Maltese vernacular folk singing, known as ghana (pronounced /a:na/)  is a living art – simultaneously music, song and performance, deriving it’s vitality form immediacy and context. It is  practiced in Malta today and in parts of Australia. The most popular form of ghana is called Spirtu Pront which is essentially an extemporised song-duel between two or more men (almost no women sing it). Each tries to best the other in argument.


The subject of the argument may be selected beforehand, but is usually 'chosen' by the singers themselves during the course of the song, somewhere near the beginning. They do this by feints, each trying to provoke their opponent into taking up an argument or subject about which they are more knowledgeable, for once a subject is taken up, it cannot be changed without losing face.


Singers try and ridicule each other through subtle insults which can poke fun at the opponent's physical features, his (past) actions (though one should absolutely not lie), as well as his arguments, while at the same time attempting to twist their opponent's insults into compliments. These bouts can be very witty since double-entendre - giving a compliment which is actually an insult - is prized. The premium given to double-entendre also leads, even when the argument is very serious, to elaborate metaphors.


 The reply and counter-reply must be given in the form of a quatrain with a rhyme scheme of a-b-c-b. The most awful mistake an ghannej can make is to not rhyme his quatrain for this is immediately noticeable. Unusual rhymes are prized: however the effect of literacy can be seen in the disagreement between some ghannejja as to which is the more important - the rhyme in terms of pronunciation, or the matching of the last two letters of the last word in the second and fourth verses. Ideally, these words should both rhyme and end with the same two letters.


The duel lasts for an hour and the last volley on the part of each ghannej consists of two quatrains. This is known as the gadenza.


There are actually three types of Ghana (a) La Bormliza, (b) Fatt and (c) Spirtu Pront.


Each style is quite different for more information visit the following website. http//www.maltese-ghana.ndirect.co.uk


Ghana plays an extremely important role in Maltese society.  Because it is predominantly performed by the rural and working classes it enables individuals to temporarily transcend their marginalised social position. I find it interesting that the issues posed by the singers are in fact the same as those faced by the majority of Maltese in their everyday lives.


As a composer the  (re)discovery of Ghana has excited me greatly, it has given me a context and means in which to satisfy my artistic needs and development. As an Australian of Maltese background this project will provide an opportunity and context in which to explore the socio-political fabric of Maltese culture, allowing me to not only access my cultural heritage on a personal level, but to also use the experience to inform my artistic practice.


I envisage the new work to be rigorously composed utilising field recordings, original music and relying heavily on computer based digital audio editing software.  Through experience with Hong Kong: City In Between ( prizewinner in the Soundscapes (Be)for(e) 2000 Festival)  Supplement producers are already familiar with my work  and compositional processes.  


Below is a brief outline of what I propose to do:


· Research and collect material, organise meetings in Australia and Malta.


· Travel to Malta in 2001, research and collect material (field recordings, interviews, live music, CD's, soundscapes).


· compose a 30 minute radiophonic composition. (Based on Ghana music culture of Malta.)


· Pre-production at computer based studio. (completed within 2 months after field trip)


· Post-production at a commercial studio. Post-production will consist of mixing down the radiophonic composition.


· Master DAT or CDR of completed work delivered to NPS ASAP after post production.





Robert Iolini

Sydney (date)