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Your Guide to Malta and Gozo - Maltese Music

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Maltese Music

Traditional musical instruments include: iż-żaqq (Maltese bagpipes), iż-żafżafa and iż-żummara. These instruments have largely been consigned to the history books. Modern musicians – notably the band Etnika - have in recent years attempted to rekindle interest in such instruments and the music that used to be played on them. Sales of Etnika’s music have been very satisfactory.

Maltese folk singing, known as għana may sound crude and unrefined to the unaccustomed ear, and although popularity amongst younger people is low, it still retains its niche in the Maltese way of life. The għannej sings to (often repetitive) steel guitar music. It comes in three versions: għana spirtu pront, in which two (or more) rival għannejja pit each other’s wits at improvising lyrics to the tune played by the guitarists; ghana tal-fatt, which typically relates in a long winded manner an event that has truly happened; and għana Bormliża, also known as għana fil-għoli, in which the għannej endeavours to hit vocal-cord ripping octaves. Celebrated għannejja include: Frans Baldacchino (better known as il-Budaj), Fredu Abela (il-Bamboċċu) and Mikiel Abela (il-Bambinu).

Despite the influx of European and American popular music that dominates the local charts, Maltese pop music has flourished in decades past, and several tunes remain perennial favourites. Notable amongst these are: il-Bajja tal-Mellieħa, an ode to the beauty of the Mellieħa region, by New Courey and L-Ahhar Bidwi f’Wied il-Ghasel (translated: The last Farmer in Wied il-Ghasel), also by New Cuorey. The Tramps contributed the evergreen Inti Djamant (celebrating the island of Gozo), and Xemx. Freddie Portelli, more than subtly inspired by Elvis Presley (!) achieved fame with a string of hits including Ħallini (Go Away!), Għal Dejjem (Forever), Se Jkolli Nemmen ( I have to belive) and the quintessential patriotic pop tune – Viva Malta.

The Greenfields – originally a trio, but a duo since the demise of Charlie Bajada in 1990 – consists of husband and wife Joe and Carmen Tanti. The Greenfields have been churning out well-beloved tunes since 1970 – including the ever popular il-Karozzin.

Aside from politics and religion, and perhaps soccer, the Eurovision Song Contet dominates the Maltese psyche. Malta fielded three tunes in the seventies: Marija l-Maltija (Joe Grech, 1971), L-Imħabba (Helen and Joseph, 1972), and and Singing this Song (Renato, 1975). Malta would next participate in 1991, with the duet sung by Georgina Abela and Paul Giordemaina Could it Be. Notable peformances were

those by Mary Spiteri, coming in at third place in 1992 with her ballad Little Child. Chiara also awed the European judges in 1998 with The One That I Love; and in 2005, Chiara would once again impress with the self-penned tune Angel achieving a laudable second place. Ira Losco also made it to the much coveted second place with her up-beart 7th Wonder in 2002. Other than these instances, Malta’s placings have been largely disappointing, or unimpressive at best.

Winter Moods have dominated the Maltese rock scene since their inception in the mid-eighties, and have have scored a first by playing in front of a 10,000-strong crowd of fans, in celebration of their silver anniversary.