Welcome to a new initiative by escflashmalta.com. Given that a lot of our readers are not Maltese, on a monthly basis, we will be reviewing two songs in Maltese so as to encourage more and more of our foreign readers to listen to them and still understand the meaning behind them. We believe that language should not act as a barrier when it comes to music, hence, our reviews in English for songs in Maltese ought to facilitate one’s encounter with such songs. The choice of such songs is purely personal and any opinions expressed do not necessarily resonate with those of the editorial team. Also, do not bother to suggest any songs you deem fit to be dealt with in future posts.
Tema ̓79: Composer Mro Paul Abela, Writer, Ray Mahoney
Its first debut was in the 70s, in the rock opera Ġensna (literal translation: Our Nation), first held at Ħaġar Qim, one of the megalithic temples still standing in Malta. The number, 79 refers to the historic date of 1979, when the British military base left Maltese shores and following whole centuries of colonisation Malta finally conquered freedom.
The children, dressed in white and red represent a symbol of a resurging Malta, the old lady crippled by centuries of foreign rule now experiencing rejuvenation under a local ruling. Previous rulers are seen nodding at the audience, following one another in sequential order, hinting that the musical is reaching an end now that Malta is free. The song may be interpreted as a medley for it is delivered by all main singers, including Renato, Chaterine Vigar, Mary Rose Mallia, Paul Giordimania, Bayzo and John Cutajar.
The introductory lyrics give way to a whole series of vocabulary that derives from the natural world. The Rose (il-warda) is seen sprouting from the bramble (għollieq) and thirsty dry thorns (xewk għatxan), symbolising the revival of Malta, represented by the flower. Even the clouds (is-sħab) seem saddened by the bitter fate of Malta, an evident use of the technique known as pathetic fallacy, whereby the weather conditions are influenced by the mood of the protagonists, in this case a whole nation.
Minn bejn l-għollieq musfara
minn bejn ix-xewk għatxan
il-warda l-għajn li tara
lewn ħamran fl-għelieqi u l-qigħan.
Minn bejn is-sħab imnikket
Minn bejn iċ-ċparijiet
The birds (għasfur, singular) are now singing with joy and their song (il-għanja) will be everlasting, now that their country is free. Moreover, the wings (il-ġwienaħ) of the free (meħlusa) Maltese are now seen reaching the skies, heading towards the sun (ix-xemx), which could also be understood as a reference to all Maltese who died as martyrs, who can rest for real now that Malta is free. The Maltese flag (il-bajda u ħamra) is implied by the mention of the its two colours, the white (abjad) and the red (aħmar) respectively, and just like the cheerful bird song, it never ends (ma tintemmx), indicating a persistent nation that keeps on fighting till the end., whatever the hurdles along the way.
Il-għanja qatt ma jsikket mis-smewwiet
u l-ġwienaħ tal-meħlusa
jittajru lejn ix-xemx
Il-bajda u ħamra nbusha
bħalha m’hemmx li ma tintemmx
Such a patrotihic theme can never feel complete without a reference to God (Alla), which follows at the very end of the song, in a prayer-like manner, implied by the address from all Maltese encouraging Him to have a look upon (ħares fuqna) a nation that is finally free (qed jgħix mill-ġdid).
O Alla ħares fuqna
dal-ġens qed jgħix mill-ġdid
The song is extremely synonymous with Mary Spiteri (Malta Eurovision singer in 1992 with Little Child) due to an immaculate cover version of the song. In fact she also delivered Tema ̓79 during Ġensna in Concert in 2009 (http://youtu.be/-S0vdSBfGPg). However, very recently, in 2014, Ira Losco has also given a flawless cover version of the song during the second concert version organised by Fondazzjoni Ċelebrazzjoni Nazzjonali (FĊN).