Maltese għana (song), pronounced aana, the għ is silent, is the generalised term for the indigenous Maltese folk-singing which consists of quatrains, ideally extemporised, following a rhyme scheme of a-b-c-b, and sung to traditional tunes, generally accompanied by a number of guitars.
Maltese għana singing has been with the Maltese nation for centuries, and has always been regarded as the music of the peasant, the farmer, the labourer, the washer-woman and has generally been associated with the working classes.
The Maltese have a natural in-built ability to sing and rhyme. And this was documented by a number of visitors to the islands who were impressed by this phenomenon. We will look at some of their impressions as outsiders as well as others from Maltese academics which are views from within.
A typical Maltese quatrain is the four-line poem or stanza, with each strofa (verse) consisting mostly of eight syllables. Għana verses are half-oriental airs, something between a Sicilian ballad and the rhythmic wail of an Arabic tune. There are various forms of ghana - these are some of them:
BOTTA U RISPOSTA : This type of għana is also commonly known " Spirtu-Pront ". Nowadays this is the most popular type of għana . It is sung by two or more għannejja (singers) as a song-duel. The għannejja carry on an impromptu conversation, stanza for stanza with a guitar interlude between each stanza. This requires a great deal of quick thinking as well as the ability to rhyme. If four għannejja are taking part, għannej one sings with għannej three, and ghannej two sings with għannej four. This usually last for an hour, ending with a KADENZA which has two or more stanzas.
GĦANA BIL-QASMA : This type of għana is like the above, but the stanza is split between two għannejja . The second għannej replies within the same quatrain immediately after the first two verses presented by the first għannej . The għannej who finishes the last two verses, starts the next stanza and so on.
GĦANA FIL-GHOLI : Also known as LA BORMLIZA . This type of g hana is sung on a high note and the phrases are long. It is not frequently sung nowadays, which is a great pity, but there are still one or two places in Malta where you can hear this type of ghana .
Nowadays a group of three guitars accompany the għannejja . The lead guitarist is called IL-PRIM . Between each stanza of ghana , IL-PRIM plays what is called PREJJEM . This is where IL-PRIM shows how good he is to the delight of the audience.