From hip hop to heavy metal, dozens of music genres are enjoying a renewed heyday in Malta. But beyond what’s cool and relevant, one style remains eternal on this island; għana. Having recently undergone a revival, traditional folk music keeps getting regular attendees and events, but it all culminates during the very aptly-named Għanafest.
This year, the annual June festival will be returning to the Argotti Gardens, one of Floriana’s hidden gems. From very traditional sounds to way more avant-garde forms within the genre, the two-weekend will not only celebrate how far għana has come, but how much more it can still evolve in this day and age.
This year, the festival will also be extending onto Mnarja Weekend, meaning it will be going down on the 22nd and 23rd June at Argotti, along with the 28th at Buskett and the 29th in Birżebbuġa.
“As niche as it might be, għana needs to be exposed in a festival that celebrates folk idioms,” Artistic Director Renzo Spiteri told Lovin Malta. “The gathering of such a significant number of għannejja is not a common occurrence in the calendar of events of any entity, public or private. It is for this reason and more, that Għanafest deserves to be handled with particular care and attention.” And that’s exactly what Spiteri and the rest of the team have managed to do.
Għanafest will be bringing a wide variety of Maltese tradition to the forefront of its two-weekend celebration, from classic Maltese food like ftira mħawra and braġjoli to a great deal of folk bands. The weekend will also host a performance by new band on the block Skald, a young quintet which Festivals Malta aims on further investing in.
Beyond the Maltese bands and għannejja who will bring all the local goodness to the stage, Għanafest will also be hosting two foreign folk bands. Portuguese Seiva will be bringing their country’s traditional instruments (such as the Braguesa viola, the Cavaquinho and the Portuguese bagpipes) to the island, making for a haunting performance straight from the medieval ages.
Kelly’s Heroes, on the other hand, are a 1980s band who have played to audiences as large as 40,000. The Nottingham-based band play everything from intense Celtic tunes to gentle ballads. Beyond the recognisable sounds of the accordion and the acoustic guitar, Kelly’s Heroes also bring some Irish flair to their performances with traditional instruments like the bodhran, an Irish frame drum.
Għanafest might be named after the traditional genre, but it promises way more than just music.
Marcel’s Kitchen will be offering up a list of very Maltese foods like timpana and ross il-forn, and the two-day festival has also devised a special programme with interactive activities for children.
As with everything here, the activities are all about Malta’s past. Children will be able to play hopscotch, boċċi and xixu, making us all feel like we want to be young again just for the weekend. Traditional dance moves will also be taught, alongside clay sculpting workshops and even a kite-building session!
Għanafest is being organised by Festivals Malta with the collaboration of the Ministry of Justice, Culture & Local Government, Valletta 2018, Farsons, Mapfre MSV Life, and Marsovin.