Għanafest is considered by many to be a must in every local culture-lover’s calendar for a reason. The brainchild of artistic director Ruben Zahra, Għanafest is the one event in the year where għana, namely traditional Maltese folksong, takes to the stage in all its splendour, as it did last weekend for the seventh year running. But this year, like every other, acts from Spain, Croatia and Israel flew in to join in on the Mediterranean folk music event of the year.
The fantastic time my friends and I all had when we went on the third day of the festival made us all regret that we didn’t go on the other days. The lights all around the Argotti Gardens in Floriana, especially in the less-populated area of the venue, were magical, almost as if from another time.
As with most Maltese events, artisan and food stalls were everywhere, so we all jumped at the opportunity to nibble on some bread and Maltese sausage, drink wine and, then, finally end with some glorious nougat.
This while routine għana emanated from the stage as the local għannejja (għana singers) paid tribute to the tradition every couple of hours.
Soon, Kantilena’s contemporary blend of folk and pop swing wafted through the air. Melodic and enchanting, the entirety of their music is written exclusively in Maltese. They performed new pieces from their much-awaited album, Senduq, launched a mere 24 hours before.
Then, at about 10, the Israeli Ramzailech got on the stage, full of raw energy and ready to spend it all in an excellent performance of them jumping around as they performed, as well as of the very happy audience dancing to their loud screaming klezmer music.