How did the music industry evolve in the 1930s?

A series of three books have been published to document the music industry in the 1930s. The Malta Lost Voices Songbooks is based on songs and authentic accounts which were collected in research carried out by Andrew Alamango.

The beginning of the 30s were the golden years following WWI when Malta was going through a cultural and economic renaissance.

Inspired by the advances in the international industry of gramophones and the wish for records to be produced in the original Maltese language and music, local record agents commissioned the best composers and lyricists to write original songs in Maltese.

The result led to the production of catchy songs with humorous lyrics, some of which recounted stories and legends, while  others were the traditional folk songs (għana).

The popularity of these songs was a social phenomenon in those times. The Maltese now had access to machines which could  play songs in the comfort of their homes whenever they wished.

Anthony D’Amato, who forms part of five generations of the D’Amato family, who own the oldest music shop in the world, explained that there is a strong demand for these original songs.

“In the late 20s and early 30s we had sent some artists to Milan to record at the HMV studios, which at the time and to date is still considered one of the best and most prestigious music houses, to record Maltese songs on vinyl at 78 r per minute. Many people know these as tal-faħam (made of coal)… which if they fall they break into 100 pieces, not like today. Then more Maltese songs started coming out and the popularity of Maltese records continued to increase.” because they were in our own language.

Ten years after it launched the project Lost Voices in 2010, Filfla Records is publishing a series of three books, Malta’s Lost Voices Songbooks, with original music and lyrics from the collection Lost Voices.

Researcher and author Andrew Alamango said that there were very popular singers who were sought after by the Maltese.

“I believe music is not just interesting as music, but it is also a snapshot of society at the time, at the level of language, politics, and the country’s social and cultural life.”

The publications include material written for the piano by Alexander Vella Gregory, for guitar and voice by the author himself while the concept and design are by Andrej Vujicic.

The book also contains photos, illustrations and stories collected by the author while carrying out the research, with a virtual link which gives direct access to the 30 songs.