Arts, Culture & Media

Global Hit

This is the voice of Elisa Toffoli. Elisa - her stage name - is an Italian singer. She writes most of her songs in English. This tune "The Waves" is from Elisa's latest recording Dancing.

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Elisa is an Anglophone when it comes to songwriting, in part because of her pop music influences. Jim Morrison and the Doors and the Rolling Stones, especially. But she also took a deep interest in the poetry of Rudyard Kipling. When she was growing up in Trieste, English transported Elisa.

Elisa does write the occasional song in Italian. Most significantly, when she was 22, she wrote this tune, "Luce."

That's Elisa performing "Luce" for us in the studios of KCRW in Los Angeles.

In 2001, a year after Elisa wrote it, she took "Luce" to the prestigious San Remo Festival, Italy's toughest pop music competition. She took the critics prize and the grand prize.

Elisa buzz snowballed after that. She performed with Pavarotti. She sang a jazzed up gospel version of the Italian national anthem at the Salt Lake City Olympics in 2002.

And every CD she releases in Italy seems to sell in the hundreds of thousands. Elisa's 2006 greatest hits album sold over 700,000 copies.

Now she's launching herself in the states. Next week, she heads off on a 17 date North American tour that begins in Toronto.

Her label, Sugar Music, has found that Elisa already has a small following in North America, among Italians and...in the gay community.

Sugar Music has decided to follow those demographics and that money.Elisa is going along with the marketing plan, but with her arms wide open to all audiences.

Toffoli: "Marketing and like music, it's just very normal to have them mix. Marketing supporting music and music supporting marketing. But it's very exclusive to say this is only going to be for Italian people and for gay people. I would like to say that this is for anybody that want to hear this. It doesn't matter who you are or where you're from��what is your sexual preference."

Elisa wrote all the songs on her debut North American release. Except one. It's Leonard Cohen's "Hallelujah."

And though the tune is slowly turning into a cliche cover, Elisa takes full ownership of it.

Accompanied only by acoustic guitar and Hammond organ, Elisa's crystalline voice gives it a hymn-like quality.

And that's what we leave you with today.

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