Progressive Rock meets Tolkien! Interview with Roberta Malerba (Ainur)

Over the years, the works of J. R. R. Tolkien have inspired numerous novelists, musicians, painters, screenwriters and filmmakers. He is identified as the “father of modern fantasy”, his influence reaching beyond literature reaching almost every form of art. One form of art we are particularly interested in is Music. And to be more exact, Rock and Metal music in particular.

Bands like Led Zeppelin, Blind Guardian, Magnum, Megadeth, and Sabaton are among many who have featured Tolkien-themed songs on one or many of their songs. Other musicians created a complete musical concept dedicated to the works of Tolkien, and one of these is Ainur, a Progressive Rock Orchestra who have been transforming Tolkien’s work – The Silmarillion in particular – into music for the last 18 years.

Ainur have most recently released ‘War of the Jewels’, a work that fans of J. R. R. Tolkien would most definitely enjoy. ‘War of the Jewels’ is based on the namesake conflict between the Elves and Morgoth, the first Dark Lord, thousands of years prior the events of The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings. You can stream the album on Spotify.

I recently interviewed Roberta Malerba, one of the vocalists of Ainur, and talked about her music and thoughts on many issues. We naturally “nerded” about Tolkien as well. Hope you enjoy reading.


Hello Roberta! I’m very excited about this interview. I am a huge Tolkien fan and have been a member of The Tolkien Society for years, so you can expect a nerdy interview. But first, how are you doing?
Hi! I can’t wait to be interviewed by a nerd like me… It will be an equal exchange 😉
You’ve just released your album ‘War of the Jewels’. The concept is based on ‘The Silmarillion’ by J. R. R. Tolkien. But how would you describe the music in which you deliver this concept?
The music of Ainur, called “Ainulindale”, in the Silmarillion is a complex work: the musical union of different entities that gives its maximum expression when it leaves freedom to each personality. The same is true for us in reality: our music cannot be identified in a single genre, but in the artistic union of several brains, which allow an alternation of different genres and approaches.
Brilliant! We usually play a game called ‘In a universe’ where we ask our interviewees to imagine themselves in an alternate universe and answer some questions so that our readers can get to know them from another angle. But since we’re having you, I will tweak it a little, adding some Middle-Earth nerdiness. Are you ready?
Let’s go!
If you were a character in Tolkien’s legendarium, which race would you most likely belong to?
Of course I would like to be a Valar! In particular Varda, queen of stars and light.
If you were a character in Tolkien’s legendarium, and you were on a quest on which you can take only one person with you, who from the members of Ainur would you take?
As you can imagine, I would take Manwe with me, because he is Varda’s husband. In our band each of us has been assigned a character: as mentioned before I am Varda, while Manwe is Luca, composer and guitarist … who is also my husband. 🙂
That’s lovely! The First Age had Melkor as a Dark Lord. The Second and Third had Sauron. What do our age and world have that represents darkness or absolute evil to you?
Today the “enemy” is more subtle … it has many names. It is a formless entity, which creeps into every corner. It’s called greed, it’s called disrespect … and it has incredible power: it enters people’s minds and enslaves them. This power is difficult to eradicate. This enemy is everywhere and it scares me a lot.
If you were to pick a city to live in at its most flourishing times in Middle Earth, would you live somewhere secret like Gondolin or at a trade centre like Lake-Town?
Where could I live if not in Valinor?
Thank you for playing, Roberta, hope you enjoyed it!
It was a lot of fun, thanks! 🙂
What is your most treasured music-related memory from your childhood?
Music has been a part of my life since I was born. It is so full of music that I would not be able to concentrate it in a more intense memory than the others. All the experiences I had with my father, jazz jam sessions, competitions and interplay will live forever inside me. Every memory is precious and has made me who I am today
Have you ever been treated in a sexist way? How would you face sexism and what advice would you give to young people who face any kind of discrimination?
In part I was lucky and in part I did not allow it. The difficulty lies in being ready to react and having the right answer: every job must be based on respect; if it fails we must be ready to abandon the engagement and not be afraid of the consequences. But it is not easy, every experience is different, there is no advice that is suitable for every situation … surely protecting our soul should be the priority. This is true for women and men alike.
Thank you for the interview, Roberta! It was an absolute delight.

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