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What does Bella Ciao mean ?

The Song From The Italian Rice Fields Has Invaded Public Conscience And Our Streets

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History behind Bella Ciao

The history behind 'Bella Ciao' is quite interesting. The song originally traces back to the struggles of women riceweeders called ‘Mondine’, in the northern Italian region, in the first half of the 20th century. The earliest version of the song was sung in 1906, but this fact is contested. The song “summarizes decades of oppression and struggles for work, freedom, justice and equality for all”. One of its lines goes “in risaia mi tocca andar. E tra gli insetti e le zanzare.” Which means, “In the morning just awakened , And among the insects and the mosquitoes”

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Bello Ciao in new avatar

A second version of the song, which came later, and now has turned popular, has completely different lyrics. This new avatar was sung during the Second World War while resisting against the Italian Social Republic and the Germans. The song talks of the possibility of dying in the mountains (the Italian Alps). “Una mattina mi son svegliato, e ho trovato l’invasor,” goes one line, which means “One morning I awakened, and I found the invader.”

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Bella Ciao's birthplace: Italy’s rice fields

Bella ciao' is the story of the everyday life of a Mondine, the female rice weeders who were annually contracted for 40 days for agricultural work in Northern Italy. The song, it is believed was written somewhere in the 1930s. The lyrics draw attention to the emotionally significant moments of this form of labour, which is gender centric. At dawn, the Mondina , the bella of “Bella Ciao” accepts her family’s painful goodbye as she leaves for the rice fields where she will be employed for more than a month. During the day she is at work in the paddy fields with other Mondine like her, bent over in front, while the overseer (male supervisor/ owner) with his stick/cane --almost a phallic symbol of power and even violence—standing at their backs.

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Bella Ciao Song

Alla mattina, appena alzata

{In the morning just got up}

(Coro) O bella ciao, bella ciao,ciao, ciao

{(chorus) Oh bye beautiful, bye beautiful, bye, bye, bye)}

alla mattina appena alzatta

(In the morning just got up)

in risaia mi tocca andar.

{ In the morning just awakened }

E tra gli insetti e le zanzare

{And among the insects and the mosquitoes}

(coro) O bella ciao, bella ciao,ciao, ciao

{(chorus) Oh bye beautiful, bye beautiful, bye, bye, bye)}



un duro lavoro mi tocca a far.

{ A difficult work I must do }

O mamma mia! o che tormento!

{ Oh mamma mia ! Oh what torment!}

(coro) O bella ciao, bella ciao,ciao, ciao

{(chorus) Oh bye beautiful, bye beautiful, bye, bye, bye)}

E cosi ogni doman!

{ And it goes on like this every day }





Il capoosquadra col suo bastone

{ The overseer with his stick}

(coro) O bella ciao, bella ciao,ciao, ciao

{(chorus) Oh bye beautiful, bye beautiful, bye, bye, bye)}

e noi curve a lavorar.

{ And us bent over at work.}

Ma verra' un giorno che tutte quante

{ But a day will come when all of us}

lavoreremo in liberta'!

{ will work in liberty!}

(coro e voce principale, insieme) Ma verra' un giorno che tutte quante

lavoreremo in liberta'!

{(chorus and lead , together) But a day will come when all of us will work in liberty!}

Youtube Link
Youtube Link
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Who wrote Bella Ciao ?

Vasco Scansani, an Italian labourer turned song writer claimed that ‘Bella Ciao’ was written as part of a song competition “concorso sonoro” for the Festa della Mondina a San Germano Vercellese in 1952. Scansani, it was claimed was the first person to transcribe the lyrics for a public forum. The issue is still being debated in intellectual circles. Another version claims that Giovanna Daffini, an Italian singer, associated with the Nuovo Canzoniere Italiano movement, had added the last section of the lyrics to Bella Ciao. Today the Confederazione Generale Italiana del Lavoro (CGIL) Milan's digital audio collections possess multiple version of the song. Similarly, various transcriptions can be found in ethnographic histories such as La Fatica delle donne and Senti le rante che cantano, writes Diana Garvin.

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Bella Ciao against Germans and the Fascist regime

For those familiar with Italian history, April 25 every year is remembered as a day of commemoration and sociability. It marks the 1945 call from the anti-Nazi Committee of National Liberation (CLN) for the final uprising against the German occupiers and Mussolini’s puppet regime, and is celebrated as the Liberation Day, with special emphasis on the Italian Resistance of 1943-45. It was during this time that “Bella ciao” (“Farewell, my lovely”) came in a new avatar. In this version of the song there is an imagined dialogue between a young partisan leaving to fight in the hills and his beloved.

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Bella Ciao &
The World War II

The song was modified in to the context of World War II wherein between 1943 and 1945 the Italian partisans cried loudly with hope against the invading soldier who supported the Italian fascist government of Benito Mussolini. In the armed resistance against Mussolini and the Germans, many were killed and murdered. Thus, ‘Bella Ciao’, the song which was once a song of freedom, love and hope now became a repository of memories of injustice and bloodshed.

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Bella Ciao, a political manipulation: Antonio Gramsci

According to Antonio Francesco Gramsci, an Italian Marxist philosopher, the song emphasizes political manipulation. Gramsci considers 'Bella Ciao' to a category of songs which is neither written by people, nor for the people, but which people adopt because they conform to their way of thinking and feeling.

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What Do Italians do on April 25 ?

It is a legal holiday. In the morning, normally many Italians go to the solemn laying of wreaths at monuments to Mussolini’s victims and to the partisan fighters against the Germans of 1943-45 who died in the struggle. In larger cities, people join the big demonstrations at Milan or Rome. They cheer for the few surviving partisans who till this day faithfully come every year. The day is marked by reflection and commitment towards partisans’ struggle.