The countries around the Mediterranean basin have more in common that just olives, limestone and sun. They nearly all have a rich culture of traditional music; a kind of homespun, vibrant, village, folkloristic and often impromptu musical heritage. This music, along with contemporary off-shoots of the traditional genres, is celebrated, now annually, in Malta’s Għanafest held in Argotti Gardens, Floriana, 10, 11 & 12 June and organised by the Malta Council for Culture & the Arts.
Ghanafest 2011 is once again more than simply three evenings renditions’ of Malta’s traditional Għana. The programme sees groups and performers from across the Mediterranean: this year’s guests include: Nakaira from Sicily; Navà ensemble with Persian music and Swing a’ la Turc quartet from Turkey. On the bill from Malta, in addition to the pure Għana performers, we find The Big Band Brothers, Trania, and singer-songwriters David Azzopardi and The Greenfields. The event is an eclectic blend of beats and rhythms with a folkloristic slant but more often than not with a contemporary sound.
For the uninitiated or just plain curious, the festival is above all a wonderful opportunity to come to grips with Maltese Għana in its various forms. If you know Għana at all, you are probably familiar with the high-pitch singing, but that is just one form. Għana covers: ‘Spirtu Pront’ (quick-wit), an improvised form of song duel (extremely difficult to perform yet done raucously and flawlessly by a few real professionals); ‘Tal-Fatt’ (factual), a composed narrative that may be fictional or based on true events; and ‘Fil-Għoli’ (high-pitched), a style of singing on a high vocal register.
Għanafest itself promises three nights of all-round Mediterranean musical fun, and it all takes place in the magical night-time setting of Argotti Gardens perched on the bastions. It goes without saying that this is a family affair. There’s an artisan fair and Maltese food on offer, as well as a series of workshops on traditional instruments and a special programme for children.
Programme: see the Għanafest website: maltafolkmusicfestival.org.
The Festival runs over three evenings, 10, 11 & 12 June from 19:00, Argotti Gardens, Floriana – within walking distance from Valletta.
Tickets: Tickets: €2 and €5 for a three-day block ticket available at the door.
Parking available at the Floriana Boy Scouts headquarters, right next to the venue.
Contact: Tel: +356 21232515; Mob: +356 79048179
Website: Malta Council for Culture & the Arts
For more on Għana, see Wikipedia.
Photo: by Stephen Buhagiar, courtesy of Malta Council for Culture & the Arts.