When we heard that a trumpeter played Bella Ciao at a demo outside the
Italian Embassy after Carlo Guilliano was murdered, we decided to record our
version of Bella Ciao and put it up on the web to mark Carlo’s death.
Originally a song of the Italian Partisans, Bella Ciao always has a particular
resonance to audiences in Southern Europe who recognise its anti fascist
significance. The Italian partisans, like their French counterparts, were a
loosely allied underground resistance movement against fascists and Nazis. When
we’re playing in Southern Europe and the brass section start the intro, a
couple of people always raise their left fist in a gesture of defiance and
solidarity. There is no equivalent protest song in the UK. We first heard a
version of it when we played with the Dog Faced Hermans in the early nineties,
we stole the feel but not the lyrics.
There are several versions of Bella Ciao, the most well known is probably that of a protest song of the 'Mondine Piemontesi' (women working in the rice fields) in support for/love of the Italian partisans who were living in the hills trying to fight the invading fascist armies.
The gist of the original lyrics is:
This morning i woke up and saw we'd been invaded
O partisan take me away, and if i die
Bury me in the mountains beneath a pretty flower;
People will see this flower and say
"What a pretty flower! Is this the flower of the partisan!?"
And they will know that I died for freedom
Before the manufacture of bands and sentiment merely for profit, popular song was far more likely to be oppositional. The subject matter was work, the tavern, struggle, prison, religion (and with the exception of the evergreen love song) more likely to express a world view that was antagonistic to that of the status quo. Songs provided an alternative view of life; when they dealt with prison and work they weren’t complimentary. They were an ongoing testimony to the existence of poverty, dissatisfaction, anger, bravery and the need for justice and didn’t echo the views of the ruling class. As with Bella Ciao, they sometimes provided allusions to a world that is free and revolutionary, crossing over from simply describing an existence to becoming a rallying call and a political song. Like the resistance movement it represents, Bella Ciao doesn’t have one author, it borrows from earlier popular ballads and has gone through the transition of being a song about the women supporting the partisans, to one written from the partisan’s point of view and after J18 and Seattle we reworked it to fit anti capitalist activists.
Bella Ciao talks of a life and death struggle, the shooting of protesters at Gothenberg and then Carlo’s murder in Genoa is a graphic illustration that the powers that be are upping the ante against the anti capitalist movement. Genoa’s Red Zone and the fact that world and business leaders are realising that they can only meet in the remotest parts of the world shows that capitalism is being forced into retreat and hasn’t won the battle for hearts and minds. For once its the multinationals and world leaders who are having to justify their behaviour, despite the media’s attempts to demonise protesters, public opinion is not with the WTO or the G8 leaders. The media claimed that the anti capitalist movement had its first martyr after Carlo’s death, which takes away from the fact that the protesters gather because they’re anti death and sick of the poverty and the many mundane deaths of a system based on profit. Bella Ciao isn’t glorifying Carlo’s death, we’re putting it up on the web to celebrate his life and the fact that he was part of the movement to create a world where human life is of more value than profit.
from: http://www.chumba.com/_download.htm#Anchor-The-45817 - 15.3.2002