For the last 10 years or so I've embraced a ritual similar to Immanuel Mifsud's Rite of Spring. On Good Friday morning I've taken to playing the double CD of Jesus Christ Superstar by Tim Rice and Andrew Lloyd Webber: the original London concept version from 1969 featuring Ian Gillan before he became famous as Deep Purple's singer. It's a ritual that strangely connects me to my childhood in Malta during Easter time, particularly Good Friday, for a number of reasons. I clearly remember the uproar about the film when it came to the Coliseum Cinema in Valletta even if I was too young to be allowed to attend.
I also distinctly remember an abridged concert version of the musical featuring William Mangion as Judas on organ, Philip "Faggy" Fenech on guitar with a huge Afro, with Clayton Zarb Cousin playing the part of Jesus, and a teenage Catherine Vigar as Mary Magdalene. Her rendition of I Don't Know How to Love Him seemed as good as the original to me back then. The show was designed and produced by J.J. Tellus and I seem to recall that Roland Friggieri was somehow involved too. That sort of thing marks a child's psyche forever.
I always felt that the musical was a much needed breath of fresh air on the radio airwaves when it was finally deemed suitable for airplay on the Good Friday Radio Malta schedule among all the funeral marches and classical music requiem masses. The only thing that had come close to variety back then was Therese Cassar and Manwel Mifsud's wonderful passion album from 1976 Ikun Li Trid Int, with Sammy Bartolo as Jesus. I wish YTC would re-release the CD as they promised some time ago.
Anyway, this week's Mużika Mod Ieħor podcast was produced after I had soaked my ears in the ritual playback of Jesus Christ Superstar. It is the nineteenth podcast in the series. I must get down to organizing a better web page for the show, rather than the generic MMON index, now that it has managed to survive this long. I have a feeling that it'll be around for many months to come.
In the very first podcast in this series, I played a song by Vince Fabri from the album he wrote around 1990 with the poetry of Oliver Friggieri entitled Mal-Fanal Hemm Ħarstek Tixgħel. I thought it was high time to include another track from that collection. So, Hekk Biss Ikun Poeta, sung by Phyllis Anne Brincat, opens this week's podcast. Perhaps not enough people know how close to X-Tend Vince Fabri was early on in his career. He played in a band with Charlie Dalli right before X-Tend was formed. He even wrote and co-performed the song Ġmiel with X-Tend at the International Festival of Maltese Song in the mid-80s. So it should come as no surprise that Mal-Fanal Hemm Ħarstek Tixgħel was recorded at Dalli's studio.
X-Tend will be releasing their tenth album this year. They have just issued their first single from it. Conclusion is actually the first song they ever wrote back in 1984 but it was never released. The new recording is now also accompanied by the band's website. At long last! I'm glad they finally have a web presence. I hope they make good use of it in the coming months. While their musical style may be too pop for some tastes, this band remains one of the most culturally significant bands from the Maltese islands in the last two decades.
One Maltese musician who has constantly maintained a strong online presence is Antonio Olivari. He is very active in the Maltese blogosphere where he is known as Archibald, or sometimes as The Blogger Formerly Known As Archibald. He often blogs about his music, even though he rarely appears in gigs. His most recent project involves music for a computer game called Worlds Apart. I've chosen to play the theme that sounds when the game is lost but you can hear other tracks on his blog.
Olivari's instrumental music prompted me to look into the work of Maltese musicians who are not too fond of working with songs as a format. One such musician is Nicky Falzon whose 1992 Masque project yielded the impressive CD album Twilight Moods. It's jazzy new age music with a slight hint of Mediterranean undertones. Quite unusual and deliciously refreshing in the broader catalogue of contemporary music from Malta. One strange jamming session with Nicky at Artwork's rehearsal room in Tigne in the summer of 1985 is one of those fading memories that crop up whenever I hear his name now; but we were never close. Aside from the most unusual music we made together on that day I distinctly remember being impressed by the fact that he wore cowboy boots on a hot summer day. I have no idea what happened to him (please contact me if you know) but I was very pleased to see his name in a recent interview with Ray Mercieca. The two of them played in a band called Jade just before Ray replaced Glen Cachia as The Rifffs' frontman some 27 years ago. More about that next week. Until then, have a happy Easter, especially if you're a hedonist.
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