50 years have passed since my grandmother used to sit me on the kitchen table, hold my hands and sing this song to me.
Bella Ciao was the anthem of the anti-fascist partisan movement that my grandfather was part of.
This was the early '70s.
I had no idea at the time, but embers of the Second World War were still smouldering and the new Italy was just starting to shape up its future.
Recently the song was made popular again by a Netflix blockbuster and I got the urge to play it on the guitar and see what it sounded like.
Interestingly, my memory of it is this wonderful scene in sunny Rome, my granny's kitchen table full of amazing homemade pasta - orecchiette to be precise - I am in my shorts swinging the legs out over the tablecloth, my granny singing the song to me that I later found out the meaning of...
When I started to play it, I couldn't help it but feeling the sadness and the tragedy that war bring. Memories of my grandad - he survived the war but hatred for the other side never left him - the stories of poverty and despair, of bombs and death, of life and its fragility.
War is everywhere. There are conflicts in all corners of this wonderful planet.
Some closer to us in the Europe to make us sit up and listen, some far enough to "concern us", a lot that we don't even know about.
50 years since I first heard Bella Ciao.
It's message still way too relevant today.
"Until the philosophy which holds one race superior and another inferior is finally and permanently discredited and abandoned, everywhere is war. And until there are no longer first-class and second-class citizens of any nation, until the colour of a man's skin is of no more significance than the colour of his eyes. And until the basic human rights are equally guaranteed to all without regard to race, there is war. And until that day, the dream of lasting peace, world citizenship, rule of international morality, will remain but a fleeting illusion to be pursued, but never attained... now everywhere is war.”
―Haile Selassie I, Selected Speeches
- Popularised by Bob Marley in the song War”