The Porretta Soul Festival: Celebrating 35 Years of Captivating Music


A photo from a past edition of Porretta Soul

This summer marks the 35th year the annual Soul Festival takes center stage in Porretta Terme. Since its inception in 1988, this vibrant festival has become a cherished event, and will be held this year from July 20 to July 23 in the aptly-named Rufus Thomas Park. Renowned as the “Soulsville Europe,” the town has established itself as the predominant European hub within the soul community. 

Prepare to be captivated by a lineup of exceptional artists who will grace the stage during this soulful extravaganza. Leading the pack on July 20 are the Lehmanns Brothers, a talented six-member band hailing from France, who formed their group out of their shared love for black music. Their infectious songs, I Wanna Be and Inked leave new and seasoned followers of the genre craving for more. 

On July 21, the legendary Bobby Rush will take the spotlight. At the remarkable age of 89, this soul maestro continues to create music, boasting an impressive discography spanning over seven decades. Best known for his iconic hit, Chicken Heads, released in 1971, Rush has been honored with two Grammy Awards, induction into the “Blues Hall of Fame,” and an astounding 14 Blues Music Awards. 

The following day, July 22, Curtis Salgado, a charismatic blues singer and songwriter from Portland, Oregon, will grace the stage. Salgado’s performance will include selections from his album Soul Shot, paying tribute to the soulful sounds of the 1970s with a touch of blues. 

The grand finale on July 23 will feature multiple incredible acts. Mighty Mo Rodgers, an electrifying blues musician, will leave audiences spellbound with his soul-stirring melodies. Rodgers gained widespread recognition with his breakout hit Picasso Blue from 2003. Charlie Wood, a sensational artist, will also take the stage, contributing to the evocative atmosphere of the festival. 

Tickets for this year’s event are priced at 38.50, granting attendees entry into the entralling world of soul music. Drawing inspiration from the heartland of soul music, Memphis, Tennessee, particularly focusing on the vibrant 1960s era, this festival infuses Porretta Terme with a vibrant energy each year. Graziano Uliani, the festival’s visionary Artistic Director and founder, consistently introduces both esteemed headliners and fresh, emerging voices from the soul music industry. An official honorary citizen of Memphis, Uliani’s admiration of the music and culture of soul has connected him with some of the most renowned names in the field.

Over the course of the festival’s existence, luminaries from Isaac Hayes to Swamp Dogg to the Memphis Horns have brought their unique sounds to the enchanting town of Porretta Terme, leaving an indelible mark on its cultural landscape. 

Uliani’s passion for soul music was ignited during his teenage years and has remained an ever-present force throughout his life. Continuously discovering new and talented artists, Uliani’s unwavering devotion led to attracting the timeless sounds, culture, and figures that define soul music. Alongside the performances, the festival also offers street food, an integral part of the immersive experience. Both the music and culinary delights serve as nourishment for the soul, bringing the community together in a harmonious celebration. 

It’s worth noting that Rufus Thomas and Soloman Burke, two pioneering fathers of soul music, have not only been influential role models but also close friends of Uliani. In honor of Burke and Thomas’s immense contributions to the soul music industry, a park, bridge, and amphitheater in Porretta Terme have been dedicated to their names, serving as a testament to the enduring legacies of the two giants of soul. 

Each year attendees are immersed in the soulful embrace of the festival. The powerful melodies and heartfelt performances transport residents and visitors alike to a realm where the rich tapestry of soul music intertwines with the genuine admiration held by the community, leaving an irrefutable imprint on the spirit of those present. As other festivals across the continent focus solely on the most commercially successful acts in the soul scene, Porretta’s investment in its authentic essence sets it apart as a true celebration of the genre. This year’s Soul Festival is sure to be another installment in the rich history of the relationship between the beautiful town of Porretta Terme and the emotive musical existence of soul.  (Jonah Foster)

For information on the program, visit the website.