Many otherwise intelligent and discerning people delight in the Eurovision Song Contest, and can name the winners stretching back decades. Personally, the magic and mystery of Eurovision rather misses me, but one thing I have noticed and respected: the contest really matters to small nations. For Bosnia-Herzegovina, for Ireland, for Belgium, for Finland – there is genuine joy at success, and even at just being on equal standing with the big guys on this stage, if no other. One of Europe’s small nations is Malta, an island in the Mediterranean which has had the historical misfortune of being strategically valuable. At different times the island was conquered by the Romans, the Carthaginians, the Vandals, the Moors, the Sicilians, the Spanish, the French, and lastly the British. Mussolini tried to capture Malta during the Second World War. He failed, but his air force dropped a few thousand tonnes of bombs in the attempt.
Malta’s turbulent history is reflected in its language. Maltese is described by linguistic authorities thus: “a Semitic language written in the Latin alphabet, descended from Siculo-Arabic, but altered in the course of Malta’s history by adopting vocabulary from Sicilian, Italian, English, and to a smaller degree, French”.
This is the language which you will hear in the following track, which was intended to be Malta’s entry in the 1974 Eurovision Song Contest. For some reason – bickering in the Arts Ministry? funding problems? – Malta withdrew.
This was the year the contest was won by a Swedish group, by the name of Abba, with “Waterloo”. It is fair to say that even had Malta’s Enzo Gusman got to perform “Paci Fid-Dinja” on stage in Brighton (where the contest was held that year), it unlikely he would have taken the chocolates.
It is, well, undistinguished. Mainstream, lightweight pop, with a bit of Moog synthesizer in the background. But, hey! It was good that the Maltese were having a go. More than that: a sentimental song calling for “Peace on Earth” (that’s what the title means) sounds a whole lot better than many the slogans of our own time: Stop the Boats. Build the Wall. Ban the Burka.
Maybe the Maltese know the value of peace more than most. They were, after all, conquered by Napoleon, before he faced his Waterloo.
- Artist: Enzo Gusman
- Single title: Paci Fid-Dinja
- Format: 7”, 45 rpm
- Label: Elyphon
- Catalogue: 101
- Manufactured in: Italy
- Year: 1974