Participating in the musical tradition of prejjem: Transmitting the guitar culture of għana within and between insular musical communities of islanders in Malta and the Maltese-Australian diaspora

Andrew Ross Pace


Prejjem is a style of guitar music that is practiced in the Maltese islands and its diaspora as part of the għana folksinging tradition. Although għana has been studied by a number of ethnomusicologists, anthropologists, sociologists and linguists, its guitar aspect has been almost entirely overlooked by academia. Emerging in Malta over a century ago, prejjem is analogous to the guitar component of flamenco or fado. It, too, is a complex improvised guitar tradition that serves to accompany and complement a vocal tradition and which simultaneously exists as a separate instrumental ensemble practice. Guitarists maintain a close-knit association with the għana community, but they also engage in a set of activities and behaviours with one another that are unique to their position within it.

In this thesis, I examine both the social and musical attributes of prejjem and its communities of guitarists, employing a range of methodologies and theories drawn from a number of disciplines to reveal the totality of the practice as it exists in Malta and its diaspora (specifically Australia). Drawing extensively upon ethnographic fieldwork research that I have undertaken in Malta and Australia, I explore the material culture of prejjem, its musical forms, its history, its performance environments, the sociability of its participants and the means by which performers develop musical ability. These topics are bound together as a holistic investigation into how knowledge about prejjem exists in the għana community, how social factors shape the forms of this knowledge and, most importantly, how this knowledge is transmitted and transformed as it passes between members of this community.

Participating in the musical tradition of prejjem

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