Mario Gravina s-Sipa

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Mario Gravina s-Sipa

Mario Gravina s-Sipa.

is an improvised verse folk singer. He was born on the 24th March 1955 and hails from Tarxien. He is employed as an electrical assistant with the statal energy supplier.

He grew up in an għana environment through his mother Ġużeppa’s għana tal-banju, washerwoman folk singing which she sang at home. His family nickname is inherited from his grandfather Ġamri s-Sipa, who was a boxer from a Tarxien family known as Tal-Giża.

As a fourteen year old Gravina was also influenced by għana broadcasted on the Rediffusion service, and two folk singers from his hometown, Leli Azzopardi l-Bugazz and Salvu Pace s-Sulari. Four years later he started folk singing in public, at Joe’s Bar in Xgħajra, together with Joe l-Għasfur, Mikiel Cutajar Is-Superstar, Ġużeppi Cesare s-Santuċċi and Salvu Cassar Il-Ħamra.

Salvu Pace s-Sulari remains his favourite folk singer, since Gravina believes that he came up with punchy and calculated replies, rispostuż tajjeb in improvised verse bouts. A famous example of this was Sulari’s bout with another għana stalwart Frans Baldacchino l-Budaj, referred by enthusiasts as Tal-Bejta bout, where Sulari used his mastery of linguistic double entendre to his advantage.

Mario Gravina s-Sipa folk singing at the Trust Bar, Żejtun, 6th August 2013.

Gravina has never folk sung a ballad, but pays reference to Mikiel Cutajar Is-Superstar’s Isard du Pont and those by Żeppi Spagnol Il-Kelba. He is however very active in the local folk scene, performing in several events around Malta, especially in those organised by Vince Cumbo tal-Iżgej.

Gravina sincerely explains that folk singing is his only passion in life, and doubts if he would be immersed as a folksinger given another chance to turn the clock back, considering that spirtu pront at times causes friction between folk singers, if their improvised verses are applied outside the unwritten code of ethics based on respect and gentlemanliness.

On the other hand, it is the spontaneity that only għana can provide, that fires him up to folk sing whenever an opportunity presents itself.

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