Bella Ciao! Happy Italian Liberation Day!

25april-300x300April 25 marks the day when Italy was liberated by Allied Forces from the Nazis and Mussolini in 1945.

If you lived in Italy during the last few decades, you’ve heard the popular Italian partisan song “Bella Ciao.” The partisan movement, if you’re not familiar, was a movement of Italians who fought against Mussolini and fascism during World War II. The origins of “Bella Ciao” have been debated and discussed by many, but one question came to mind in 2008: could the melody have been discovered by an Italian in America?

In 2008 the Italian Newspaper La Repubblica reported that the melody for “Bella Ciao” seemed to be from the Yiddish song “Koilen” by Mishka Ziganoff written in 1919. According to the article, one of the many theories of the melody’s origin was discovered when an engineer from Borgo San Lorenzo (near Florence) purchased a CD of Yiddish swing music at a used record store in Paris.

When this engineer began to listen to the first song, he couldn’t help but start singing “Bella Ciao.” This led him to a professor at the University of California at Berkeley who said that the Yiddish song “Koilen,” is of Russian origin. It was recorded many times, but the engineer’s version was recorded in New York in 1919. So, how did an eastern European melody become the song of Italy’s liberators? The engineer who discovered the Yiddish CD speculates that an Italian living in New York heard the song and brought it back to Italy where decades later its melody became a symbol of anti-fascism.

The song “Bella Ciao,” as the article mentions, didn’t become popular until 20 years after the partisan movement and is now a song of pride among Italians.

See the La Repubblica article, here.

It’s important to note that Italian Liberation Day also serves as Italian Veterans’ Day, remembering those lost during World War II in particular.

Written by OSIA National Office Staff Assistant, Carol Cummings.

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