Francesco Sbano

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Francesco Sbano
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Paola, Calabria
  • Photographer
  • Reporter
  • Writer
  • Music producer
  • Director

Francesco Sbano (* 1963 in Paola, Calabria|Paola, Calabria) is an Italian photographer, reporter, writer, music producer and director. He is one of the most renowned experts on the ’'Ndrangheta|Ndrangheta culture and pursues an ethnological approach in his research.

Life and Career

Francesco Sbano was born the third of four sons to Sergio Sbano and his wife Camilla in the small Calabrian town of Paola. The family business of his grandfather Giuseppe "Peppe" Sbano was the largest meat exporter in southern Italy until the mid-1950s.

From an early age, Francesco Sbano experienced how deeply the 'Ndrangheta|’Ndrangheta is rooted in everyday life in Calabria. He studied communication, specializing in photography at the Istituto Europeo di Design in Rome. Since the mid-1990s he has been working intensively on the phenomenon of the Mafia. Sbano produces photo reports, Compilation album|compilations, documentaries for cinema and television, curates exhibitions and is co-author of reports for, among others, Der Spiegel[1], the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, the Süddeutsche Zeitung|Süddeutsche Zeitung Magazin, Die Welt[2], Le Monde[3], L'Obs|Le Nouvel Observateur, Newsweek[4], Time (magazine)|Time Magazine and The New York Times[5], for the television stations ARD (broadcaster)|ARD, BBC and CNN, for the US radio station National Public Radio|NPR and for other relevant media.[6][7]

Together with the journalist Maximilian Dax and Peter Cadera from the Belgian music label Play It Again, Sam (Label)|PIAS, he led the creation of a collection of popular music on the theme of the Mafia, La Musica della Mafia[8], which has met with widespread interest in Germany[9] and internationally.[10][11][12] In 2002 he published the second CD[13], in 2005 the third CD of the trilogy was released[14], which sold more than 500,000 copies by 2015. The photos of the covers and booklets in the trilogy are also his work.

In 2009, he published his documentary Uomini d'onore – Men of Honour[15], for which Sbano received the Corrado Alvaro Special Prize from the Corrado Alvaro Foundation in 2006.[16] The film is produced jointly with Corazón-International, the production company of German director Fatih Akin|Fatih Akın and distributed by Luce Cinecittá.[17][18]

In 2011, the Munich Heyne Verlag published his book Die Ehre des Schweigens – The Honour of Silence[19], in which for the first time a still active 'Ndrangheta boss tells his live under the pseudonym Giuliano Belfiore.[20][21]

In 2013, Sbano and Thomas Schönberger curated the exhibition Die Kultur der Gewalt – The Culture of Violence in the Haus der Kulturen der Welt in Berlin, the first ethnological exhibition on the 'Ndrangheta.[22]

Francesco Sbano lives and works between Italy and Germany.


Since 2008, Francesco Sbano's work has been the target of a press campaign led by various journalists and activists of the anti-mafia movement, who accuse Sbano of reporting too neutrally about the phenomenon of the 'Ndrangheta. Nonetheless, Sbano remains true to his scientific approach to the criminal phenomenon of the 'Ndrangheta. He himself says: “If you want to fight evil, you have to know it. This formula allows me to give readers first-hand information in order to form their own opinion. It is important to always make sure that your gaze is not only guided by prejudice, as this will limit your perspective. This is only possible through research, clarification and facts. By bringing the sources, that is, the songs of the Mafia, their dances, their laws, to light and making them available to the public, I describe the 'Ndrangheta from within. In the same way, I demystify the criminal phenomenon by putting its legends and myths into the spotlight. I am a reporter who traces the path of organized crime in Calabria and describes the social factors and economic interests that keep the 'Ndrangheta in power."[23][24]

In May 2012, Francesco Sbano and Demetrio Siclari, the main author of the texts and music of the La Musica della Mafia trilogy, met three employees of the Museo della ndrangheta|Museo della 'ndrangheta in Reggio Calabria. The reason for the meeting was to clarify the use of the original titles of the trilogy, after it became known that the museum, without obtaining the necessary permission, had dubbed various films with these titles, that were shown there in public. That same evening, the President of the Museo della 'ndrangheta, Claudio La Camera, one of the best-known anti-mafia activists in Calabria, who was not present during the meeting, made the decision to report Sbano and Siclari to the police for alleged threats and defamation. Shortly thereafter, the Reggio Calabria public prosecutor opened a trial.[25] In the completed court case, neither Sbano nor Siclari were convicted. In an interview with the Frankfurter Rundschau on September 9, 2015[26], Francesco Sbano explains that he did not insult or threaten anyone during his visit to the Museo della 'ndrangheta in Reggio Calabria in May 2012 and describes the trial against him as a farce. Interestingly, Claudio La Camera, who reported Sbano and Siclari in May 2012, was charged by public prosecutors in August 2015 with fraud against the state, evasion of evidence and false ideology during his presidency at the Museo della 'ndrangheta in Reggio Calabria. According to financial police investigations in this case, La Camera embezzled around € 400,000.[27]


  1. SPIEGEL, Andreas Ulrich, DER. "Encounters with the Calabrian Mafia: Inside the World of the 'Ndrangheta". Retrieved 2021-03-24.
  2. Eusterhus, Eva (2010-01-04). "Auf den Spuren der Mafia". DIE WELT. Retrieved 2021-03-23.
  3. "Les belles voix des bandits de Calabre". Le (in français). 2001-02-20. Retrieved 2021-03-23.
  4. EDT, Lorraine Ali On 8/25/02 at 8:00 PM (2002-08-25). "The Tunes You Can't Refuse". Newsweek. Retrieved 2021-03-23.
  5. Strauss, Neil (2002-07-22). "Mafia Songs Break a Code Of Silence; A Gory Italian Folk Form Attracts Fans, and Critics". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 2021-03-24.
  6. "Calabrian Tarantella: Trance, Drone and the Rituals of the Mafia". Telekom Electronic Beats. 2015-04-02. Retrieved 2021-03-24.
  7. "WANDERLUST: 72 Hours in Hamburg". Telekom Electronic Beats. 2014-01-14. Retrieved 2021-03-24.
  8. "Various - Il Canto Di Malavita - La Musica Della Mafia". Discogs. Retrieved 2021-03-23.
  9. SPIEGEL, Andreas Borcholte, DER. "Mafiamusik: Folklore des Verbrechens". (in Deutsch). Retrieved 2021-03-23.
  10. EDT, Lorraine Ali On 8/25/02 at 8:00 PM (2002-08-25). "The Tunes You Can't Refuse". Newsweek. Retrieved 2021-03-23.
  11. "la Repubblica/spettacoli: Omerta', onore e sangue in concerto a Parigi". Retrieved 2021-03-23.
  12. "Mal canto". Retrieved 2021-03-23.
  13. "Various - Omertà, Onuri E Sangu - La Musica Della Mafia - Vol.II". Discogs. Retrieved 2021-03-23.
  14. La Musica Della Mafia Vol. III (Le Canzoni Dell' Onorata Società) (2005, CD), retrieved 2021-03-23
  15. Sbano, Francesco (2009-11-30), Uomini d'onore (Documentary), Mastro Ciccio, Peppe d'Agostino, Peppe De Luca, Latitant, Mazza Films, Corazón International, retrieved 2021-03-23
  16. "UOMINI D'ONORE - MEN OF HONOUR". 2007-05-22. Retrieved 2021-03-23.
  17. SPIEGEL, DER. "Unsichtbares Monster". (in Deutsch). Retrieved 2021-03-23.
  18. Eusterhus, Eva (2010-01-04). "Auf den Spuren der Mafia". DIE WELT. Retrieved 2021-03-23.
  19. "Die Ehre des Schweigens". Penguin Random House Verlagsgruppe (in Deutsch). Retrieved 2021-03-23.
  20. SPIEGEL, DER. "Mafia-Biograf Sbano: "Was ich mache, ist saugefährlich"". (in Deutsch). Retrieved 2021-03-23.
  21. Francesco Sbano zu "Die Ehre des Schweigens" - Heyne Verlag, retrieved 2021-03-23
  22. Welt, Haus der Kulturen der (2013-10-07). "Opening". HKW. Retrieved 2021-03-23.
  23. "Die Macht der Mafiosi ist total". (in Deutsch). 2015-09-09. Retrieved 2021-03-24. External link in |website= (help)
  24. "'ndrangheta, tradizioni greche e tamburelli: intervista all'autore della trilogia de "La musica della mafia"". (in italiano). Retrieved 2021-03-24.
  25. "I cantanti della 'ndrangheta chiedono i diritti d'autore". Corriere della Sera (in italiano). 2014-02-05. Retrieved 2021-03-23.
  26. "Die Macht der Mafiosi ist total". (in Deutsch). 2015-09-09. Retrieved 2021-03-23. External link in |website= (help)
  27. "Reggio Calabria, sequestrati 200mila euro all'ex presidente dell'associazione antimafia Antigone". la Repubblica (in italiano). 2019-04-18. Retrieved 2021-03-24.

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