Italian entry wins the Gibraltar International Song Festival

The emotionally charged and immaculately performed Italian entry Ne ho abbastanza (I’ve got enough) scooped the ninth Gibraltar International Song Festival’s top prize on 2nd June, the very evening of one of the country’s national days, marking the 72nd anniversary of the proclamation of the republic.

At the end of a well-fought contest between eleven finalists from as far and wide as Chile, Venezuela, Mexico, Colombia, United Kingdom, Spain and Gibraltar, composer Marco Di Martino and lyricists Marco Canigiula and Francesco Sponta were awarded the £4,000 cash prize sponsored by Restsso, while Neapolitan singer Morea lifted the trophy. They were congratulated by Minister for Culture Stephen Linares and festival promoter Joe Carseni, who also paid tribute to its revivalist humble beginnings and the steady support from the Risso family.

Morea, catchy stage name for 29-year old Maria Antonietta Pennino, captured the audience with her mesmerising combination of technical delivery, dazzlingly elegant stage presence in a sequinned peach frock, and romantic visual effects of a giant full moon rolling over a choppy sea struck by lightning which, still consistent with the best tradition of Neapolitan song and Italy’s chanteuses, succeeded in breaking away from stereotypes and rocketed the performance into the millennium’s Soaring Twenties.

The show was once again a triumph of Eurovision-style glitzy chic with plenty of glamour on and off stage, black tie and all, and visual effects to mesmerise the thousand-strong audience packed in the Tercentenary Hall, as well as the ones who followed the live streaming on social media. Although the loud music and the strobing lights felt overwhelming at times, and often distracted from the sheer merits of each song, the show never missed a beat, right from the opening act ‘Powercut’ by Gibraltar-resident Israeli singer Karin Soiref, who warmed up the audience with her energy and her leather sheath boots. She had Claire Hernandez briefly cross her fingers to exorcise such an unfortunate event. Having already proven in past editions what a natural she is with the mic beyond her usual role of weekend radio face, dainty Claire, a vision in beaded grey gauze, complemented her co-presenter Nicky Guerrero’s assertively red tie piping out the ocean of penguin suits.

The competing entries didn’t limit themselves to traditional song, which struck a chord with the judging panel, and were sung in Spanish, English and Italian. Rock and blues made their appearance too, the first with the avant-garde ‘rockenz’ fusion of rock and dance in Euphoria, a gaudy song performed by Spanish duo Replidanz, who describe themselves as “landed from a not too distant future with a single mission: conquer the world with our songs.” More pop rock with Indivisible, sung by Jade Law; Love Me, Hate Me, but Don’t Forget Me, delivered by Spaniard Priscilla Estévez, which had the audience hum along the lyrics projected in neon capitals on the giant screen behind her; and the self-titled Nebulas by a cool duo with guitars, aided by galactic background graphics.

The first part of the show drew to a close on a high note in the frenzied rendition of Mexican blues Te dedico este blues (This blues if for you) by Steffie Beitt and her band, who surely knew how to galvanise the atmosphere with a tune that strayed from the general mood, and possibly for this very reason failed to impress the judges as much as it did with the public.

Second prize was awarded to Everywhere You Go I Wanna Be, written by Denis Valerga and Eddie Adamberry, and gracefully sung by Corinne Cooper, one of the most talented local female singers.

Sadly, a second Gibraltarian entry, Metro Motel’s El sonido de la vida (The sound of life) was withdrawn because of personal and medical reasons, and there was no time for a callback from the waiting list, in order to in-keep with the announced twelve-song format.

The third prize flew right across the Atlantic and the equator to reach Chile, where composers Claudio Prado Villaseca and René Calderón, and singer songwriter Jean Pierre Hettich hail from.  Entre amar y no amar (Between loving and not loving), sung by Jean Pierre, clad in all-black torero suit, seemed quite a popular choice with the audience as well, as it embodied the very essence of Latino song with a serenading voice matching a melody that conveniently exploited its range.

The best interpreter award went to Venezuelan ‘Grandpa’ William Luque, not new to the GISF, who pranced around in rocker/rapper attire belting out his ironic hymn to middle age Me quedo con la dos (I will keep them both).

And finally it was time to unleash the vocal power of Spanish singer Rosario, who bounded and strutted on stage in black shorts and astronaut boots for an hour of shaking her wild curls to the booming rhythm of her hits.



More on Morea

Morea, stage name for Maria Antonietta Pennino, lives in Naples where she grew up with her sister Paola, who was born on the same day but four years apart! Maria has been singing since she was a little girl and, barely a teenager, she started attending lessons and joined several choirs, including gospel. She has participated in many of Italy’s most prestigious musical festivals, and was a finalist at the ‘Mia Martini prize for new European voices’ in 2005, the year she also participated in Castrocaro, one of the most coveted pre-selection events for the San Remo Festival. Two years later, she attained the finals in the popular song category at Penta Music Competition and participated in the Fiumicino Festival. Later the same year she scooped the Best Voice Award at Giffoni Festival, where she returned in 2008 to qualify as second runner-up and radio award winner. She auditioned for several TV shows, including the Italian X-Factor and Amici. She also won the Best Voice Award at the Mela & Tequila contest, which led to signing her first record contract with an independent label. Maria also enjoyed the experience of musical theatre with Libera Scena Ensemble and was the official singer on board of MSC Sinfonia. Earlier this year, she recorded two original songs, Agosto and Débole, with the Italian label Canzoniinedite.com, now available in most digital stores.

The authors

And her powerful voice has now added the GISF top prize to her authors’ trophy cabinet!

What is your feedback on the show compared to your previous experiences elsewhere?

The GISF is extraordinary. Well organised. Stage, lights, sound… everything planned down to detail. The organisers are fantastic: everyone is nice and friendly, helpful with any issue arising, no language barrier: I will always treasure them and hope to see them again one day.

What inspired the lyrics of this song?

Lyrics are inspired by a true story, by my own negative experience which has tested my perspective on life, and changed me for the better. The authors noted how upset I was when I talked about it, and they channelled my anger into this song, to make sense of my emotions and transform them in a universal message.

What do you do when you are not singing? Do you gig regularly in Naples?

When I am not on stage, I am at work, or I spend time with family and friends. I gig regularly in Naples, especially at open-air events. I am also recording an EP in Rome, with six songs composed by Marco Di Martino and co-written by Marco Canigiula and Francesco Sponta.

How do you see the future of traditional melodic song against commercial pop?

The melodic song has been sidelined in the charts, but there are billboards specific for it, where it enjoys diversity of expression and popularity. This resonates as well in the mainstream music scene, especially live performances. If the right voice is selected to make justice to the right melody, the traditional song will always be in fashion and able to compete artistically with any other genre.