Maltese Carnival Pop Music Heritage
Malta has an interesting pop music heritage when it comes to carnival. It is a mixed bag, with some songs sounding very poppish and quite trite. Others are quite articulate, and one draws on Maltese folk singing and folk guitar playing and is indeed really funny. Eric Montfort revives some memories of these songs, having been requested to do so by readers after yesterday’s article, 12 Songs for Carnival.
L-Innu tal-Karnival: Composed by the late Jimmy Dowling and the late Johnny Catania, this is a joyous song with a universal appeal. Jimmy Dowling was an ace pianist and bandleader, arguably one of the most prominent and influential musicians from Valletta. Johnny Catania, who hailed from Msida, was one of the most prominent broadcasters and a top entertainer, always delivering good, clean fun. Johnny wrote many other songs and was also a co-founder of the Siegha Tal-Morda, a cable radio programme for the sick, elderly and those with special needs back in 1947. The song has also a very nice interpretation by The Incorvaja Sisters.
Il-Parata and iz-Zifna tal-Karnival by Paul Tanti/Il-Parata by Enzo Guzman: Another popular 1960s and 1970s singer who was associated with hits like Baby Gogo, Cospicuan-born Paul Tanti had two songs about carnival recorded back in the late 1960s. These are nice ditties about carnival, and these songs appeal more to young kids, rather than teenagers. Well, both of them go for carnival in different ways. Veteran singer and broadcaster Enzo Guzman delivered his version of Il-Parata some ten years later, and moved along the same vein but he projected a stronger, mature voice.
Fil-Karnival by Freddie Portelli: Freddie Portelli has written and sung songs on practically everything under the sun! His album Narak Kullimkien ,released a couple of decades ago, features this song about carnival. This is a good song, fits perfectly for carnival, and he clearly maintains his trademark strong vocal prowess, though this is not his best song.
Viva l-Karnival by Phylisienne Brincat: This song was featured in a tribute album dedicated to songwriter and author Inez Lombardo, who passed away in 1982.
Karnival ta’ Malta by Renato: A good, unpretentious pop song and the winner of The Malta Song Festival in 1986.
Il-Karnival by Georgina Abela: A strong song and a good observation about Carnival. This song was featured in the musical Andrelisa, composed by veteran Mro. Sammy Galea and his son, Domenic, with lyrics by the late George Saliba. It was released in 1994.
Fil-Karnival by John Laus: Arguably the funniest Maltese carnival song ever! Maltese folk singer John Laus talks about a guy who decided to dress up as a lady for carnival and ends up attracting and hooking up a guy. He only leaves when the guy tries to kiss him and his wig comes off! This song was released in 1971.
Fil-Karnival by Joe Bugeja: Released in the late 1970s, this song has nothing to do with John Laus’ ditty or Freddie Portelli’s. It is a cute pop song, nothing extraordinary. The singer just fizzled out of our local pop scene soon afterwards.
Il-Parata tal-Karnival and Ara Gej il-Karnival by Mro. Prof. Charles Camilleri: I have fond memories of the late, great Charles Camilleri. A great Maltese composer, renowned internationally and who could adapt himself to practically everything under the sun when it comes to composition, melody and sounds. Il-Parata was composed in the mid-1960s and features a funfair feeling. The late Mro. Paul Arnaud and Val Valente, who sadly passed away last Friday, loved interpreting this song, and used to lead their bands before the King Carnival float. Today it is a completely different ball game with noisy, hip hop and rave sounds ruling the roost! Ara Gej il-Karnival features a mid-tempo melody and draws more on traditional Maltese melody and has more subtlety.
Banda ta’ Indri by The Greenfields: This is not exactly a carnival song but the earliest known band in Malta was popular during carnival, back in the mid and late 19th century; hence the importance of this song.