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Saturday, January 17, 2009

Just Dance

As there are still a considerable number of early-year events still to come, it would be foolish of me to think that the new year is really already is full swing. It simply is not. Next Tuesday's Obama inauguration brings high hopes with it. I'm not expecting any radical changes but the fact that a new tone will be set for world politics helps me breathe easier. If I manage my time properly I should be blogging about that later this week.

Some things never change, or rather, as the saying goes, the more things change the more they stay the same. Right now, the 147th Mużika Mod Ieħor podcast is my way of making sense of this paradox. It opens with a grungy ballad called Till I Die by Totema. This ties in with the last track on the preceeding edition of the MMI podcast. Guitarist Emerson Vella is the link between the two. Totema's MySpace page contains three recordings by this band but little else, so I don't know as much as I'd like to about them. I'm hoping that they're active enough in 2009 to merit another inclusion on my weekly podcast.

Daniel Cassar is a young guitarist I just met via MySpace. He has uploaded a jazzy tune called Around the Day in 80 Worlds to demonstrate his excellent guitar playing skills. By his own admission this is just a demo but it shows him as a local guitarist worthy of note. I'm looking forward to hearing more from him, either as a soloist or even with a band. He plays with metal newcomers Cyanide, so there's hope.

By contrast, I know we'll be hearing more from Maltese-Australian singer-songwriter Luke Caruana, better known as Carra. He was recently in Malta and played some gigs in France and Holland too before returning back to Sydney. There's now a Carra Facebook page too and he's working on a new album and, judging by his previous releases, I'm sure that will be one of the better Maltese-Australian releases this year. Down the Line is from last year's Gaia EP.

Back to Maltese guitarist uploading their recordings to MySpace, a few weeks ago I came across Stefanos who has uploaded a small number of instrumental tracks. The one I've selected for my podcast is entitled Little Thoughts. Stefanos' online presence is one that beautifully demonstrates the sort of worldwide audience hitherto unknown Maltese musicians can attract.

Back to the opening point I clumsily tried to make in the first paragraph of this blog post, I'm very much looking forward to developing a major research project on the arts in Malta. I've already managed to articulate the main idea for a couple of funding applications I put forward last year, but now I'm quite keen to get the project off the ground by any means necessary. To make sure that the work isn't perceived as an academic project that has limited interest to a broader public I accepted an invitation to write an article about a small aspect of this planned work. Writing this article for one of the local Sunday newspaper magazines I exchanged several emails with Freddie Portelli, among other veteran Maltese pop rock musicians.

I mention all this here because aside from answering my questions and showing me some wonderful picture from his time with the Malta Bums and Black Train, Freddie also sent me an MP3 of Play It Again, released as a single in 1979. He explained that Black Train were unable to travel abroad to promote this single widely when it came out because the band had far too many commitments to play at people's weddings. Having attended two of those weddings in the late 1970s I can attest to the frenzy that accompanied the presence of The Black Train at wedding halls across Malta. If you've never heard this song before, I suggest you listen to it in the context of the Eurovision Song Contest.

I bring this up because although Malta was not taking part in that contest at that point in time, Play it Again would have possibly gone down well with Eurovision fans and made Freddie and the Black Train into a Euro-pop sensation. Then again, this also came out at the time that punk had changed the face of rock music, but it would take the next generation of Maltese musicians to bring that around, even if an underground scene was already brewing by then. Sadly, no one has documented any of this properly so far. I'm now hoping to rectify this in a systematic way.

The RSS feed for the Mużika Mod Ieħor podcast is available here or you can simply click here to subscribe directly with iTunes. You can also follow each new episode through the MMI Podcast: Facebook Fan Page. If you have no idea what any of this means, just click here.

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Blogger EmersonV said...

Hi Toni,

Well done about your latest podcast. Quite some finds, especially the opener by Totema. As you deduced I did not play guitar on that track, although I enjoyed a very short stint with a band composed of old Totema members and some new ones, but still called Totema. However it was a completely different band altogether, with different motives.

The Totema I played in was simply a project that happened after the original Totema disbanded. Totema MKII consisted of the original Totema singer and drummer, and then they recruited a new bassist and guitarist (me). The mic man, Darren, wanted to keep the same name, against the the rest of the band's wishes. We only played one sort of guerilla show in Marsascala for charity, and disbanded shortly after.

The usage of the moniker Totema has caused various confusion over the years. I have had to explain this several times due to the confusion caused by the group's names.

That should set some records straight, at least on your page! :)

And by the way, both bands are defintely dead, and the first Totema was definitely better than the second band who used the Totema moniker!

Oh, The Great Escape is sadly dead too.

On a brighter note, I'll hopefully have some material to hand to you soon, as I'm about to start experimenting with some good musicians from some very tasty local bands. Hope this project works out!

Well done regarding all the hard work Toni! Good luck!! 

7:30 PM, January 18, 2009

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