Published on Thursday 21 April 2016

The sound of French troubadour music, eclectic Estonian music and atmospheric Tuareg arrangements will be part of Għanafest’s programme for this year at Argotti Gardens, under the new artistic direction of Renzo Spiteri.

The sound of French troubadour music, eclectic Estonian music and atmospheric Tuareg arrangements will be part of Għanafest’s programme for this year at Argotti Gardens, under the new artistic direction of Renzo Spiteri.

This festival, which will be held on the 10th, 11th and 12th June, will bring converging soundscapes and cultures that appear disparate but are indeed closer than one may think. In this regard, even Maltese traditional and more avant-gardist art forms will be fitting in the scheme of things thanks to their history, affinity with the national image and the ever-changing pace of folk itself.

Spiteri, a renowned percussionist, will be giving his personal touch to this year’s festival.

Sirventés will be performing on the first day. They are quintessential revivalists of the troubadour style and their delivery, mannerisms and eloquence in this regard are second to none. They have, over the years, managed to deliver a protesting or satirical poem that describes very well the violence that France and Europe have been through in the past, as well as reflecting on the fleetingness of human feelings.

Sirventés have studied and acquainted themselves with these poet-musicians whose documentations, 800 years on, have served as an inspiration to the development of the unique French chanson. Mastering digression and improvisation, they can deliver a courteous, intemperate and unpredictable product that remains valid in a modern, complex world.

Estonia will be the first Baltic state to be represented at Għanafest thanks to Trad.Attack!, who draw their inspiration from old archive recordings of Estonian traditional songs and contemporary music. Since their debut in 2014, the band received 13 music awards in Estonia, including best folk band, best song, best video and best album. They released an award-winning EP in Estonia, an award-winning CD in Germany, and received great reviews in Songlines Magazine (UK), RA Magazine (UK), Lira (Sweden), Folker (Germany) and others. 

Folk music is their starting point but their ears, mind and soul remain open to different styles and new directions, whilst maintaining their emotional roots. It is significant that Estonian music, steeped in choral tradition, has diversified considerably over the past three decades. Trad.Attack! seem to have been aware of these changes all too well. 

Ezza from North Africa will be closing on Sunday. This powerful trio transforms and brings the Tuareg music off the usual path, blending without any concessions modern rock sounds, African pulse, rhythmic trances and relentless groove. Ezza, which is the symbol of the free man and of resistance, impresses by their desert blues-rock, rebellion-fuelled rhythms and three-piece dynamic and soul-stirring melodies. They produce a more contemporary sound than what Taureg music is usually associated with - nomadic Saharan music.

Starting from Agadez, a city, in Niger and Azawad, a city in Mali; the Tuareg music has grown thanks to Tinariwen, a Grammy-Award winning music group from Mali, which inspired other Taureg bands to came to the fore. With melodies and groove drawn in the desert, a tasty mix of blues, rock and Tuareg songs, Ezza talks about Niger, country of its vocalist Omar Adam.

This year’s Għanafest, apart from a wide selection of traditional folk singing and performance that is much sought after and which itself is part of an old rich cultural tapestry, will offer contemporary Maltese music revived and renewed with passion or intertwined with other forms of music.

Cushion, an Indian fusion band which is based in Malta, offers a very interesting mid tempo fusion of western and eastern chill-out music, mostly inclined towards the sound of India, with dominant sitar licks, eastern inclinations on vocal threads, backed with sublime ambience from the keys, and interesting bass and drum patterns to wrap it all up. However, apart from the likes of Anoushka Shankar, among Indian influences, Cushion also admits to liking indie and cutting edge rock talents, notably Morceeba. Their live shows extend beyond local performances, having also gone down considerably well when they performed in Northern Cyprus.

KażinSka is a band as well as an ongoing project embracing Maltese roots and world music. The music of KażinSka, as the name suggests, focuses primarily on ska music fused with traditional banda marches. Their banda marches’ melodies also include reggae, samba, jazz and R&B, with the end result being a joyous atmosphere synonymous with the ‘festa Maltija’ with a contemporary sound. KażinSka play mostly instrumental music with sporadic lyrics uttered in association with the particular tune.

Mistura started as an acoustic duo by Malcolm Bonnici and Antonio Olivari. It debuted in 2012 at L-Għanja tal-Poplu where they won the World Association of Festivals & Artists (WAFA) award for Best New Talent. Since then, they have morphed into a fully-fledged electric band and performed at a variety of venues including Rock the South, Kotra, the Farsons Great Beer Festival, Evenings on Campus and Teatru Unplugged.

Għanafest will see them performing for the first time as a rock band after their short unplugged set in 2014. Mistura write and perform original songs exclusively in Maltese, with music that has elements of blues, rock and folk. In 2014 they released their first album, called ‘U d-Dinja Tkompli Ddur’, which is packed with biting social commentary.

GĦANAFEST Malta World Music Festival 2016 is organised by Arts Council Malta and supported by the Ministry for Justice, Culture and Local Government, MSV Life and TVM. The Festival will be held on 10-12th June at 7pm, at Argotti Gardens, Floriana – within walking distance from Valletta. Tickets: €3 and €7 for a three-day block ticket available at the door. Parking available at the Floriana Boy Scouts headquarters, right next to the venue.

Photo credit: Jeremy de Maria