We become għannejja

We conclude our week exploring the music of Europe’s “small states” with our own in-class interpretation of Malta’s unique Għana spirtu pront. In the traditional poetic singing competition, while each of the għannejja has a lot of latitude in what he sings, there are also strict rules for the form. For example, each improvised response must a rhyme. Plus, phrases should be in four lines, with 8 syllables in the first, 7 in the second, 8 in the third, 7 in the fourth. Third, the singers music use a poetic version of the ancient Maltese language which often has multiple meanings, draws heavily on proverbs and shared stories, and can come off as seeming self-righteous–which is why għannejja sometimes shake each other’s hands during the performance, letting the other know that what is being said is just for the competition and should not be taken personally. In class when we introuce kids to the art form we know better than attempt any of the above. Instead, we just have fun, and let the għana chips fall where they may.