01 Jun Sounds of reassurance
Sounds of reassurance in reconstructing the fragments of our cultural identity
In Malta, defining “national identity” has always been – perhaps still is – problematic. In this country, concepts of national and cultural identities seem to have always been constructed on shifting sands. In many other European countries, while conveying the aspirations for cultural independence, folklore, for instance, has been instrumental in the establishments of modern nations. Folk music, from the birth of the idea of the nation-state, has been one means of expressive culture used to generate, define, and reinforce national identity.
Only in recent years have we in Malta managed to start accepting our cultural roots and extrapolating them from the contamination of colonial, elitist and classist myopia. Finally, thanks to the resilience of its cultural roots, “għana”, a major exponent of popular culture, that for decades had been relegated as a marker of “the lower classes”, has gradually gained its deserved status as a gem in the repertoire of our national cultural heritage.
Our tenuous conceptualisation of national identity has been further problematised by the globalising forces that are restructuring our society. Our fragile, newly acquired sense of nationhood seems to be under siege by the imperatives of the local/global dynamics that are constantly involving us in a painful process of sens-making in constructing our identities. Has our cultural identity been blurred more than ever before? Are our iconic and emblematic markers that distinguish our cultural identity being swept away by the hurricanes of global forces, the homogeneity of European citizenship and the cultural fragmentation of hybridity? Are we in the midst of a national cultural crisis – or are we merely drifting towards the shore of a brave new Maltese liberated cultural haven?
I suggest that the dreams our artists dreams, their vision of achieving the impossible, inspired an invigorated by the support of tlhe local population, are the energising factors that keep our cultural identity alive in spite of all adversities. The Malta Council for Culture and the Arts is fully aware of its responsibility to facilitate ways and means for our artists to pursue their dreams. Firmly backed by the driving force of a political will endorsed by the parliamentary Secretariat for Culture, the MCCA is entrusted with implementing an inclusive cultural policy that embraces mainstream and marginalised voices aspiring to be granted legitimate space within the national cultural spectrum. A special obligation in this regard is the promotion and propagation of our indigenous cultural roots. Għanafest seeks to implement this seminal obligation “islands” is the thematic underpin of this year’s edition of Għanafest. This opens up a space for the staging of Maltese traditional music and singing as part of an exciting repertoire that includes performances featuring ensemble and musicians from Sardinia, Corsica and Crete. Thus, the event evolves into a multifaceted showcase of sounds from our region. This, I believe, is how our folklore heritage acquires important cultural resonances that can only be fully appreciated outside the context of insular isolation and within the broader landscape of our Mediterranean heritage.
We hope that this event will allow you tthe opportunity to enjoy it as a total “cultural happening” which includes traditional culinary delights and a learning curve that takes you on a journey of discovery about exciting aspects of our traditional culinary delights and a learning curve that takes you on a journey of discovery about exciting aspects of our traditional music and the curious instruments folk musicians play. You may want to experience @in concert” the fusion of hip-hop and għana, and understand to what extent Maltese folk can evolve.
Finally, our thanks go to Għanafest’s artistic director, Ruben Zahra, the dedicated staff at MCCA and all the participants in the Festival whose creative impulses and passion for ensuring the survival of their art are a noble contribution of great cultural merit.
Albert Marshall Chairman Malta Council for Culture and the Arts