Għana is a type of traditional Maltese folk music. Għana has two literal meanings. The first is richness, wealth and prosperity; the second is associated with singing, verse, rhyme and even kantaliena, a type of singing with a slow rhythm. Għana can be broken up into formal and informal practices. A singer in this field is locally called "Għannej" (literally 'the singer')
Għana was a way to pass the time during free time and and while completing household tasks. In particular, għana was practiced by the women singing on roof tops or in old wash houses, known as the għajn tal-ħasselin ("spring of the washers"). This is known as informal għana.
There are 3 main types of formal għana: fil-Għoli, tal-Fatt and Spirtu Pront.
Għana fil-Għoli singing requires males to reach into extraordinarily high soprano ranges without breaking into falsetto. This style mimicked the early informal għana sung by women, but due to its extreme vocal demands, this style is very seldom practised.
Għana tal-Fatt literally means 'fact' or 'actually happened'. This melancholic ballad style involves one għannej recounting a story about well known local identities, events or recent interesting or humorous, Maltese folktales and legends.
In Spirtu Pront sessions, two or more għannejja (singers) take part in an improvised song duel.
It is a pity that you cannot understand the words but watch the video and answer the questions below
What are the four men standing behind the guitarists doing?
How many lines does each man sing?
What do you think that they are singing about?
Which type of Ghana is it? Is it fil-Għoli, tal-Fatt or Spirtu Pront?
You can check your answers for Task 3 and look for vocabulary by selecting the words.
In Spirtu Pront sessions, two or more għannejja (singers) are paired together and take part in an improvised song duel
The singers need to show their knowledge of a wide range of social topics as well as their command of the Maltese language.
The għannejja are the living poets of the Maltese language, singing in a highly expressive, free flowing style.
Their improvised melodic lines use Arabic influenced scales.
Although improvisation is definitely an element, it is never the focus.
Once a session has started, għannejja must participate for the entire duration, and no new singer can join.
The ghannejja usually begin by introducing themselves and then begin discussing the topic.
The song subjects themes themselves are dramatic and grave, even if dealt with wittily. They may be personal honour, reflections on social values, or political.
Three guitars accompany the singers. This gives għana a very unusual sound, not quite Eastern, but not quite Western.
In between sung verses, the next għannej (singer) is given time to prepare a response to his opponents' remarks while the prim (first) guitar improvises melodies based on traditional għana melodies.