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Sunday, December 04, 2005

The Beat Goes On

Is it just me or has the Maltese blogosphere calmed down over the past few days? It's been exactly one week since I posted anything on my blog. Other Maltese bloggers continue to blog fairly regularly, of course, but somehow I don't get that sense of electricity-in-the-air I've come to associate with blogging. Perhaps it's just the lull before the next storm.

In any case, my series of music podcasts continues with a third installment. I am particularly pleased that this week's podcast marks a significant technological milestone for me: I have finally managed to digitize music from an old cassette tape. I have dozens of tapes I want to digitize now, and some of the material on them is quite rare.

This week's podcast opens with music from a relatively new Maltese band called Fire. Fronted by singer Kenneth Calleja, this band plays the sort of classic rock you hear on FM radio, whenever they play that genre of music. The main reason I chose to play a track by Fire is simply as a way to introduce the first song I've managed to dub from one of the cassettes I mentioned earlier. Robert Longo is one of two guitarists in Fire, who along with Fire drummer Lawrence was in a band called Mirage back in the 1980s. The other is Joe Vella, better known as Il-Pejxa, formerly with the 80s local metal band Stratkast.

Back in the days when Il-Pejxa was bending strings for Stratkast, Robert was, among other things, experimenting with recording technology at a garage in Gwardamangia. In 1987 he produced Mirage's second album entitled Garage Technology; the first was a little gem called For Absent Friends. The song featured in this week's podcast comes from Garage Technology. It's called Ship to Nowhere. The song was co-written by Robert with Mirage keyboardist Dennis Vella and singer Mario Ellul.

Mario was still an underground singer in the mid-80s. He was quite well known in the rock music and theatre circles, mostly through his work with Fog. He had also started making his mark on the local television scene as a young producer/director at TVM. Our careers in those days ran on parallel platforms and eventually we came to collaborate on various projects, starting with the hit TV series Mill-Garaxx. While the title for our TV show was an obvious choice, since we featured live rock bands playing as they did in their garages, I now realize that we owed some of the inspiration for Mill-Garaxx to Mirage's Garage Technology. That cassette album is by far one of the most amazing works by a Maltese band from the eighties.

The local music scene in Malta has come a long way since the days of Garage Technology, in many ways. I was amazed, but not surprised, to hear Maltese rappers a couple of years ago. Foremost among Maltese rappers is one known as Hooligan. He released an EP called Nieħdu Bużż a little while ago as a follow-up to his quite successful debut CD album Oriġinali Bħali. This week's podcast features the title track from that first album. If you've never heard Hooligan rap in Maltese this is a definite must-listen, whether you like this type of music or not.

Finding anything about Hooligan on the web seems like a near impossibility. One fan site listed on is no longer accessible and a search on Google yields next to nothing. I wonder why this is.

By contrast, Particle Blue is an electro-pop duo that presents itself beautifully on their website. I first met Antoine Vella (half of Particle Blue with Claire Tonna) about six years ago when his sister Mary Grace took me to see his band rehearse in a subterranean garage in Marsa. I don't recall whether what I saw was an earlier incarnation of Particle Blue, but I remember being quite taken by the sounds I heard in that garage that evening. Particle Blue are playing gigs in the UK right now, so I thought it would be appropriate to play Weekend from their CD album Generation Hope to close this week's podcast. Claire's voice makes me think that this is what Nico would have sounded like if she had lived on to experiment with electro-pop from Animotion instead of Bauhaus. There is no deliberate hint of the former Velvet Underground chanteuse in Particle Blue, but to an old dog like me such comparisons are odiously inevitable.

Anyway, now that I've rigged up the old Denon cassette deck to the PC to capture my fading tape recordings, I guess I'll be featuring more rare tracks in future editions of my Mużika Mod Ieħor podcast. I'm not saying I'll make it a fixed feature just yet because most of my cassettes are still at my parents house in Malta, but there's enough material on the tapes I have with me here in Scarborough to bring you at least another track or two before the year ends.

The RSS feed for the podcast is available here or you can simply click here to subscribe directly with iTunes.

Blogger Kenneth said...

Semmejt lil Dennis Vella... sibt cassette jiġri hawn - kien iddubbah ħija meta kien imur jitgħallem il-keyboard għandu stess.

Il-cassette iġib l-isem ta' "Dennis plays... collection one" u mid-dehra fih xi siltiet minn Philip Vella.

Sena mniżżla m'hemmx, imma nassumi li hu minn tmien is-snin 80/il-bidu tas-snin 90.

Jekk taħseb li jinteressak, nara kif nagħmel biex niddiġitizzah u nibgħatulek, imma napprezza jekk issa ttina naqra ħjiel fuq kif għamilt biex irrekordjajt mill-cassette tiegħek. Kont smajt li trid tqabbad cassette player ma' l-input tal-mic fis-sound card (irħilha li m'għandix cassette player wieħed li hu wieħed jaħdem!) Użajt xi metodu ieħor int? 

7:22 PM, December 04, 2005
Blogger Toni Sant said...

Nieħu pjacir ħafna kieku jirnexxielek tgħaddili mqar silta waħda minn dak il-cassette li qed issemmi.

Iva, kif qed tgħid int għamilt biex iddiġitajżjajt il-cassettes li għandi jien. L-unika differenza ċkejkna hija li użajt sound card li għandha stereo input flok mill-input tal-mic li huwa mono. Fil-fatt jekk tisma' sew is-silta tal-Mirage li daqqejt waqt il-poddata tara li hija stereo. 

8:17 PM, December 04, 2005
Blogger Kenneth said...

Jien b'mono biss nista' ninqeda, imma issa naraw. Inwiegħdek li nipprova nagħmilhom għada fil-għaxija (jekk ma nsib ebda ntopp), għax għandi tikka xogħol x'illesti llejla.

Saħħa għalissa ...u prosit tal-programm! 

8:33 PM, December 04, 2005
Blogger Coemgen said...

Another good one!
I sent you mail 

3:30 PM, December 05, 2005
Blogger Kenneth said...

Ħa jkollok tistenna ftit għax kull forma ta' cassette player li hawn - ibda mill-istereo ta' Żmien il-Ħaġar ta' warajja u spiċċa fid-diversi walkmans li ilhom ma jintużaw sa minn żmien ħija - ma jridux jafu. 

8:13 PM, December 06, 2005
Blogger Toni Sant said...

Nifhem, Ken. Tgħidx kemm domt nilgħab bil-bżallu jien biex wasalt fejn wasalt il-gimgħa l-oħra bil-cassettes tiegħi. Napprezza l-isforz tiegħek. 

11:23 AM, December 07, 2005
Blogger Kenneth said...

Thought this is worth a mention in your next podcast. 

6:45 PM, December 07, 2005
Blogger Toni Sant said...

Very interesting, Ken. It will either appear in a podcast or in one of my blog entries later this month, or early next year. It's too good not to keep for the right moment. 

8:59 PM, December 10, 2005
Blogger nurse pica said...

you mentioned something about a lack of electricity amongst bloggers...

well you are right...the holiday season makes everything not holiday-related seem like a waste of time.

hence why at the moment, my blog posts are holiday oriented :) 

6:47 PM, December 13, 2005

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