Ghanafest in Malta, Part 1: Flamenco Fusion

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We really enjoyed ourselves in Malta, thanks to many people I need to thank — so many, in fact, that I must do it in stages. On our second day in Malta, we were driven around in the evening by a local academic named Robert. We’d made contact with him via the Couchsurfing website, and he’d already planned to bring us to a folk festival in Floriana (next to Valletta) called Għanafest.

Excerpts from the Visit Malta website:

Għanafest is a three-day manifestation of Maltese folk singing (known as Għana in Maltese) which takes place every year in June…. a unique opportunity to experience the different styles of għana. Besides Maltese folk music, the festival presents a programme of local musicians and ensembles.

Maltese folk singing has various genres e.g.‘Għana tal-Fatt’, whereby the singer recounts a story in verses that relate to a tragic past event. Another genre is ‘Għana spirtu pront’: two singers hit out at each other with sharp and witty retorts as one sings out and the other responds with spontaneously thought out lyrics; and ‘Għana fl-għoli’ wherein the stanzas are sung in an extremely high note /pitch remotely similar to a flamenco folk song – this singing is also known as ala Bormliħa.

A variety of foreign folk singers and musicians hailing from various countries in the Mediterranean also participate in this festival. Throughout the three days of the festival, there will also be a series of crafts demonstrations on various stands.

We spent the evening at the folk festival, where I shot a large volume of photos of the performers, mostly of the flamenco dancers who are part of a local dance group. On our way out, Robert introduced us to the organizer of the folk festival, who explained that the dancers brought the idea to him, since flamenco isn’t native to Malta but it could be performed to Maltese folk music. (There are a few short video clips of it at the bottom).

I wanted to devote an entire post to the ladies of the flamenco group, because they danced with such passion through several outfits and numbers. I love shooting dance, because performers become lost in the music and the movement of their bodies. It makes the photography much more about timing than anything else (I never use the burst mode), and freezing moments of movement which show how fully engaged the dancers are. It’s the expressions of rapture I aim for every time.

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June 14, 2015
Album: Malta 2015