Singer songwriter Ray Mercieca reminisces about the inspiration behind his generation-defining hit Down by the Water, revealing the particular poignancy it has for him.
“Remember the days we used to play? Every day, children still play by the water.” The catchy refrain, backed by its foot-tapping accompaniment, belongs to one of the defining songs for local music in the 1990s. Down by the Waterwas penned by Ray Mercieca, which he sung together with his band, The Characters. Released in 1996 as part of the album The Truth, the song captured the imagination of Maltese youth culture.
To this day the song still resonates strongly with many generations, bringing with it great nostalgia, while ironically being a song about nostalgia itself. The classic hit has particular poignancy for Ray because not only was it inspired by his childhood years, spent with his family while they were on holiday in Malta, but it was sadly his last vacation with his mother. “So, you can imagine,” he muses, “when I wrote it, she was my inspiration”.
The song has been given a new lease on life in not just a new music arrangement but with Maltese lyrics, written by Kris Spiteri, featuring 11 local singers, Malta Philharmonic Orchestra musicians and session musicians and a music video to go with it.
How does Ray feel about his creation being reworked into a Maltese version? The musician, who grew up in London, admits he “wasn’t sure how it would adapt in Maltese”, but reveals that “Kris and the team did an amazing job and [he feels] honoured to say [he loves] it”.
Indeed, Ray speaks with great positivity about being a part of the project, noting how “working with Kris, [Matthew James] and Luke [Grech] was great” and that he “[loves] what they did with the song”. Ray’s involvement saw him singing a chorus at the end, and he also features in the video, along with some surprise guest appearances…
All photos by Ruben Zahra