In an eye-opening interview aired last Monday on Television Malta (TVM)’s long-running broadcast series of “Ilsienna”, UK-based Maltese academic Dr Toni Sant made a case for Malta’s entry in the next Eurovision Song Contest to participate with a song using the Maltese language. His compelling argument has at its core the fact that even English-language songs of Maltese participants have over the years hit rock bottom during the contest.
Dr Sant is himself a former radio and television presenter on the Maltese airwaves and he still is active as a producer and music journalist with his own cyber presence on the web via a very long-standing popular podcast Mużika Mod Ieħor. He also is Director of Digital Media and Film Production at Salford University in the UK and was formerly Reader in Digital Curation at the University of Hull’s School of Arts & New Media on the Scarborough campus.
Looking back, according to Sant the Maltese have been taking part in the Eurovision Song Contest since 1971. Initially, the first two years saw songs in Maltese featured, both of which placed last in their respective contest. That seems to have cast its mark on Malta’s future participations in the song contest, as the Maltese language was never used again, with the except for a short spoken section by Claudette Buttigieg in 2000. After 1972’s dismal placing, the main reason for opting for the use of the English language by the Maltese organisers has always been that Maltese-language songs only landed Malta in last place at the contest.
With that mindset though, Malta still placed last in 2006 with a song in English. And subsequently, Malta neither managed to get through to the Eurovision Song Contest finals in 2007, 2008, 2010, 2011, 2015 and 2018, even though the song from Malta in all these years was sung in English.
Perhaps it’s time for Malta to send a song in Maltese to the Eurovision Song Contest…but not in 2022, of course. While the ongoing strategy (if we can call it that) with songs in English doesn’t seem to be working in terms of achieving top placements, it may indeed open up the growing contemporary Maltese-language songbook to a wider audience.
Sant argues that maybe it’s again high time to reconsider reutilising the Maltese language in the songs that are sent to participate at the Eurovision Song Contest, which in itself would also broaden the songs’ local reach, besides offering on stage something original and different from the rest.