‘I write as I speak’

‘I write as I speak’

Singer-songwriter Corazon Mizzi needs no introduction; not only has she won L-Għanja tal-Poplu no less than four times with her own compositions, but she has released two albums, the latter, Għall-Bejgħ, launched just recently via a magnificent concert held at the University of Malta. Anna Marie Galea sits down with Corazon and learns more about the bubbly and ultra-talented singer and her creative process.

Like many gifted singers, Corazon’s passion for music started extremely early and she is nothing if not grateful to her parents for her early introduction to what she calls “beautiful Italian music”.

Corazon Mizzi. Photo: JJ ChircopCorazon Mizzi. Photo: JJ Chircop

“From a very tender age, I was taught to appreciate the power of words and storytelling in song. I wrote my first proper songs during my sixth form years. The music room at St Aloysius’ College contained a very beautiful grand piano, and that’s where I would spend all my break-time; sometimes alone writing music, at other times in company sharing my compositions with my friends.

“They would always gladly listen in, pooling in ideas and sometimes we’d also write songs together – I knew then that this was something I loved doing and their approval really encouraged me. At the end of the year, I had produced so many songs that my Systems of Knowledge project was acollection of them.”

Although her first foray into songwriting when she was very young was in Italian, Corazon quickly switched to writing in Maltese. Although it was a natural process for her to write in her mother tongue, many might consider this to be something of a bold move given how few of our fellow countrymen opt to do the same.

I asked Corazon why she thought that was: “I think that the first problem is that we lack an indigenous scene of Maltese music. Most of our musical past relies on songs which were written for one festival or another, tied to a political theme, or historical episode. Therefore, a young singer-songwriter wishing to write in Maltese has few idols to follow, little thematic ideas to draw inspiration from, and a repertoire which belongs to an older generation.

“Secondly, the colonial mentality is still very present in us – we still feed on the idea that what is local is inferior to anything exported. That is why I insist on writing about scenery or character which is typically Maltese in an attempt to make my listeners realise the beauty in what is ours.”

While many have chosen to blame English for the way the Maltese language has suffered over the years, Corazon is adamant that it is not the case and presents a tantalising counter-argument.

The largest damage to our language is not made by those who choose to speak in English, but by fundamentalist language enthusiasts

“The largest damage to our language is not made by those who choose to speak in English, but by fundamentalist language enthusiasts. I am referring to those who make a huge fuss about employing archaic Maltese vocabulary, insist on perfect spelling, and expect Maltese to remain a pure and uncontaminated language. This attitude disheartens the multitude of Maltese who use the language in their everyday life but are not academics or linguists. 

“My style of writing breaks barriers in the way music in my native language is written, working with our language in a way that it is understood and spoken today makes it sound intimate and colloquial, appealable to the public in general. Sometimes, if the context allows, I even consciously mix in English words. Such is the case in: ‘Kif tħobbni int, ħsibt li jħobbu biss fil-kotba u fil-films’ from my song Kif Tħobbni Int. This is the way the Maltese speak today, and music which is written today needs to reflect Maltese society. I write as I speak. I am not a teacher – I do not need to set any example.”

Kif Tħobbni Int is just one of the many beautiful songs which populate Corazon’s new album, Għall-Bejgħ. Unlike her first album Hawn Jien which was principally a collection of songs written over time, Għall-Bejgħ is more of a concept album: “The thing about Għall-Bejgħ is that all the songs were written around the same time so they share the same fire. Because of this, they feel unified; it is obvious that they belong to one piece of work.

“When introducing my album to others, I was finding it very difficult to explain the meaning of a concept-album – how songs, albeit each being able to stand alone, can be unified by a series of images, thematics, melodies and how their identity is closely tied to this collection. That is why we created the baker’s story after the album was completed – in an attempt to facilitate the audience’s understanding of the way the songs are related to each other.

“The simple story of a baker’s rise to fame and subsequent fall was inundated with references to thematics which were repeated in the entire album – an excuse to facilitate the understanding of the work.”

Despite the enormous beauty of her body of work, Corazon remains humble and grounded in what she wants to achieve both through the album and in her life in general. Her wish is not only to encourage more people to experiment with writing in Maltese but to be able to express herself fully: “Throughout my life, I always felt a strong need to realise myself as an artist – not simply to produce or to execute the already established, but to break boundaries, tread on uncharted territory and create something new.

“This album attempts at doing that. On a personal level, this album encapsulates much of who I am today: my thoughts, my deepest fears, my recollections while I still hold a vivid memory of them, my hopes, my criticisms, my judgements, the persons and things which are most dear, the values I cherish. It is an artistic expression of who I am and what I represent. I am deeply thankful for having the opportunity to be able to do what I do in the presence of an ever encouraging audience.”

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