26-06-2021 by Freddie del Curatolo
We created them.
Because we are not only a people of heroes, poets and navigators (on the internet) but also of scriptwriters of cinepanettoni, especially when the ideal set of our lives is a holiday.
In the past years the Italian ridens has exported to poor but beautiful countries where they can sunbathe in winter and breathe forgotten freedoms, not only his weak currency but also his innate humour. Not only that, but also the friendly but not at all didactic verve of Italianising everything to make it more familiar.
So in Malindi and Watamu we created the 'Beach Boys'.
Who else would have been able to transform Mohammed into Massimiliano? Who else would have been able to call a gifted little boy "Toblerone"?
And then they sew those names on themselves, they become real 'trademarks': so other Charo will become Carletto and nicknames will flourish like in the suburbs of Rome: there they are 'Er Patata' and 'Er Cicoria', here we have 'Bancomat' and 'Prezzemolo'.
Not long ago, walking in front of the White Elephant, I was introduced to a not-so-young rasta: 'How do you do, I'm Mestolo, the eighth dwarf'. Smiling at the joke, just so as not to disappoint him, but imagining his disappointment when he didn't see me rolling in the sand laughing, I asked him why he was called Dipper.
The explanation (as assured by the mzungu who advised him to call himself that) should intrigue the girls and make the boys very envious.
Mestolo, however, in the end fits like a glove even for those who were saddened to hear the reasons.
The dwarves are the most popular: besides the good ladle, who offers indifferently safaris and shells, there are also Vongolo, who began his career as a seller of shellfish and crustaceans and Bombolo, who is chubby and could be Thomas Milian's sidekick better than the original.
Then there are the musicians: in Watamu we have Zucchero, Vascorossi and Ramazotti (strictly with only one Z), if you ask about them by their real names, Kalume, Said and Festus, not even their countrymen know them anymore.
The luckiest are those who have been renamed so by true geniuses of calembour, by artists of the joke, on holiday in Kenya by pure chance, between a participation in "La sai l'ultima" and a course in lighting farts with a match in Fregene.
Thanks to them, the good Kitsao has become Schizzao, Kalama has turned into Calamaro, Katana Nzaro is contracted into Catanzaro.
Finally, since we are a people of heroes, navigators, comedians and technical commissioners, we could not miss the footballers: in Malindi you can ask for Totti and Il Pupone, and you will be surprised that they are not the same person, then we have Drogba (former Serie B drug dealer? Then we have Drogba (former B division drug dealer?), Etò (but he didn't want to be the former Cameroonian champion of Inter, he was simply called by someone from Bergamo from afar) and Gattuso, who is a boatman who evidently doesn't know the original from which his nickname is inspired, otherwise he would have been very resentful with whoever called him that the first time.
To end the roundup, we could not miss the politicians. And even here, when they show up, everyone laughs! It's a real eye-opener to see an African man greet you on a sunny island (which everyone calls "Sardinia 2", of course...), amidst the crystal clear blue of the sea and a deep blue sky, in the silence enhanced by the waves breaking on the coral reef, "Hello, my name is Salvini". You can imagine the level of jokes that follow one another, from our compatriots on free passage on the little boat. "If you were Renzi, I wouldn't even give you a hundred shillings" or "Hey Salvini, but you're black... what are you doing, hating yourself?". If our leaders knew that this makes the Italians laugh so much, they might think it works the other way around, presenting themselves on television with a 'good morning Italians, my name is Kazungu'.
But in a country that is as corrupt as Uganda and whose GDP grows less than that of Kenya, it could also be misunderstood.
No, there is no need to be brilliant at all costs, to rack your brains to find the joke or the double meaning.
For some time now, we Italians have been so good at making everyone laugh when we take ourselves seriously that it's just not worth it.
The least we could do on holiday was to grow a 'beach' population.
And now, with no more Italian tourism?
Will Cherry go back to being Kienyeji?
Will Abraham resume his life as Ibrahim?
All right, the name may be optional, what counts is the professionalism acquired. So, as the song says, don't call them "Beach Boys" anymore, but Beach Operators. They will thank you by smiling along with you, preparing their thumbs for selfies and shouting in unison: "ITALIA UNO!!!".
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