Bella Ciao – Ciao Context?

Picture of By Henrike Freytag

By Henrike Freytag

[mks_dropcap style=”letter” size=”52″ bg_color=”#ffffff” txt_color=”#000000″]E[/mks_dropcap]veryone who has watched ‘La Casa del Papel’ has probably already come across the song ‘Bella Ciao’, a song that has gone viral after the series. This song shapes El Professor’s childhood and every move he makes in the series. I am not going to go into detail about the show here, for I do not at all want to spoil the series (which I’m actually not a big fan of) for the readers. I want, however, to come back to the song, or more specifically: the Hugel-Remix of Bella Ciao, that has widely made its way onto radios and minds of people, Casa del Papel-watchers and non-watchers alike. La Casa del Papel gave the kick-off, the Remix is what has followed.

And so, there are thousands of young people listening to this catchy hit with Italian samples, a predictable drop, and repetitive melodies, while not knowing what they’re actually nodding their head to. Here is where the problem for me comes in. ‘Bella Ciao’ is not only that, a head-nodder, not only the next party-summer hit, known from this cool new Spanish Netflix series, it is a song with a history.

So let’s take a look at the origins of this song. We are in Italy, between 1943 and 1945. The Italian anti-fascist resistance is fighting the Italian Social Republic and the German Nazi-allies in the Italian Civil War. ‘Bella Ciao’ initially a song sung in the early 19th century by Italian rice-field workers, who protested the poor working conditions, was the hymn of the Partisans, fighting for their freedom. They sing about where they want to be buried when they die as Partisans and sing their last goodbyes to their beautiful – Bella ciao, Bella ciao, Bella ciao ciao ciao. Bella Ciao is a worldwide recognised song of resistance against fascism.

It clicks and two hours later, the Deep-House Remix is born

Back to 2018, France. DJ Hugel, or as he refers to himself on Instagram as ‘hugelthug’, watches ‘La Casa del Papel’ and recognises ‘Bella Ciao’ because he grew up in Marseille among Italian people. It clicks and two hours later, the Deep-House Remix is born. What follows is ‘Bella Ciao’ making it to the Charts in Germany, Switzerland, France, and Austria, some reaching number one. The song is played in Ibiza, Mallorca, and every other party hotspot you can imagine.

Now to be fair, Hugel is not the first person to cover this song and take it out of its context. From several Italian recordings over a Danish Psychedelic rock group to a German folk duo, and even the Dutch Hardstyle DJ’s Gunz 4 Hire, everyone has had their take on ‘Bella Ciao’. But, and this is the crucial point, no cover has ever enjoyed so much popularity as Hugel’s.

I have to admit, it’s a catchy number. You mumble and hum along while walking around, and that is not necessarily a bad thing. As this song stays with you, I think the story can do so also. After all, we are talking about a song from freedom fighters in the Second World War. The onus lies on the producer to at least make an effort, to connect content and context -be it on Instagram, concerts or parties. ‘La Casa del Papel’ does it to some extent, Hugel does not. Especially these days, as we experience the rise of populism and right-wing-powers, it would be significant to use a song like ‘Bella Ciao’ not only for commercial reasons and for a fun-night-out but also to grab the opportunity and make each and everyone who sings along aware of the fact that there were times, when people fought with their lives against fascists and for freedom using these powerful words.

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