Rheostatics, etc.), but my enthusiasm had waned.  Age definitely had something to do with it, but Cobain’s death sealed the deal.


So when I was introduced to the sound of Montefiori Cocktail, it was the first time in about 5 years I had become excited over music.  They resuscitated my enthusiasm and love of music.  I wanted to find more and more like it. I didn’t have to look far to stoke the fires of my musical renaissance, because the Irma Record label presented me with a whole new world of sound.

And with this new-found enthusiasm for music coupled with the arrival of YouTube (a global jukebox in itself)  I discovered even more new artists, new genres, new labels, which eventually led to the vehicle through which I can share my passion.

Below you can tune into Rocco Loves Irma. An audio love letter featuring many of Rocco’s favorite tunes on the Irma label.  You will hear Montefiori Cocktail, Robert Passera, Bengi Jumping, The Shiffers, Italian Secret Service, Ivana Parnasso, Kaleidoscopio, Don Carlos, LTJ X-Perience, Belladonna, Ohm Guru, Marcheselli Produzioni, Zerosospiro, Agnese Manganaro, Papik, DJ Rodriguez and much more. I hope you enjoy it.

And with that, I raise a glass to Umbi and Massimo.  And to Irma with love. Cin cin.