Italian pop artist Francesco Gabbani sings about Buddha, nirvana, and mantras in his critically-acclaimed indictment of Western consumerism.
On Saturday, an Italian song about the emptiness of Western consumer culture came sixth at Europe’s wildly popular song competition, Eurovision. Occidentali’s Karma, by Francesco Gabbani, was Italy’s entry to the contest, and while the song (which is flush with Buddhist references) didn’t win, it was a hit with critics. The song was the most watched music video of the contest and was chosen as a favorite by fans and the press.
Prior Saturday’s final, Guardian critic Stuart Jeffries picked “Occidentali’s Karma” as his favorite to win the contest, saying, “Franceco’s message about the perils of decadence and materialism demands to be heard by citizens of a continent that needs to heal itself pronto.”
The song’s Italian lyrics call on Westerners to examine their lives. “Some people really are know-it-alls and selfie obsessed,” Gabbani said in an interview. “In the end we become aware that after all we’re naked apes.” (That’s a reference to ethologist Desmond Morris, author of The Naked Ape, who is quoted in the song.)
The title of the song translates to “Westerner’s Karma.” Along with karma, the song references the Buddhist concepts of Buddha, nirvana, and mantras. The music video pushes the reference further, taking place in a Japanese Buddhist shrine room, with Gabbani dressed in ersatz monks’ robes.