Bella Ciao (Bella Chao) - Italian folk song

"Bella Ciao" is an Italian hit with a rich and mysterious history.

History of the iconic anthem "Bella Ciao" (Bella Ciao)

"Bella Ciao" (meaning "Goodbye Beauty" in Italian) is a well-known Italian folk song that dates back to the end of the 19th century. There are several versions of its appearance, one of which says that the song was born among the workers who worked for long days in the rice fields that stretch along the Po River.

How the Mondin version was created ...

Rice cultivation is very hard work, forcing people to stand in knee-deep water for hours with their backs bent. The most annoying thing is that this work was low-paid. As you might guess, sometimes hard workers staged riots and uprisings, which, in fact, was a common occurrence at that time. Over time, the working song has not sunk into oblivion, but on the contrary, it has been actively developing throughout the history of Italy, gaining popularity among new generations. During World War II, the text of "Bella Ciao" underwent some changes - now the old song sounded like a hymn of resistance to the fascist regime of Mussolini and his Nazi allies. Since then, the working song has been reborn into an anthem, which is widely famous throughout Europe.

As mentioned above, some believe that the first "Bella Ciao" was performed at the end of the 19th century by the women of Northern Italy. At that time, these women were called Mondinas (draughtsmen). As it is not difficult to guess, they worked in the rice fields: they planted grains of the plant of the same name, removed harmful weeds. The Mondins had to work almost all day, bending their backs, with their bare feet knee-deep in the water.

The work was really very tiring, requiring great physical endurance. But Mondinas had to put up with it, since they belonged to the poorest sections of society. To feed themselves and their families, these poor women had to work in truly inhumane conditions.

This is what the work of Mondinas (draughtsmen) looked like...
This is what the work of Mondinas (draughtsmen) looked like.

But even in spite of their humility and devotion to work, Mondinas women received tiny wages, on which they barely managed to survive. Sometimes, or rather, quite often, this led to riots and uprisings. But, as a rule, such measures did not lead to anything good. The rebels were immediately fired, since the population of Italy in those years was predominantly poor, which means it was not difficult to find a new “slave”. And why were they looking for? They came and asked for work.

But back to the song. "Bella Ciao" was composed and performed by working women in protest. It is a kind of hymn of struggle. Women sang about the hard life, and in the phrase "Bella Ciao" their farewell to beauty and youth was heard.

Among the Mondinas, the song remained relevant well into the 20th century. As the new decade dawned, the protests and uprisings finally paid off: the women's demands were met. Their working day was reduced to eight hours.

Subsequently, "Bella Ciao" found a new life, finding great popularity among the Italian partisans during the Second World War. To this strong anthem, the resistance members fought for their freedom against the puppet regime of the Italian dictator Mussolini and the Nazi occupation of Italy. And by the end of the 1940s, "Bella Ciao" was sung by the whole world! This is how the poor women's song Mondinas turned into an anti-fascist anthem.

Today this song is called folk - over the years, the name of its author has sunk into oblivion. According to various versions, he could be either an Italian partisan or a worker from a rice plantation.

Alternative versions

There is an opinion among researchers that allegedly "Bella Chao" existed even during the time of the great commander Giuseppe Garibaldi, who died in 1882. True, there are no reliable facts, or at least confirmation of the existence of the song from the lips of Garibaldi's contemporaries, and never have been. Therefore, many music historians are skeptical of this belief.

Some of the researchers also believe that the song came to life at the very beginning of the 20th century. According to their version, she really appeared on the rice plantations, where the Italian Mondinas worked hard. Her name was slightly different: "Bella Ciao delle Mondine". In 2003, Franco Fabbri, a well-known music critic, referred to a letter from a Gualtieri man named Scanzani. He claimed that he wrote the text of the "Mondin" version of the song, having once heard the famous partisan anthem.

As for the partisan version of origin, today it also has the right to exist. The fact that it was sung in the Resistance is a recorded fact. However, nothing is known about the partisan who wrote it.

Musical arrangement

Later, a musical accompaniment was invented for the song, reminiscent of several folk compositions in its motive. For example, the children's song "Sleepy Potion" ("Dance of the Sleepy Potion"), the ballad "Flower on the Grave", the melody "And the door knocks, knocks."

The song gained its greatest popularity after the Prague Youth Congress in 1947. It was attended by Italians, who were once partisans in the Modena mountains, and now conquered the compositions of many participants from other countries with their performance. "Bella Ciao" was first recorded by Italian singer Giovanna Daffini in 1962. For a long time, the performer was interested in folk musical motives. Her version of the song was especially emotional due to the fact that in her youth she herself was one of the mondins, among whom, according to one version, the famous "Bella Ciao" appeared.

Later it was replayed and covered by many artists from all over the world. According to average estimates, the song was performed in 32 languages, and Russian is no exception. One of the first translations was the translation of the poet Anatoly Gorokhov, which was performed by Muslim Magomayev.

The further fate of the song and its impact on culture

As time went on, the influence of the song grew. Today it is spoken of as an international anthem that celebrates freedom. It was born at the end of the 19th - the beginning of the 20th century as an anthem for the fight against injustice, and in this capacity it was already performed outside of Italy, in other political and historical conditions. So, it was sung by French students during the unrest of 1968.

Bella Ciao is no less popular in sports. For example, it is the favorite song of football fans. Surely fans of this sport remember how during the 2018 FIFA World Cup this old anthem was performed by the Italians and the Portuguese.

Due to the brightness and emotionality, the composition is widely used in cinema. For example, she is well known to viewers of the military drama "On the Trail of the Tiger" ("Bridge"). It is worth adding that with the release of the tape, the interest of Soviet listeners in the old work has sharpened again. The creators of modern serials also turn to her. "Bella Ciao" is played frequently in the Spanish Paper House, which premiered in 2017.

Song versions

In the vastness of the Soviet Union, this song gained unprecedented popularity thanks to Muslim Magomayev, who performed it in 1963.

It is worth paying tribute to another of its performers, Goran Bregovic.

Garik Sukachev also contributed to the popularization of "Bella Ciao" by performing the song "Free Gunner's Song", which clearly refers to the motif and text of a folk song.

There is also a “female” version of the song, which is performed, for example, by the Italian singer Milva.

The song is performed in different languages, in countries with different cultures. For example, the variant in Arabic.

Interesting Facts

A few facts related to the song may turn out to be quite unexpected.

  • In 2003, the music critic Franco Fabbri claimed that back in the mid-1960s, partisan Vasco Sanzani sent a statement to the Unita newspaper that he was the author of the Mondinian anthem. According to Sanzani, he simply rewrote the text of "Bella Ciao", beloved by the guerrillas.
  • Bella Ciao, which is now considered one of the main symbols of the Italian Resistance movement, became such only after the war. She really was loved by the partisans, but in a limited area in the Modena region. This change is associated with political motives - the much more common "Fischia il vento" was performed to the motive of the Russian "Katyusha", which was not liked by the government, which did not support the policy of the USSR.
  • Despite the fact that many people call Giovanna Duffini's version the first recording of the song, already in 1919 a similar melody was recorded many kilometers from Italy, in New York. It was performed by Mishka Tsyganov, an accordionist. The piece was based on "The little bag of coal", a famous Yiddish song.

"Bella Ciao" is one of the folk songs that not only do not lose popularity over the years, but are increasingly used by representatives of different cultures.

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