Mikiel Abela l-Bambinu

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Mikiel Abela l-Bambinu

Mikiel Abela l-Bambinu

was born in Żejtun on the 16th of August 1920.

He was brought up and lived in his father’s farmhouse that is located between Il-Qajjenza and Marsaxlokk. He was famous for his makkjetti and for his folk ballads.

Amongst his most famous are Id-Destin ta' Pawlu l-Bies, Il-Fenech Inviżibbli, about Ċikku Fenech Ta' Vanġiela, who in June 1963 was on the run for three months, being sought all over Malta by the police for the murder of Ċikku Vella and L-Ingliż li ġie Miekul mill-Ħuta fil-Bajja ta' San Tumas, a ballad about Jack Smedley, an Englishman eaten by a great white shark in St. Thomas Bay on 20 July 1956. Most of Abela's ballads were published as chapbooks and he remains, with Żeppi Spagnol Il-Kelba one of the most prolific.

Perhaps the most biographical work was the his ballad Il-Firda Eterna (Eternal Parting) written in honour of his wife Ġużeppa, who passed away three days after their daughter's marriage. Three thousand people flocked to visit her corpse at home prior to her burial. Abela also featured on vinyl with his sister-in-law Maria Abela tal-Bambinu, including the popular It-tgħajjira.

Ballad writing requires intensive research and fieldwork. If the story revolved about a serious crime that was to be resolved by a jury, Abela would attend all the court sessions to observe the occurrences and be precise in his writings. Twenty of Bambinu's ballads were published in Cassar's 1988 biography entitled Il-Bambinu: għana u poeżija, that was published by Sensiela Kotba Soċjalisti. Recalled for his open commitment to the Partit Laburista, he is refered to as Il-Għannej tal-Partit (The party's folksinger).

Abela was proud of his hometown, and its reputation of being the mecca for Maltese folksinging. He sung thus:

                Trid idur sebat irħula           
                Biex forsi ssib għannej         
                Iż-Żejtun jitwieled tifel,       
                Joħroġ jgħanni jekk jibqa' ħaj!  

                 You have to go through seven villages
                 To perhaps come across a folksinger
                 In Żejtun a boy is born,
                 He comes out singing if stays alive!

The premise that a good folksinger needs to use his sense of wit to challenge authority was perhaps never as exemplified then when Mikiel Abela Il-Bambinu addressed the Libyan leader Colonel Gaddafi, during a night of Maltese talent at the Manoel Theatre in the late Seventies. Enthusiasts still remember his improvised verses:

Sur Gaddafi tħobb lil Malta Jien miż-Żejtun bil-mixi ġejt Nitolbok biex tagħdirna U fittex raħsilna ż-żejt

             Mr. Gaddafi, You love Malta
             I have walked all the way from Żejtun
             To implore you to empathize with us
             Spare no time in reducing the price of your petroleum.

Il-Bambinu in the 1960s with some of the trophies he won

He performed amongst the Maltese communities in Australia, Canada and in London, and as a guest in Germany and Italy. Aged thirty, he was committed about emigrating for good to Australia and on the ship that had sailed from Malta with one thousand migrants, Abela claims that three hundred were from Żejtun. During the time he spent in Australia he suffered economic hardship and returned to Malta. Back in Malta he became the famous folk singer that he was.

Abela passed away on the 10th of February 1991. One of the most famous balladeers in the history of għana. His grand daughter married the noted Mikiel Cutajar Is-Superstar. His cousin was improvised verse folk singer Żeppi Abela l-Fenka.

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