Wally Ghiller tal-Isla

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Wally Ghiller Tal-Isla

Wally Ghiller tal-Isla

was born on the 14 November 1955 and hails from the fortified city of Senglea, Isla in Maltese.

He is currently the only performing folk singer from this city in Kottonera. Ghiller, who has Scottish ancestry through his paternal great-grandfather, comes from a family of folksingers.

His father was Żeppi Ghiller tal-Isla, also known as Żeppi Sebu' , a nickname he acquired following an injury he suffered in one of his fingers while carrying out masonry repair work on the Senglea Parish church after it has suffered extensive damage due to German enemy aerial bombardment in the early 1940s. Żeppi, who was employed laying liquid tar in local road works and as a plasterer, passed away in 1987. The tradition continued through his three sons.

Wally's brothers Alfred Ghiller and Sammy Ghiller folk sang as well, but are not longer active. A particularly unique session, recorded by Maltese radio and presented by Charles Arrigo in 1978 features the four Ghillers singing together in an improvised verse bout. Wally still retains a copy of this recording.

Ghiller spent ten years as a fulltime boatman, rowing patrons on the traditional dgħajsa, across the Grand Harbour, on boats 506 and 401. He was later employed as a tile polisher, carrying mineral bottle crates with a soft drinks company and is now in the civil service. All these different work phases has made him aware of the realities that those in this social strata encounter during the daily routines of life.

Wally Ghiller at Ta' Ġanna in Żejtun

Ghiller has also sung on innumerable occasions on One Radio, including the programmes hosted by Joe Magrin. He was encouraged to folk sing by Fredu Abela Il-Bamboċċu, and paired regularly with Kalċidon Vella d-Danny and Mario Xuereb ta' Ġerald.

He was influenced by the folk singing giants of the Sixties and Seventies, Pawlu Seychell l-Għannej, Żeppi Meli ta' Sika, Pawlu Degabriele l-Bies and Żaren Mifsud ta' Vestru.

Nevertheless, his main inspiration is Ninu Gatt Ir-Rajsu from Żebbuġ and who is relatively unknown, due to the latter's ability to develop a line of thought and maintain the chosen subject in improvised verse whilst gracing his lyrics by a melodic voice.

Ghiller's favourite ballad is Żeppi Spagnol Il-Kelba's Il-Għarqa ta' Xatt ir-Risq. He is probably the only folk singer who is also an active athlete and has ran the full Malta Marathon several times, since his first participation in 1989. Wally Ghiller has transferred his folk music into digital format.

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