5pm, Auditorium Shores; Fri., 8:30pm, St. David's Bethell Hall
Now living in New York, Jovanotti has become a paradox. The Italian pop star plots an upcoming summer tour of his home country's biggest stadiums, where he'll play in front of 80,000 adoring fans. At the same time, he's introducing himself to an American audience that doesn't know Jovanotti from Pavarotti.
"I feel a little bit schizophrenic," he admits.
At 46, the thoughtful, engaging, and wiry Tuscan has matured into an ambassador of the arts. Still, he approaches life with the same panache as the brash kid sporting a crass Beastie Boys-inspired T-shirt on the cover of 1988's Jovanotti for President, Italy's first rap album.
"I was crazy for 'Rapper's Delight,' and everything started from there," he remembers. "I was one of the few interested in that sort of music, maybe the only one actually."
Jovanotti began his career as a hip-hop DJ, and his music remains rooted in rap. Still, he's not entirely comfortable being labeled a hip-hop artist and probably has more in common with Jamiroquai than Jam Master Jay.
"In the United States, you need definitions," he posits. "You need to be able to define the music of somebody in two words, but for me, it's difficult to do that. I'm a human being, I'm complex. I can wake up one morning and do a gospel song, and then after lunch I can become techno. At 8 o'clock, I can become funk. Life is like that."
Whatever the label, Jovanotti's music taps into what he believes is a universal pulse.
"Rhythm was the first primary communication tool before language. It was a language before language. You use rhythm to make love, you use rhythm to make war. Scientists say the universe is made of rhythm. The stars are pulsing. The sun is sort of a big rhythm machine. When you synchronize yourself with this kind of universal rhythm in music, something really strong can happen."