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Blues Singer Wins San Remo Contest

February 26, 2000

SAN REMO, Italy (AP) _ In the temple of Italian pop songs, a Senegalese-Sicilian woman with a passion for American-style blues and gospel has been chosen best young singer at the annual San Remo festival.

Jenny B. won the award late Friday, the next-to-the-last day of the weeklong song contest, whose overall winner will be proclaimed Saturday night in this resort city on Italy’s northwest coast.

The annual festival aims to promote Italian pop songs, which often draw heavily on lyrics, not melody, and generally don’t sell well abroad.

Jenny B. is the performance name of Giovanna Bersola, 28, daughter of a man from Senegal and a woman from Sicily.

The Italian news agency ANSA said her background makes her ``the portrait of the politically correct fairy tale of the Italian daughter of a multi-racial society.″

Italy, long a homogenous society which often portrayed minorities as stereotypes, is now grappling with changing demographics, as immigrants, many of them from Africa, come into Italy to take jobs, often menial ones like crop-picking, that Italians shun, and settle in cities and small towns.

This year’s San Remo festival’s opening on Monday was marked by a rap song called ``Cancel the Debt,″ by veteran Italian singer Jovanotti, who wants the government to forgive loans owed by poor countries. Two days later, the singer, joined by U2 leader singer Bono, who is also campaigning for debt forgiveness, had a private meeting with Italian Premier Massimo D’Alema.

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