Malta Song Festival

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Although Malta is a small island in the middle of the Mediterranean Sea with a small population, it is nonetheless rich in its history and its culture. When in the 1950s, in nearby Italy the San Remo Festival, and later in Switzerland, the Eurovision Song Contest came into existence, Malta soon followed suit by organizing its own National Song Festival.

Origins and other festivals in Malta[edit]

The first Malta Song Festival was organized by the Maltese section of the Young Christian Workers movement in 1960. Out of 72 submissions, 20 were chosen for the two semi finals. Eventually 10 made it for the final of Saturday 5 November 1960. All shows were held at the Radio City Opera House in Hamrun and were transmitted on the island’s cable radio system, now extinct, and then better known as Rediffusion. Eight of the ten songs were sung in Italian, one in English and one in Maltese. Each song had to be presented with two different musical arrangements. It was also a requisite to have two different singers for each song.[1]

On 14 November 1960 RAI TV transmitted a video coverage of the festival in its evenings news bulletin.[2]

As far back as 1960 the organizers of the festival were already planning to send the winner to the Eurovision Song Contest. But the time was not yet ripe for such a dream to materialise.[3]

In December 1961 the same Young Christian Workers movement organized also the first "Festival Ta' Kanzunetti Maltin" (Festival Of Maltese Songs)". The songs in this festival were all sung in the Maltese language. Although it was organized again in 1962, but after the 1962 edition, a decision was taken that the "Festival Ta' Kanzunetti Maltin" (Festival Of Maltese Songs)" would no longer be held.[4]

In 1964, the Malta Song Festival was transmitted for the first time on the Malta Television Service on November 16, 17 and 21. The final results were however announced in a presentation ceremony held and transmitted also on Malta Television on Wednesday 25 November 1964 [5]

In 1967, Rediffusion Malta, managed to issue the first long playing album of Maltese compositions, entitled "Malta Song Festival 1967". Joe Grima and Victor Aquilina, then Head Of Programmes and Assistant Head Of Programmes respectively of Rediffusion Malta, were the producers of this first 33 RPM of Maltese songs.

During the same period the late author and composer from Rabat, Malta, John B.Cassar,who was a pharmacist and a teacher by profession, had set up an enterprise called "Tourist Revues" . They were the organizers of " The Malta International Song Festival"[6] which had nothing to do with the Malta Song Festival. They also used to organize "Festival Della Canzone Italiana A' Malta". The 1966 edition of this festival was held at the Alhambra Theatre in Sliema and was even recorded and transmitted by RAI TV.[7] In the 1969 edition of the "Malta International Song Festival" which was held at the Hilton Hotel in St' Julians, David Bowie was one of the participants.[8]

On the 17 November 1973 "Jove Enterprises" together with Vanni Pule`, Maryanne Xuereb, John Portelli, Joe P. Portelli and others organized the first edition of the "Malta Folk Song Contest" at the Chameleon Suite of the Corinthia Hotel in Attard. The then Malta Government Tourist Board gave its assistance to the organizers of this festival which was also held in 1975 and 1976.[9]

In 1973, the Youth Travel Circle, a youth organization led by Rev. Fr. Maurice Mifsud, organized the first edition of another festival L-Għanja tal-Poplu (People's Ode Song Contest) . The songs of this very popular song festival are all sung in the Maltese Language . Against all odds, L-Għanja tal-Poplu (People's Ode Song Contest) has not only managed to survive, but it has even donned a National perspective. Since the nineties, this festival has been regularly transmitted on local television stations.

In 1986, the "Konkors Kanzunetta Festa San Pawl" was the first song festival ever to be held in a church in Malta. The songs all had a religious theme. The festival was held at the Church of St. Paul in Valletta.[10]

Malta in the Eurovision Song Contest[edit]

In 1970 the Malta Broadcasting Authority decided that, as from 1971, Malta would participate in the Eurovision Song Contest. So the Malta Broadcasting Authority and the Malta Song Festival Board joined forces. On Saturday 28 November 1970, 12 compositions competed in the semi-final to a packed audience in the Grandmaster's Ballroom of the Malta Hilton. Six finalists were chosen with the finals held on the 29 January 1971, at the Main Studio of Malta Television Services, now TVM.[11]

In fact in 1971Joe Grech, by now a four time winner of this festival, managed to be the first Maltese singer to represent Malta in the Eurovision Song Contest. Although in 1972 and 1975 Malta participated again in the Eurovision Song Contest, for some very obscure reason in 1973 and 1974 Malta did not participate.

In 1976 the government decided against Malta's participation in the Eurovision. It was only in 1991 that the regular participation of Malta in the Eurovision Song Contest was resumed.

1980s and 1990s[edit]

In 1981 the organization of the "Malta Song Festival", now known as "Festival Internazzjonali Tal-Kanzunetta Maltija", was taken over by the Ministry of Education and Culture. In the eighties all songs were being sung in the Maltese language and later, a version of the Maltese song was also sung in a foreign language by a foreign artist.

In 1982 the festival was held at Mediterranean Conference Centre between 25 and 28 March 1982. The festival was divided in three categories. Several international singers were invited to take part by singing the festival songs in the language of the foreign participants. Riccardo Fogli and The Tweets, so very well known for their Birdie Song, were the special guests of the 1982 edition.

Up to 2002, the "Festival Internazzjonali Tal-Kanzunetta Maltija", continued to be organized by the Maltese Government, together with another festival whose winner would represent Malta in the Eurovision Song Contest.

Return in 2013[edit]

On 24 July 2013 a meeting was held at the Manoel Theatre in Malta where Josette Grech Hamilton, Chairperson of the newly formed Organizing Committee, announced the return, after an absence of 11 years, of the "Festival Internazzjonali Tal-Kanzunetta Maltija". Mro Sigmund Mifsud was chosen as a conductor of a ten-piece band signifying the return of live performances to this festival. The Maltese Government decided to re-introduce its support and assistance to the festival [12]

Norman Hamilton and Robert Cefai, the current President and Secretary General of the World Association of Festivals and Artists, better known as WAFA, were also present. The organising committee consisted also of Ignatius Farrugia, vice-chairperson; Deo Grech, Media Relations; Ray Falzon, Pierre Cachia and Simone Bugeja. Anton Attard served as the PBS consultant to the board.[13]

On 18 September 2013, the 14 finalists out of 62 submissions were announced on TVM.[14] The festival was held on Saturday 9 November 2013 and transmitted live on TVM. Apart from the 14 local singers who made it to the final, there were also 13 international guest singers who competed amongst themselves, with the group Bella Vista of Germany winning this section with their song " Fremd Aber Doch Vertrthe" a German version of the 1999 winning song of this festival "Sa L-Ahhar Nifs".

The joy of its return was however short-lived, because in 2014 the "Festival Internazzjonali Tal-Kanzunetta Maltija" has been sent back to limbo. No official communication has been issued about future editions.


The following is a non-comprehensive list of the winners of some of the previous editions of the "Malta Song Festival" and of the "Festival Nazzjonali/Internazzjonali Tal-Kanzunetta Maltija":

  • 1989
    • 1st place: Renato Micallef & Marisa: " Ahfirli " (written by Alfred C. Sant and composed by Ray Agius)
    • 2nd place : Spectrum  : "Hamima Bajda” (written by Ino M. Busuttil and composed by Mario Caruana)
  • 1986
    • 1st place Category A : Renato Micallef : " Il-Karnival Ta’ Malta " (written by and composed by Lino Cauchi)
    • 1st place Category B: Joe George  : "Il-Kugin Giljan” (written and composed by Alfred C. Sant)
    • 1st place Category C: Phylisienne Brincat  : "U Int Jekk Bhali " (written and composed by Frederick Camilleri)
  • 1985
    • 1st place Category A : Renato Micallef & Marisa : " Separju " (written by Alfred C. Sant and composed by Ray Agius)
    • 1st place Category B: Paul Giordimaina  : "Ghanja Lil-Omm" (written and composed by Lino Cauchi)
    • 1st place Category C: Mike Spiteri & Mirage : "Kompjuter " (written by Alfred C. Sant and composed by Ray Agius)
  • 1984 (22–24 March)
    • 1st place Category A : Joe Cutajar : " Messagg Ta’ Sliem " (written by Cynthia Sammut and composed by Paul Abela)
    • 1st place Category B: Renato Micallef  : "Kenn Is-Sliem" (written and composed by Alfred L.Tanti)
    • 1st place Category C: Mary Spiteri "Li Kieku " (written and composed by Sylvia Sammut)
    • Special Price for the song chosen by the Public: Tony Camilleri “L-Ghannej” ( written and composed by Alfred C. Sant)
  • 1983 (24–26 March)
    • 1st place Category A : Ralph Dougall : " Lilek Biss " (written and composed by A.Busuttil)
    • 1st place Category B: Paul Giordimaina  : "Ghalxejn" (written and composed by L.Cauchi)
    • 1st place Category C: George Agius : "Habib Tinsiex " (written and composed by Doreen Galea)
  • 1982 (25–28 March)
    • Category A (Composers & Authors under 30 years)
    • 1st place: Mary Rose Mallia : " Jekk Trid Il-Hena " (written by Francis Falzon and composed by Ray Cremona)
    • 2nd place: Mary Spiteri  : "Jekk Trid" (written by Doreen Galea and composed by Sammy Galea)
    • 3rd place: "Muzika Muzika " (written and composed by Alfred C.Sant)
  • 1976
    • 1st place: Enzo Gusman : "Tifkiriet Taghna T-Tnejn/ Sing Your Song Country Boy" (written by Alfred C. Sant and composed by Ray Agius)
  • 1975 (5 February) – Venue: Malta Television Studios
      • The following were the 5 semi- finalists of the 1975 edition :
        • "Live For Tomorrow" (Rokna Minn Qalbi) sung by Mary Spiteri (written by Mary Sant and composed by Paul Abela)
        • "A New World" (Dinja Gdida) sung by Renato Micallef ( written and composed by Joe Ellul)
        • "Try A Little Love Today" (Id F'Id) sung by Mary Spiteri ( written by Mary Morey and composed by Victor Fenech)
        • "Singing This Song" (Idhaq u Iccajta) sung by Renato Micallef (written by M.Iris Mifsud and composed by Sammy Galea)
        • "Sing A Song Of Love" (L-Ghanja Tal-Imhabba) sung by The Greenfields ( written by and composed by Charles Bajada)

This semi-final was held at the Alhambra Cinema in Sliema on Saturday 1 February 1975. The 21 piece orchestra was under the direction of the late Mro Twanny Chircop. Paul Arnaud, Norman Hamilton and Mary Grech were the comperes.[17]

 (Renato Micallef represented Malta in the Eurovision Song Contest with this song. It was Malta's third participation in the 1975 
  Eurovision Song Contest and the first time that the song was sung in the English Language.)

(Enzo sang the Maltese version whilst Renato sang the English version.)

 (L-Imhabba represented Malta in the 1972 Eurovision Song Contest.It was not sung by the winners but by Joe Cutajar & Helen Micallef)              
 (Joe Grech represented Malta for the first time in the 1971 Eurovision Song Contest with this song.) 
  • 1969 (10 August) (The 10th Edition) – Venue: Buskett Roadhouse, Rabat, Malta[18]
    • 1st place: Carmen Schembri & Carmelo Borg : "Una Stella Fra Mille/Nista' Nib....Mitt Bahar" (written by Victor Zammit and composed by Clement Zammit)
    • 2nd place: The Links & Helen Micallef: "L'Arcobaleno/Il-Qawsalla"" (written by V.M.Pellegrini and composed by F.X.Pisani)
    • 3rd place: The Links & Carmen Schembri: "Le Stagioni/L-Istaguni" (written by written by Albert M. Cassola and composed by L.A.Scolaro)
    • Best Singer Trophy: Joe Cutajar
  • 1966 (The 7th. Edition)[20]
    • 1st place: Enzo Guzman : "INT" (written Albert M. Cassola and composed by Carmelo Zammit)
  • 1965 (25 November) (The 6th. Edition) – Venue: Malta Television Studios
  • 1961 (7 October) (The 2nd. Edition) – Venue: Radio City Opera House, Hamrun


  1. ^ The GO Eurosong 2010, PBS TVM Souvenir Brochure, "The First Malta Song Festival 1960" by Tony Micallef
  2. ^ Noel D'Anastasi, Il-Festa 2013,Ghaqda Tal-Muzika San Gejtanu, Hamrun, P.89
  3. ^ Il-Berqa, Minn Korrispondent, date unavailable. Noel D'Anastasi, Il-Festa 2013,Ghaqda Tal-Muzika San Gejtanu, Hamrun, P.89
  4. ^ Noel D'Anastasi, Il-Festa 2013,Ghaqda Tal-Muzika San Gejtanu, Hamrun, P.90
  5. ^ Times Of Malta 23 November 1964, 9
  6. ^ The Times Of Malta, 24 June 1969, by Fred Barry, Page 11
  7. ^ The Times Of Malta, 02 May 1966, 12.
  8. ^ Accessed 14Sep2013
  9. ^ Il-Mument, 24 November 2013,page 26, by Noel D'Anastasi.
  10. ^ On-Line: Accessed 24Aug2014
  11. ^ Times Of Malta 02 December 1970, 15.
  12. ^ L-Orizzont, 25 July 2013. On-Line: Accessed 26Jul2013
  13. ^ On-Line: Accessed 22July2013
  14. ^ Accessed 18Sep2013
  15. ^ TVM (Malta) News: On-Line: Accessed 12November2013.
  16. ^ The Times, 29 October 2002, On-Line: Accessed 19July2013
  17. ^ The Times, Wednesday 05 September 1975, page 7.
  18. ^ Times Of Malta, Tuesday 12 August 1969,9.
  19. ^ Times Of Malta, Monday 11 December 1967,16.
  20. ^ Electro Records, INT (You), 45 rpm, ES.106 Side A
  21. ^ Gwida, No. 8, 21–27 February 2010, 50 Sena ilu..L-Ewwel Malta Song, minn Tony Micallef