The ċuqlajta is an instrument which on the Maltese Islands has very strong associations with Holy Week. Iċ-ċuqlajta encompasses a large number of different shapes and sizes of clappers and ratchets which produce their sound in different ways. Most are made totally of wood, but a few are made of wood and metal or even out of Arundo donax reeds. One particular type of clapper has existed in Malta since Roman times and can still be seen in folk bands particularly in Gozo (an island of the Maltese archipelago).
This interesting instrument replaces the church bells on this sombre day. If a particular village has this type of clapper installed in the belfry of the church, then it can be heard from all across the village! The sound that it produces is constant and unmistakable.
It can be played by the regular bell ringer of the church or by volunteers who take turns to play the instrument to keep the sound continuous. It can also be automated.
The size, shape and sound of these fascinating instruments differ with each village.
An old Maltese tradition, the wooden clapper is still in use in some villages to this day. Well known ċuqlajti are those that are found in Zejtun, Zebbug, Gudja, Balzan, Birkirkara and Qormi.
It is believed that this old Maltese custom was adopted as far back as the Middle Ages!