The Wakes, “Bella Ciao”

“Bella Ciao” is a partisan song from the Italian civil war, and is still sung worldwide, in many different languages, as a hymn of freedom and resistance. The author of the lyrics is unknown, the music is based on a much older folk song.

In recent years it has been sung during the 2010 Student demonstrations against tuition fees in Parliament Square, London; the 2011 Occupy Wall Street protests in New York; the 2013–14 protests in Turkey in Taksim Gezi Park; the funeral of two victims in the Charlie Hebdo shooting in Paris (January 2015), the Greek 2015 political campaign of the Coalition of the Radical Left (SYRIZA) and in Syria by the Kurds. Some lovely Italians have put together these videos of examples from around the world:

The English version of this song was a permanent fixture in the Melbourne May Day songbook, and was always one of my favourites to sing. Partly this is nostalgia, I guess. My great-grandfather was himself an Italian partisan, and a lifelong communist and anti-fascist. He preferred to sing endless verses of “Avanti Popolo” which is much more rousing and martial, but “Bella Ciao”, with its haunting lyrics and a melody line designed for crowds, is a wonderful song to sing in solidarity.

This Celtic folk-punk ride by The Wakes is my current favourite version.

The Wakes are a magnificent folk-rock band from Glasgow. I suggest you buy their albums here: