Since May, Manuel Moscati updates his Facebook page in two different languages ― Italian and Albanian.
“I’m following an online course to learn Albanian,” he said.
Manuel Moscati, 29, from Rome, felt the urge to learn Albanian as soon as he was announced to be one of the contestants on the local edition of the worldwide talent show “X Factor”. Manuel began to attend a singing school at 16 years old, following his older brother’s footsteps. At 24 he joined and won many local singing contests and met his first producer. Then, a slow, intense road to success began; in 2012 the singer made it to the final round of the famous Italian pop song Festival of Sanremo, in the “Sanremo Social” category. Manuel is currently promoting his new single “L’Altra Parte di Me” (The Other Side of Me).
Numerous times Manuel attempted to enter popular national televised contests such as “Amici,” but unfortunately something stopped him from participating each time; until, finally, in May 2014, the X Factor Albania producers enjoyed his audition and asked him to fly to Tirana for a further audition in front of the show’s four judges.
“It was my first time in Albania,” said Manuel. “There are many prejudices about Eastern Europe, but I immediately fell in love with Tirana. It’s a beautiful city ― old on the outside, new in the inside.”
The people, says Manuel, were extremely welcoming and warm. Thanks to this he was able to quickly adjust to the local lifestyle, which ― hard to believe ― is even more relaxed than the Italian one. “You can’t take an espresso at the bar and leave, as we do in Rome. You have to sit down, have a chat, enjoy the coffee, and then you can go.”
Albanians love Italy and its culture ― and Manuel knows this and uses it to his advantage. For his audition in front of the judges back in May, he performed “Volare” by Domenico Mudugno, one of the most famous Italian pop songs in history. The audience fell in love with Manuel’s versatile voice instantly as it is at times soft as a whisper, while other times powerful and confident.
Manuel is very open minded and determined, as he is willing to make the best out of his experience in Albania. On the X Factor he was assigned to judge Alban Skenderaj, and thus he started learning some of his most famous hits so that he will be able to perform them during the live shows. Manuel is set to renew a strong cultural and artistic tie between Albania and Italy: last year, Albanian singer Elhaida Dani won the Italian edition of “The Voice.”
Although it’s exciting to finally have the chance to have his breakout on national television, leaving Italy is also puzzling to Manuel. The singer, who is an active member of the Jewish community of Rome, has always felt a strong bond with his religious life in Italy: he attended the Jewish day school in Rome and participated in the Maccabees as a volleyball player in Antwerp in 2003. This year, Manuel was a Jewish music coach at the same contest in Rome.
As a public figure and tireless traveler, Manuel often has to explain his Jewish identity to people. “I always try to explain what this is all about. I often go to the synagogue and visit Israel at least once a year. My faith goes hand in hand with my music. However, it’s very hard for me to keep Shabbat when I’m on the road.” The singer feels very comfortable about his religion also in Albania, and he also has learned about the relationship this country has with the Jews, as he stated “during World War II, the Albanians saved many Jews from the Nazis.”
X Factor Albania is starting in January 2015, and while he is waiting for a new, important chapter of his life and career to begin, Manuel is also working on his first studio album. “I submitted a new song for the 2015 edition of the Festival of Sanremo. We have some great surprises on the way”, he said, excited for the bright future ahead of him.
In the meantime Manuel continues to live his double life, suspended between two different countries. And, of course, posting Facebook statuses in two different languages. Because this is a great adventure and nobody should be left out.
*Simone Somekh is a student at Bar-Ilan University, Israel, and works as a freelance writer. Shirly Piperno, fashion styling and communication student at Istituto Marangoni, London, contributed reporting.