Frans Baldacchino l-Budaj

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Frans Baldacchino l-Budaj (1943-2006)
Frans Baldacchino l-Budaj.
was one of the leading Maltese traditional folksingers, known as għannejja. Born in Żejtun on the 16th May, 1943, living in Tal-Parenta area he was known for his harmonius voice and his lyrical wit. At the age of seven years he already felt the poetic muse.


Featuring in many folk festivals in Malta and Australia his, together with Karmenu Bonnici l-Baħri in the 1992 French album Inedit Malte: Ballades et joutes chantées. This album includes the traditional ballad Il-Għarusa tal-Mosta. This was the first għana album on compact disc, mainly due to the interest shown by folklorist Charles Coleiro. He has also sung a number of other ballads, including Il-Maltin ta' New Caledonia at Mġarr, Gozo in 1991. One is unsure if this is the same ballad written by Frank Zammit, or an original by Baldacchino.

He also collaborated with Mannie Casha, an għana researcher and musician residing in Australia, towards the release of the album Tila. To the guitar music of Mannie Casha, he has also folk sung three other ballads, L-Għanja tal-Mediterran, L-Għanja tal-Għażeb and L-Għanja tal-Għid il-Kbir.

In 2001 he wrote the lyrics of the winning song "Tisimgħu Tissaħħar" in the L-Għanja tal-Poplu festival, which he sung with Priscilla Psaila. Through his artistic partecipation in such festivals he was engaging a new audience that had hitherto being maligned to traditional folk singing.

Other than being considered as an intellectual within the folksinging community, he was also a naive artist and published a book entitled Imrieżaq ta' Moħħi in 1995. Another publication was his epic poem Lejn l-Art u s-Sema, in 2004.

Frans Baldacchino during an Etnika rehearsal.

Baldacchino was a regular participant in Etnika's annual projects, including Bumbum in 2003, Il-Ħolma Ġgantija in 2004 and Żażu Klabb in 2005 and was open to innovation and new trends in għana.

As with Madredeus in fado and Paco de Lucia in flamenco, this dilution of cross-genre music with Maltese folk music brought him new fans, who had never bothered with improvised verse, but also an element of scorn, even if subtle from the traditionalists.


An excerpt from his popular Lament, recorded in Etnika's 2003 album Żifna ran as:


 'Dik l-imħabba lejn kull ħlejqa
 Imħabba mas-sess oppost
 U fejn ma ssibhix issaltan
 Dak l-ambjent ikun bla gost
 
 Jien kelli f'idi t-tama
 Malli l-ħajja tkun għaddiet
 L-imħabba eterna tibqa 
 Fil-belt sbejħa tas-smewwiet'
Frans Baldacchino's monument in Luqa Briffa Garden, Żejtun.


He passed away on the 21st June 2006. His funeral mass in Żejtun, attended by the President of Malta Fenech Adami, was not without commotion, climaxing when four folksingers stalled the funeral procession by singing improvised verse in his honour on the church parvis.

A full size monument for him, designed by sculptor Anton Agius, was inaugurated in Luqa Briffa Garden in his hometown in 2008.

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