René Calleja l-Bessie
His nickname was given to him by another horse cab driver who also folk sang, Salvu Sciberras Gwardarobbi. The Callejas didn't have any folk music connection, other than listening to it.
As a seven-year-old his father was already taking him to bars, like Ta' Ġanna in Żejtun and the Labour Party club in San Ġiljan to listen to live events.
When he was fourteen, he was at the Pietà Boċċi Club, that used to be run by Leli Axisa l-Baqra and was encouraged to take part in a six-man bout of improvised verse, where his adversary was Wally Ghiller tal-Isla.
Calleja's favourite folksingers are Leli Sultana l-Moni, Żeppi Meli ta' Sika, both from Marsa, Karmnu Fenech Il-Ħandrolla and Salvu Darmanin Ir-Ruġel. Was it a coincidence that in his favourites, there were none from Żejtun? Calleja disagrees with this opinion, and reteriates that Marsa had a strong folk singing tradition and was a hub in itself.
Today, he intends to continue to folk sing whenever he has the opportunity. The spirtu pront, improvised verse model, brings his serenity, not temerity, since offers a challenge he takes head on.
He is totally disinterested in other musical genres, such as techno, pop or electronic music, and is horrified when he hears it blared in vehicular sound systems owed by young people from his generation. For him that is so removed from the local musical culture.
Since he is a horse cab driver, a kuċċier, he has to tend to his horses, two of which he uses for his occupation. This means that his daily routine commences at the break of dawn, at six he feeds his four steeds, then sets off with his horse drawn cab, the local karozzin hoping to have good custom. What remains of the day goes to għana and all that it offers.
Calleja is active on the local circuit.