This is a pretty special one, among my beloved mountain of 7″ soundtracks, and these tracks are in fact the only recordings by Eritrean-born Italian actress Zeudi Araya. The A track is fascinating and quite a hypnotizing piece, that pulls you right down into the beautiful deep dark water of sensuality. Composer Piero Umiliani recorded the soundtrack for La Ragazza Fuoristrada in 1973, which starred Zeudi in the lead role as Maryam, but for some reason the two vocal recordings for the film, did not end up on the soundtrack LP. But instead, and thankfully, they did end up on this Italian released single!
Piero was much more than a talented piano player and composer. He truly was one of the top master and pioneer composers of cult Italian films of the 60’s and 70’s. Providing soundtracks to films such a Il Marchio Di Kriminal 1968, Paranoia (Orgasmo) 1969, Five Dolls For An August Moon (5 Bambole Per La Luna D’Agosto) 1971, My Darling Slave (La Schiava Io Ce L’Ho E Tu No) 1973 and of course Sweden Heaven and Hell (Svezia, Inferno e Paradiso) 1968 in which Umiliani composes his famous Mah Nà Mah Nà, made famous by The Muppets.
Umiliani also founded his own label Omicron in 1964, where many more of his soundtrack works would be released. As he would also compose a lot of way out compositions that would not appeal to the Italian producers, this became the perfect outlet for him to release some of his incredible abstract, experimental and library albums such as Preistoria, Atmospheres, L’Uomo Nello Spazio and Psichedelica (Umiliani was also a great collector of music instruments from all over the world, and was one of the first in Italy to experiment with the Moog and other electronic keyboards). Some of his releases were under the alias Moggi, including my favorite Tra Scienza E Fantascienza from 1980, and also Omaggio a Einstein, Tensione and News! News! News!. By the end of his career he had written more than 150 soundtracks, without considering the music composed for documentaries, theatre and television.
While there’s so much to know and discover about the great Umiliani, unfortunately there’s not a lot out there regarding Zeudi. No official website and all the general film and music go to sites are very brief and unhelpful. Which is a real shame of course. Thankfully there’s one or two Italian websites that share a few details, that I’ve hopefully translated correctly.
Zeudi Araya was born on the 10th of February, 1951, in Asmara, Eritrea, Ethiopia, and is a former actress, singer, model and currently a film producer. Zeudi was the daughter of a politician and granddaughter of an Ethiopian ambassador to Rome. She graduated in 1969, and the same year she was elected Miss Eritrea. She is one of the best-known actresses of the Italian erotic cinema of the seventies, thanks to films such as La Ragazza Dalla Pelle Di Luna, La Ragazza Fuoristrada, and Il Corpo, and was second only to Laura Gemser, another icon of that particular Italian genre of cinema.
A trip to Italy opened the doors of Cinecittà to her almost by chance. In 1972 Araya starred in a commercial for a coffee, where director Luigi Scattini noticed her, and would cast her along with Beba Lončar, in his film La Ragazza Dalla Pelle Di Luna, shot in the Seychelles. The film is noted as being quite successful with the Italian audiences. The role was that of a girl from the Tropics who screwed up the marriage of a middle-class couple, with her overwhelming eroticism. Alberto, an engineer, and Helen, a magazine photographer, had been married for a few years, but their marriage was in crisis and they would betray one another. This debut film launched Araya as an up and coming actress. Mass media interest followed, as did other erotic films roles, mostly directed by Scattini from 1973 to 1975.
So the plot in her follow up film, that includes this feature track, La Ragazza Fuoristrada, again really circles deeply around Zeudi and her stunning model looks. Giorgio Martini, an advertising journalist who went for a shoot in Egypt, falls in love with the beautiful Maryam. He takes her with him to Ferrara, Italy, introduces her to his perplexed (perhaps disapproving) parents and marries her. Maryam’s ingenuity, spontaneity and sincerity burst into this provincial town and collide with a hypocritical, mean and racist environment. He will then be the victim of the cruel game of a former mistress of the journalist and of a joke combined by two rejected friends. Giorgio, thinking that Maryam has betrayed him, begins to neglect her. After having an abortion, she abandons him and returns to her people. Umiliani’s score throughout this film is wonderfully suited and at times just breathe taking (I’m basing this from the clips I have seen and knowing the official soundtrack). Zeudi sings two songs in the movie, Oltre l’acqua del fiume in Italian and Maryam, in Amharic. If you spend most of your life tracking down this rare record, and you do happen to get your hands on it, you’ll likely not be disappointed that it doesn’t contain the two vocal tracks, although you will then need to track done this featured single.
After Araya’s marriage with the film producer Franco Cristaldi, she would go on to star in the films Mr. Robinson in 1976, Atrocious Tales of Love and Death in 1979, and staring Marcello Mastroianni and Ornella Muti, Tesoro Mio also in 1979, than a fantasy film called Hearts and Armour in 1983, and starring the late Tanya Roberts as Isabella, and finally in Control in 1987.
In the early 1990s, Araya withdrew from the film scene. After the death of her husband, Araya became an active part of film production work, and still today produces several films for cinema and television, always remaining behind the scenes (she returned to television only in 2001, interviewed by Daniele Luttazzi, for the program Satyricon), with her new partner, the director Massimo Spano, with whom she had a son.
As is the case with a lot of these obscure Italian films, they are difficult to source, and therefore I have not had the privilege to enjoy many of them, including the film that has this featured track. But for me, that doesn’t really matter so much as I love the music enough and that’s where it holds that special place. I will continue to try and find these obscure films ofcourse but it is a challenge, trust me.
Zeudi Araya also also appeared in the Italian version of Playboy magazine in March 1974, which I may have to track down, to you know, maybe find out more information about her.
Araya’s starring films…
1972 La ragazza dalla pelle di luna – Also known as The Girl With The Moon Skin, Sex of Their Bodies, Moon Skin and The Sinner
1973 La ragazza fuoristrada
1974 La Preda – Also known as The Prey
1974 Il Corpo – Also known as The Body
1975 La peccatrice – Also known as The Sinner
1976 Il signor Robinson, mostruosa storia d’amore e d’avventure – Also known as Mr. Robinson
1979 Giallo Napoletano – Also known as Atrocious Tales of Love and Death
1979 Tesoro Mio
1983 Hearts and Armour – Also known as I Paladini: Storia d’armi e d’amori
1987 Il giorno prima – Also known as Control and Mind Control
Websites and referencing…
Top photo taken from Umiliani’s official site (link above). Director Luigi Scattini, Zeudi Araya and Piero Umiliani in the studio for the La Ragazza Fuoristrada sessions.
If you’re interested in more Italian 7″ soundtrack singles, see links below…