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Johnoy Danao’s ‘Bella Ciao’ cover reminds us of its anti-fascist roots

“Bella Ciao” is not just a song from Netflix’s “Money Heist.” While the show uses the song to celebrate the robbers’ victories and prepare for the heist itself, it is more than that.

This Italian protest folk song is actually an anti-fascist anthem worldwide with roots tracing back to the late 19th century when mondinas (paddy field workers) protested against harsh labor conditions. It was used once again to resist Nazi German forces occupying Italy during World War II. And thanks to folk singer-songwriter Johnoy Danao, his all-Filipino rendition gives new meaning to resistance in these tough times.

“Mabuhay ang hustisya. Mabuhay ang demokrasya. Mabuhay ang karapatang pantao,” he tweeted after releasing his cover. With our socio-political climate during the pandemic, his version of this anti-fascist anthem is timely and necessary. 

According to Screen Rant, “Bella Ciao” defined the mondina women’s rebellion against their labor conditions and desire for freedom. “The final lines of the song voice a hope to one day work in freedom, and it was that spirit of resistance,” wrote Hannah Shaw-Williams of Screen Rant. 

Danao used Romulo Sandoval’s translation of the song although he’s not the first musician to perform “Bella Ciao” in Filipino. In 1980, Susan Fernandez, Jess Santiago and Pol Galang performed this rendition at the Dingas European Tour.

This is an anthem telling the tale of the Italian labor force, their terrible living conditions and bygone youth. Protestors sang it before we were born. It is only fair we honor its memory now.

Listen to it below:

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Still from “Money Heist”

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Rogin Losa
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