Probably the most sang hymn of solidarity, emblem of the antifascist fight of all times

Bella Ciao || Белла Чао

There are many theories and speculations about the origin of Bella Ciao. Some researchers think that the song originated in the early 20th century in the North of Italy, in the valley of the Po River, as a protest song of mondine- the women working in rice fields. Their work was extremely tiring, transplanting the plants and pruning the weeds, bare feet in water up to their knees, their back bent for many hours. The atrocious working conditions, long hours and very low pay led to rebellious movements and riots in the early years of the twentieth century. 

In many songs, the owner of the rice fields comes with a cane to see if everyone is working hard enough. So, some consider the earliest version of Bella Ciao dating back to 1906, coming from Vercelli, a town in Piedmont.

There are also speculations that the melody of Bella Ciao originates from the song A Small Bag of Coal, which was recorded in the fall of 1919 in New York by the famous accordionist Mishka Tsyganov, born in Odessa. 

This record apparently circulated in the Apennines Mountains around Modena during the Second World War, shortly before the appearance of Bella Ciao, according to another source written by a partisan doctor. What we know for sure is that  in 1943-1944 the song about the oppressed female workers turned into an anthem of the anti-fascist Resistance.

In 1947 during the First International Festival of Youth and Students in Prague, Italian delegates and former partisans sang it on the train on their way there. Shared with the other guests of the festival, Bella Ciao started to be known around the globe. After the student riots of 1968, the song became firmly associated with the left movement. 

When in 2015 the Lega Nord (North League - Italian right-wing political party) came to power, some northern regions banned the song. A few years later, thousands of Italians across the country marched in protest singing Bella Ciao against the election of Matteo Salvini, the infamous leader of Lega Nord - who became for a short period the  Minister of Interior Affairs. 

In 2020, Bella Ciao once again proved to be an indispensable song of solidarity and resilience:  during the quarantine, Italians sang it from their balconies as a way to connect and support each other. In Germany and Spain, people did the same to support Italy, severely affected by the covid-19 pandemic. We also heard that Bella Ciao was played in Turkey in reaction to the insistence of mourning songs played with increasing frequency from the minarets, as a disobedience song countering the imposed sonic environment. 

In this Russian interpretation of Bella Ciao, Arkady Kots Band refers, inter alia, to the English version of Chambavamba. The group sings about a modern urban partisan who fights against injustice and tyranny, in the Partizan Jam iteration we also recall the bravery, courage, and sacrifice of the Italian, Yugoslav and Belarusian partisans of World War II.