01 Apr A Cultural Memory That Persists
Our cultural heritage cannot necessarily be found in museums. There is another form of heritage: one that cannot be painted on a canvas or carved in stone – this is our intangible heritage, which is a transient as an evening breeze. This is Maltese għana – a flowing spring; a cultural memory that persists, that harks back to its roots, yet simultaneously seek new and fertile grounds.
Whether we make reference to tales – historical or biographical – from għana tal-fatt, to the poetic duels of għana spirtu pront, or even to the intense musicality of the għana Bormliża (also known as l-għana tal-għoli), we encounter a tradition that has maintained its strength, despite the unfair prejudice expressed against this aspect of our identity.
Today, thanks to the intensive work carried out by numerous individuals, such as the academics Guze Cassar Pulicino and Ġorg Mifsud Chircop, and, most notably, by the għannejja themselves who have never seized to deliver their performance. Għana has been duly recognised over the past years, which has also led to the recovery of instruments and musical abilities tha ran the risk of being lost, completely. Għanafest, which has become a staple cultural event on our calendar, is the summation of this.
This festival is not a static showcase of our musical heritage. Maltese għana still constitutes the core of this event: it is a dynamic art form that alters accordingly – reflecting both time and context.
Additionally, Għanafest is a platform in which the expression of the għannejja meets foreign voices – this year, this includes performers from Israel, Spain and Croatia. This year’s festival edition, will also feature local groups using traditional music as a point of departure in the exploration of new and contemporary musical territories.
These musical encounters and exchanges enrich our identity as well as that of other Mediterranean regions. This cultural melting pot breaks barriers as it breaks prejudice; it transforms divergent, flowing waters into a sea of opportunities, which unites us.
Owen Bonici Minister for justice, Culture and Local Government