Digging into the past to enrich our present | Domenico Castaldo's Lost Voices

TEODOR RELJIC speaks to dramaturg Domenico Castaldo about Ilħna Mitlufa – Lost Voices, an upcoming performance melding ghana and theatre, that is the fruit of musicological research, and which forms part of Teatru Malta

Italian dramaturg Domenico Castaldo during rehearsals for Ilhna Mitlufa – Lost Voices
Italian dramaturg Domenico Castaldo during rehearsals for Ilhna Mitlufa – Lost Voices

What attracted you to this project, and how would you say it pertains to your professional experience and interests?

Ilħna Mitlufa – Lost Voices always gave me the impression of being a very rich project, which is doing some very important work when it comes to restoring a very important tradition in Maltese culture. That tradition, of course, is ghana, and I very much appreciate how the project is doing its utmost to place this tradition back at the front-and-centre, where it deserves to be. And in a lot of ways, the role of the artist all across Europe should be as such: to feed our soul with the traditions of the past and to recognise the ways of expression of those times, so as to give ourselves a richer array of options as we look further and innovate ahead.

How would you describe Malta’s folk song tradition, and why do you think it to be of relevance to a more theatrical context?

Ghana, to me, feels like a very strong embodiment of the voice of Malta. And I think the theatrical context here could really use such a voice. At the end of the day, theatre, singing and music will always be interlinked – think of the very tangible connection between song and the tragedies of Ancient Greece, for example. Like ghana, theatre is there to give us a sense of release, to liberate us from the pain of daily life. And I very much felt exactly those strands of pathos and tension in the singing voices of the ghannejja. I would like for this tension and pathos to once again become a re-ignited through line for Maltese life, so that all may begin to see it as a balm for the contemporary soul.

Could you tell us a little bit about your research process for this project, and how you set about collating this research – and the various participants that form part of it – into its narrative?

The initial stages of the project were largely brought about thanks to the research and archiving work of Andrew Alamango. He gave me access to a wealth of material and, with infectious passion, introduced me to the world of ghana – to its most significant ‘founding fathers’, to its functions and to the culture and way of living that the genre signifies... and which has since faded away.

This culture had a very different way of approaching life and death. We live very differently today... our thoughts, our language, our landscape... even the very air we breathe, is different. But is it better, necessarily? I felt a pull towards this time period, and I know Andrew [Alamango] did too. I’m sure that ghana had a direct influence on him as a musician – that it touched a deep chord which he couldn’t help but explore further. So I began to see that, really, the Lost Voices project is a gateway through time – it’s a way to meet our grandfathers, but to meet them in their own time, their own culture. In this way, the project serves to feed our need of the past, and to foster this crucial connection.

“In a lot of ways, the role of the artist all across Europe should be as such: to feed our soul with the traditions of the past and to recognise the ways of expression of those times”
“In a lot of ways, the role of the artist all across Europe should be as such: to feed our soul with the traditions of the past and to recognise the ways of expression of those times”

Do you find that the project’s desire to locate ‘lost voices’ is an important one, and how does this particular project set out to do that?

The importance of any project can be determined by just how passionate the people who create, cultivate it and support it are. And in fact, the passion of all those involved in Lost Voices was clearly evident to me. Their lively energy really struck me. I felt my own roots reaching out to me as I started collaborating with them, and I find this to be hugely important. But what’s equally important is that, once the work of the artist is done, the work of redistribution can begin. That this past is not only restored, but also disseminated widely to the society at large.

What do you make of the Teatru Malta initiative, and how would you say it’s contributing to the local theatrical scene as a whole?

As I worked on Lost Voices I could see just how much care Teatru Malta pours into both this particular production but also other artists and local sources, and I strongly believe it to be an important contribution to Maltese creativity. I am very happy to form part of such a project, because I feel that my long experience in the theatrical world is finding a more than adequate outlet here. When I was first approached by [Teatru Malta Artistic Director] Sean Buhagiar to join the Lost Voices project, I immediately began to see its potential. Collaborating and mixing together varied experiences is the only real way to grow. And I believe it was very wise of Teatru Malta to focus on the ghana tradition, and to combine the worlds of both music and theatre.

 

Ilħna Mitlufa – Lost Voices will be performed at Teatru Salesjan, Sliema on May 12 and 13 at 20:00. With Domenico Castaldo as dramaturg, the performance is written by Adrian Grima under the musical direction of Andrew Alamango. Performers include: Anġlu Theuma ‘Il-Kina’, Mariele Zammit, Fredrick Mallia ‘Ir-Ré’, Raymond Scibberas ‘Iċ-Ċiranu’ and Andrew Alamango. The event forms part of the Teatru Malta programme. Bookings: https://teatrumalta.org.mt/events/ilhna-mitlufa-lost-voices/

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