Malta’s Eurovision sweetheart Gianluca Bezzina found stardom back in 2013. The forever smiling doctor represented Malta in the Eurovision song contest, winning the nation’s hearts in the process.
The crooning doctor comes from a long line of singers in his family — and some of them are super great too. It turns out that Gianluca’s grandfather, Gaetano Buttiġieġ was a pretty big deal back in the day.
We asked Gianluca to share some of Gaetano’s memories with us, and we promise you that these anecdotes will warm your heart.
“My grandfather started challenging the idea that Maltese sounded too harsh when compared to the outpour of Italian and English songs coming through the Rediffusion sets at the time.” Gianluca told us.
Buttiġieġ, known as Gaetano Kanta is considered one of Malta’s pioneers in Music. He performed Italian songs regularly and even wrote his own material in Maltese.
Most of the lyrics Gaetano wrote were autobiographical and always had a positive message for the listeners.
My most vivid memories are the ones during Christmas, when every year he used to play his own programme of carols on a bulky tape recorder and we used to sing along to them.
“We have very fond memories of our grandfather, especially since during the early years of our childhood, we used to live with our grandparents before settling in our new home.” Gianluca told Lovin Mata.
“He was always very calm and carried a cheerful disposition wherever he went. He also used to whistle perfectly pitched tunes with a most beautiful vibrato.” He said.
“My most vivid memories are the ones during Christmas, when every year he used to play his own programme of carols on a bulky tape recorder and we used to sing along to them.” Gianluca said.
His music was all the rage in the 60s. It was regularly heard on the rediffusion and people looked forward to hearing Gaetano sing.
“We simply enjoyed singing them with him, enthralled by the enthusiasm in his voice and his joyful presence. Today we grew to love these songs even more, not only because they remind us of him, but because they remind us of his efforts to popularise Maltese lyrics” he said.
Gaetano Kanta wrote new songs for every single program he took part in; Nofs Siegħa ma’ Tony Agius, Nannu Peppu, Fuq Min Tiġi Jkun Sultan and even Is-Siegħa tal-Morda. What really made Gaetano stand out was the fact that he sang in Maltese, something which was very rare at the time.
“Since our grandfather never had the opportunity to properly record his material, most of it was forgotten along the years. Dorothy has recently collected and categorised all his lyrics, which amount to more than 600, including published and unpublished material.” Gianluca told us.
In 2001 Gaetano was handed the award of recognition for contribution to Maltese music at the Festival L-Għanja tal-Poplu. During the same year, he was awarded the Ġieħ il-Marsa award.
“We grew up listening to his songs, perhaps at the time without really appreciating them for their real value within the local popular music scene.” He told Lovin Malta.
“We have selected a few for our concert on Sunday 29th and Monday 30th July in collaboration with Teatru Manoel, Toi Toi Educational Programme, Valletta 2018 and St Vincent De Paul home for the elderly. The concert aims to revive the memories of a mature audience, and take it back in time” Gianluca said.
“So many people still carry a part of him with them in some way or another, and this particularly interests us because we keep collecting material to add to his biography, which we feel would be a great contribution to the Maltese oral tradition.” He said.
As a tribute to Gaetano and his amazing talents, Teatru Manoel, along with the Bezzina family are organising an event with a variety of Buttiġieġ’s songs. The event will be a night which will transport all attendees back to the 20th century.
Il-Kanzunetta Popolari ta’ Gaetano Kanta will be taking place on the 29th of July at the Teatru Manoel.