|1. The gh is silent
2. La bormliza (after the city of Bormla) is sometimes referred to as both ghana fil-gholi (ghana in high register) and as ghana bil-ksur (ghana with inflexions). The last two names shed light on the outstanding features of this singing: mainly that it is highly-melismatic, making it both very difficult to sing and to understand, and that it requires a high-pitched voice capable of singing in a female vocal register. The latter feature shows a strong possibility that this kind of ghana was generally sung by women and that throughout the years it was picked up by men while, at the same time, women were disappearing from the world of ghana. La bormliza can either be sung by two singers or as solo
3. The ghana tal-fatt is Malta's basic stanzaic ballad form; a story narrated by one singer. The subject of a fatt can be either tragic or comic, although fattijiet (plural of fatt) recounting the deeds of passed away well-known ghannejja are becoming also very popular. A recent development in the ghana tal-fatt is the inclusion of the refrain sung by the accompanying guitarists.
4. Some of the material included in this paper has already appeared in my MA thesis, "Styles of Transcription in Ethnomusicology" (University of Durham,1996)
5. For more information and resources concerning ghana in general see Mifsud-Chircop 1999.
6. Although it would be an overgeneralization to state that no Maltese women sing the spirtu pront, the likelihood is that very few women participate in such musical endeavors. In 1998 the Maltese Culture Department organized the first national ghana festival. One of the efforts done by the organizers was that of involving women ghannejja in such an endeavor. In 1998 only one woman participated. This number increased to three in the following year (See Mifsud-Chircop 1998, 1999).
7. The approach adopted in the third section of this work leans heavily on what is known as the ethnography of music, defined by Anthony Seeger (1992: 89) as "the writing down of how sounds are conceived, made, appreciated and influence other individuals, groups, and social and musical processes".
8. For a more detailed discussion about the history of Maltese poetry see Friggieri 1979.
9. Lortat-Jacob (1995: 74) refers to a style of Sardinian singing which is known as a 'guitar song'. This is a semiopen style of singing mainly performed in bars, and like the spirtu pront it unfolds in cycles. In a 'guitar song' session, a singer can join the group already formed for one or two musical cycles and leaves the way he entered. But one can only enter in his turn and can only leave once his turn is over.
10. Ghana guitarists can be divided into three categories. The top category includes semi-professional guitarists who normally assume the leading part in most of the sessions they will be participating in; they normally get paid for services rendered during profit-making activities that usually take place out of bar environment. These guitarists have their own group of accompanists who get paid accordingly. Guitarists in this category had even left the ghana environment to dedicate more time playing in hotels with a varied repertoire, not necessarily restricted to ghana tunes. The second group is that composed of accompanying guitarists that a lead guitarist can rely on for a successful session, mainly for their ability to resume a constant strumming throughout the session. Sometimes they also are assumed the role of leading guitarists. The third group is that composed of accompanists who occasionally join in one session or another just to keep in touch with the few chords they have learned to play on the guitar. As regards the making of a ghana guitarist this might go through several stages. A top category guitarist, with twenty-five years experience in ghana described his learning process in the following way: 'At first I used to sing ghana alone at home with no accompaniment. One day I was approached by a neighbor guitarist who heard my singing and offered to accompanying me. After three rehearsals he gave me one of his guitars and proposed that I should go home and try some guitar playing myself. He showed me the fingering for the D major chord because that was the tonality that best suited my voice. I than started going to bars to observe the fingering of accompanying guitarists and I used to practice those fingerings at home. One day I was practicing on our doorstep when some ghannejja came out of a nearby bar and asked me to accompanying them because they had no one to accompaniment. Things went well and that was my official debut in ghana guitar playing. Than from the strumming I progressed to soloing.'
11. For a more information regarding aspects of gender issues in ghana see Erler 1998 and Herndon/McLeod 1975
12. Of the spirtu pront one should mention at this stage the changes that brought with it the 1953 Folklore Festival. Some of the established criteria for spirtu pront competitions held during the festival continued to be adopted by the ghannejja themselves in bars (See Fsadni 1992).
13. Ghana guitars are produced locally. The sound produced by these guitars can be described as very 'compact'with very low base resonance. Only steel strings are fixed to these guitars.
14. Herndon and McLeod (1980) had identified a number of "commonly mentioned rules of the spirtu pront" which have almost the same function to what Magrini (1998) refers to as the "group plan". Magrini (1998: 173) defines the "group plan" as "a collective mental product related to the entire community, acquired rather than consciously learned, and it is the point of reference for anybody who wants to take part in group singing".
15. Spirtu pront sessions in bars are normally recorded on tapes by ghana aficionados. The first time ghana was professionally recorded was in Italy in the 1930s by G. D'Amoto, a company which till the present day still leads a music shop which brings the same name in the capital city Valletta. The first ever released CD of ghana was produced in France in 1992 and commissioned by French organizers of a folk festival held in France and to which a group of ghana singers and guitarists were invited to participate. A recent development is an ghana CD commissioned by Sedqa an organization for the prevention of drug abuse. The ghana subjects dealt with in this CD are all related to the problem drugs.
16. This was due to a lack of personal technical experience in fieldwork.
Main page | References