This biography by Barbara Salani is based on the adventures of two brothers, Renato and Giulio Salani, the author’s uncle and father, respectively. Performing and writing music goes back for generations in the author’s family. The protagonists in this work of non-fiction achieved great success in life, but the story of their struggles are in a word – amazing. Imprisoned at the Fossoli concentration camp during the Second World War, their musical talents were important in simply staying alive during that period, but their persistence, courage, hard work and faith in God sustained them during their captivity.
Their mother Maria had been born in Brazil from Italian immigrant parents, but moved to Italy when she was young. Her father, Euclide was born in the province of Modena and made his way to Brazil to seek his fortune. They met after Maria moved back to Brazil. After getting married, the couple had three girls and one boy while in Brazil. They felt that it was safer to raise the girls in Italy and moved the family to Viareggio, where Giulio was born. Music was always in the household while the boys grew up. Renato studied piano, while Giulio studied violin. Renato was a young teen when he first began playing professionally and could simultaneously play the trumpet with one hand and the piano with the other. He was considered a musical prodigy.
Interesting stories abound, such as when Renato was drafted into the Italian Navy when he turned 18 in 1940. He was soon transferred to Rome to play in the Navy Orchestra, while Giulio, who was three years younger, drove a truck delivering food for his uncle. Although Renato was the one in the armed forces, it was Giulio who was in the greater danger – his truck was attacked by aircraft six times during the war.
The book recounts the terrible events in Italy following the country’s recapitulation, the family’s relocation and ultimately the imprisonment of the two young men by the Germans. Both brothers had trained as accountants and Renato was an excellent typist. It was due to those skills that they were delayed in transportation to Germany – they needed clerical help. One of the sources used to write this book was Renato Salani’s diary. While he had the use of a typewriter, he didn’t have paper and instead used toilet paper! The stories of the brothers’ imprisonment is provided in fascinating detail. They escaped after four months, which in itself is a unique tale. They proceeded to walk through the mountains, finding guides, playing music and finally meeting up with U.S. soldiers, who placed them in a refugee camp. Soon enough they were able to go home.
“Music for Life: The Salani Brothers” also includes the experiences of several inmates from the concentration camp. The numerous interviews with the leading characters were carried out by the author, Barbara Salani, over the course of four years.
Renato and Giulio continued in the musical field following the war and in 1953, wrote a song for the San Remo Music Festival, a prestigious international showcase. Later, the Salani brothers joined the Fred Buscaglione’s Asternovas Orchestra and travelled in a series of tours in various cities of Italy and Europe. Later moving to Venezuela, the later chapters of the book relate the years when the Salani brothers founded and worked in their Nightclub Hipocampo in Caracas.
The leading theme of the book is music. In this biography, music is really the thread that ties all of the adventures and episodes together. From the darkest moments, to the best of times, there is the music of Renato and Giulio. Their music can be heard online at www.4loveofmusic.com. “Music for Life: The Salani Brothers” is available at Amazon.com (paperback $14.99).
About the Author
Barbara Salani is a world acclaimed concert pianist and lives in Boca Raton, Florida. She brought together members of her family to write the incredible tale of the exploits of her father and uncle. She was assisted in her work by her brother, cousin, aunt and of course, the recollections of the two talented brothers.