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Friday, March 31, 2006

Poetry in Motion


Deadline for submissions: 1st July 2006

Calling all writers and worriers, lyricists and layabouts, radicals and revolutionaries, thinkers and storytellers, performers and poets...

Corporations are the dominant institution of our time. They are omnipresent in our lives, from the branding posted on every street corner and bus stop, to our clocking on and clocking off for the company that pays our bills, to the TV we turn to to numb our minds after the daily grind. But the impact of corporations on our lives, societies, ecosystems and economies is strangely absent from mainstream cultural debate.

'This poem is sponsored by...' will be a world changing collection of poetry: a rich source of inspiration and insight to help us to take action.

The collection will be launched in Autumn 2006 to celebrate 10 years of Corporate Watch, the leading anti-corporate research group.


We welcome writing from anyone in any creative form: poetry, prose, songs, lyrics.

Deadline for submissions: 1st July 2006

Please send your work to:

Poetry submissions,
Corporate Watch,
16b Cherwell Street,
Oxford, OX4 1BG
United Kingdom


You cannot have 'art for art's sake'. Art must do something.
- Ken Saro Wiwa

Saturday, March 25, 2006

Sweet Sixteen

The sixteenth podcast in the series Mużika Mod Ieħor sounds unlike the previous 15 because I'm using a different microphone, a new sound card, and an Apple PowerBook rather than my Sony Vaio to produce the recording. There are also two other things that make this week's podcast different than all the other's I've previously produced in this series. One is that for some reason I seem to have encoded the MP3 at a lower bitrate than usual making for an easier download. The other is that I've changed the opening rant.

Previously, George Carlin could be heard at the beginning of each edition spouting a brief diatribe against radio stations and record companies from his audio book When Will Jesus Bring the Pork Chops?. Now I've replaced his bile with that from Robert J. Safuto's Pop Culture Rant #43 from Podcast NYC.

I think this new intro works really well with the first track on this week's podcast. I've chosen to open with X-Tend's Tomorrow is Another Day from 1991, since they recently announced they're about to release their tenth album. X-Tend have been around for a little over 20 years. Their first public appearance in Malta was at the Hamrun Scouts' courtyard in September 1984 when they played before Structure, the band I sang in at that time. I clearly recall that I made some glib comment about the fact that the part of the gig we were providing was live while their show was simply mimed to tape playback. They wanted to kill me that day but Charlie Dalli and I became very good friends soon after that.

Another friend from that time is Ronnie Busuttil, someone I even performed an acoustic set with at Tigulio in 1990. Last week I mentioned that the Beangrowers are about to embark on a mini-tour in the UK before the end of this month and into the first few days of April. Among their dates there's on in Brighton where the opening act is none other than Ronnie and the Refugees. If Brighton wasn't so far from Scarborough (about 500km) I'd definitely attend that gig. Instead I'll have to settle for playing one of Ronnie's old tracks: Sweet Marie off the Flying Alligator's first album Sunset Storm from 1992.

After two recordings from around 15 years ago I figured it was most appropriate to play something more recent. I don't know that I can get my hand on anything more recent than the new song from MaltaGirl, which I call Johnny Cash Blues. MaltaGirl likes the name and she's officially adopted it for this song. Ironically, although this is the most recent recoding I could find for this week's podcast, the recording is much cruder than the old recordings from X-Tend or the Alligators. One other reason why I chose to play this recording from MaltaGirl is because X-Tend don't have a website, and I couldn't find anything recent on the web from Ronnie either. Still, I think it's an excellent example of how wonderfully liberating blogging can be. It's also proves what an amazing contributor to the Maltese blogosphere MaltaGirl continues to be.

I admit that it's easy for my podcasts to turn into personal journeys more than I think they should really be to remain entertaining to as many people as I can get to listen to them. So to close off this week's edition I've indulged in a track from a band I know I'd have gone to see play at The Alley on the first night of the 1565 Rock Tour. I refer to BNI (Batteries Not Included) and their catchy punk song entitled What Can I Do? It's as welcome as a refreshing shower after an afternoon on a sandy beach. More where that came from very soon...but maybe not soon enough.

The RSS feed for the podcast is available here or you can simply click here to subscribe directly with iTunes. You can also add the latest episodes to your My Yahoo! page.

Sunday, March 19, 2006

Sunshine Superman

What do you make of last night's student protests in Paris? The issue revolves around new French employment laws that make it possible for employers to fire new workers without warning or valid reason during their first two years of employment. This outrageous law is clearly not fair on the employees, but I think that it's not the only thing that brought about this weekend's protests. The matter has served as a catalyst for other discomforts that the new generation of French university students have been enduring in recent times.

I can't see the same thing happening in Malta, even if there are similar discontents that the Maltese students are enduring. My feeling is that 'freedom' doesn't mean the same thing in Malta as it does in France. Although I'm not someone who joins bandwagons of protest related to material concerns, I sincerely believe that there's more in the current French student action than meets the eye. This is why I joined the Virtual Sit-In organized by Electronic Disturbance Theater and Boarderland Hacklabs in solidarity with the actions against precarity over this weekend.

During the virtual sit-in I took some time to produce my weekly podcast. This week's edition of Mużika Mod Ieħor opens with Alex Grech announced The Rifffs reunion at Gianpulathe title track from Ray and the Characters' 1995 album The Truth. The main reason I played this song is simply to mention the recently announced reunion for The Rifffs. Alex Grech has done a good job publicizing this coming together of what is arguably one of the best bands to appear in Malta over the last 40 years. If all this is (good) news to you, make sure you mark the 29th of April on your calendar as the day The Rifffs reunite at Tattingers in Rabat for their first gig together in about 25 years.

During my recent trip to Malta, I managed to bring back with me to Scarborough a number of cassette recordings from my old personal collection, which still inhabits my parents' home in Sliema. Among these cassettes is one of my most treasured recordings: Tony Grimaud's 1984 Rock Mass at Santa Teresa's Church in B'Kara. My selection for this week's podcast is a delicious stereo rendition of a song called I'm Going Down. I'm sure you can sense the electricity even from this low-tech live recording.

Aside from the fact that this is a rare recording of Tony Grimaud at the peak of his life as a musician in the 1980s, I'm also very fond of this recording because it features other top Maltese musicians from that time. The first of these is guitarist Twanny Mifsud (a.k.a. ic-Chambillai), who became Artwork's lead guitarist just one year after playing in this band with Grimaud. While I still admire Twanny as a significant creative force during the years I played music in rock bands in the 1980s, his tenure in Artwork was short lived due to the proverbial musical differences. Years later I came to realize that his approach was actually more experimental than Artwork was comfortable with. In hindsight, it's one of those things that should have never happened. (Note to self: make sure you write more about this in your autobiography.)

Grimaud's Easter Rock Mass band featured Louis Naudi on drums. Louis was another musician I was lucky to play with on several occasions, including a couple of theatre productions, an Artwork gig, and my first "solo" band after Artwork. A few week's ago I featured a track from Acoustika, the last band he was involved in before his premature death in 2004. This week's podcast features another track from their CD album Acoustic Dream. This time I'm playing their version of Freddie Portelli's anthemic Viva Malta rendered into a flamenco number.

As I mentioned in a previous blog entry, Acousika's Joseph Micallef has started podcasting on a fairly regular basis. His podcasts are in English and feature music by his favourite guitarists. He has also signed-up Acoustika to the Podsafe Music Network, which is a remarkable online resource for podcasters and musicians alike. I'm planning to feature the Podsafe Music Network in a future edition of Mużika Mod Ieħor.

On a similar note of upcoming features, I close this week's podcast with Waltz, my preferred track off the Beangrowers' Dance Dance Baby. The Beanies will be embarking on a week-long mini-tour of the UK starting in Manchester on Thursday the 29th of March, also appearing in Leeds, Lancaster, London and Brighton, where their gig at The Engine Room has Ronnie & The Refugees billed as the opening act. This gives me an excellent excuse to open next week's podcast with Ronnie Busuttil's music.

The RSS feed for the podcast is available here or you can simply click here to subscribe directly with iTunes. You can also add the latest episodes to your My Yahoo! page.

Friday, March 17, 2006

Another Place to Fall

A couple of days ago I received a very interesting message though my website from Paul Cacciottolo. Here's what he said:

I have been directed your way by Chalee, an esteemed friend of mine. We (some Maltese chaps) are trying hard to establish Strampop as the name of a music genre as yet unnamed. We were wondering if you would be interested in lending your support for our wikipage.

This is indeed a plausible way to promote the idea for a new word or term. However, I have a feeling that something like an encyclopedia (even wikipedia) should only list established words and phrases, since the role of such publications is to offer a document of the known world.

If and when the still-to-be-known finds its way into wikipedia, the nature of the encyclopedia is altered. Yet this is hardly the most problematic aspects of an open project like wikipedia.

My particular interest in all this is not so much the term Strampop itself -- as interesting as that may be -- as much as the idea of a wiki, which is something I've been interested in working on for a couple of years.

I hope to find the time to really get going on some serious wiki-work this summer. I know that a couple of people who read my blog are already active in the ever-growing community that created and maintains the Maltese version of Wikipedia. I'd like to know if you (that includes the Maltese wikipedia people and anybody else) are interested in getting involved in another wiki other than wikipedia and what other thoughts you may have on open projects like this.

Meanwhile, here's another message from my inbox. This comes from my friend Ricardo Dominguez of Electronic Disturbance Theatre:

Virtual Sit-In in Solidarity with the Striking Students of France! March 16th to the 18th, 2006

We invite people from all over the world who support the french students in resistance and oppose the precaritization of life to join the Electronic Disturbance Theatre and borderlands Hacklab on March 16th and 17th, 2006 to engage in a virtual sit-in on french government websites to demand that all of the students be released from prison and that the 'contrat première embauche' (CPE) be revoked.

While the CPE only effects people in France, people around the world are suffering from the system that the French students are protesting against. The neoliberal, corporate model of society increases the precarity of life for everyone through employment instability, war and environmental destruction. It must be stopped. Youth all over the world face bleak prospects under the current models. New economic and social models must be developed.

As students and workers continue to occupy the Sorbonne and march through the streets of France, we will join them with our virtual bodies from around the world.

Join the action here:


Sunday, March 12, 2006


It's easy to get away from the pettiness of the Local Council Elections this weekend. If you want something or someone to admire, just look at the Sex Pistols' upturned finger at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Will erstwhile drummer extraordinaire Michael Briguglio ever publicly admit that fighting the system from within is only for martyrs?

Things are quite drab on a number of new(ish) fronts. The Theatre Museum in Covent Garden is in danger of closing and Gozo Plus is officially no more. But if you're stuck on the rock and want to see something truly spectacular just head out to Theatre Anon's Agamemnon at the MITP in Valletta. While there are many beautifully striking scenic moments in the performance designed and directed by Paul Portelli, I especially liked Pierre Portelli's installation at the end of the show.

I've been wanting to blog about my recent visit to Malta for several days. I've been very busy this past week so instead of one entire blog entry about my visit to Malta we'll have to make do with snippets and comments from the various blog entries that appear here about all sort of other topics; including this, which is actually an entry to publicize my most recent podcast.

If you'd really like to read about my visit to Malta, you can get a few snapshots from postings by seven (yes, seven...I'm so flattered!) bloggers I crossed paths with during my visit. Here are the links in chronological order:

- Reesa captures MaltaGirl's meeting with Toni Sant

- MaltaGirl meets Toni Sant at the Labyrinth

- Nigredo attends Toni Sant's first lecture at UoM

- Aldith attends Toni Sant's first lecture at UoM [in Maltese]

- Peklectrick meets Toni Sant at UoM

- Il-Fre meets Toni Sant at UoM [in Maltese]

- Il-Fre spots Toni Sant at Adrian Grima's Rakkmu launch [in Maltese]

- Ġużè Stagno's rude awakening at 11pm

Besides these blogs, you can also read a few words about my first-ever encounter with Xtruppaw through the latest news update on their website.

Anyway, on to this week's podcast. I'm still trying to figure out what to do with the recording of my two-hour conversation with the most brilliant new band from Malta. One of the many things we spoke about was the various other bands these musicians are (or were) involved with. So this week's edition of Mużika Mod Ieħor features music mentioned during that part of our conversation.

Noel Cuschieri is the lead singer with Cyberia, whose self-produced track 444 opens this week's podcast. Interestingly enough, the keyboardist in Cyberia is Antoine Vella, also known as half of that most excellent duo Particle Blue.

Last Saturday I attended Particle Blue's most recent gig at Naasha's. During that show and the wonderful conversations I had into the wee hours of Sunday morning with the artists and other people at Naasha's that night, I came to see why Particle Blue's album is called Generation Hope. Toni Moog is one of the tracks on that album and it appears on this week's podcast as track two. I should add that Claire Tonna's creative energy is blinding. It's been quite a while since I met a Maltese artist worthy of the attention she deserves. In another life I'd probably drop down on one knee and propose to her without any hesitation.

Xtruppaw's Jeffrey Galea was at the Particle Blue gig at Naasha's last week. His presence reminded me of the interesting things that happen when artists cross-pollinate each other. One way to do that is by viewing or listening to each other's work. Another way is to play in more than one band. Ir-Rex, Xtruppaw's bassist, seems to hold this to heart since he plays in a handful of bands. To punctuate this thought, I'm playing a track off Filletti and Friends' CD called Mercy, where Rex not only plays bass but also contributes an amazingly high-pitched backing vocal.

To understand the genetic making of Xtruppaw, I close this week's podcast with a recording made about 10 years ago by most of the members of Xtruppaw, when they played in a metal band called Victims of Creation. Originally published on a CD produced by the sadly-no-longer-with-us Brainstorm Records, Lotions and Potions (Toke 1) is one of the most unusual recordings I've ever heard from a Maltese band.

I see that this blog entry is already long enough so I'll stop here for now. I hope I'll find some more time to blog some more over the coming days, before next week's podcast.

The RSS feed for the podcast is available here or you can simply click here to subscribe directly with iTunes. You can also add the latest episodes to your My Yahoo! page.

Wednesday, March 08, 2006

Keep On Running

So I'm back from Malta and I just hit the ground running on my return. I haven't stopped a minute, except to sleep. I have hundreds (literally!) of unopened or unanswered emails. I'll write some more about my visit to Malta in a couple of days, when I start winding down for the weekend.

You should not be surprised to read that I've kept my promise and I've actually published another edition of my Mużika Mod Ieħor podcast. It's a shorter podcast than usual. I wanted to record the energy and enthusiasm that I brought back from Malta with me. I think you can hear it in my voice, even though I don't say much about why I'm as energized as I am.

The podcast opens with Dripht's cover of The Rifffs' Dance Music for Depression. It comes from a collection passed on to me by Mike Bugeja, whom I've known since primary school in the early 1970s. We're even discussing his foray into podcasting. My plan is to invite him to co-host an edition of Mużika Mod Ieħor and even hand it over to him for a week or two after that. Eventually he'll start his own podcast, of course. So, watch this space.

The second track too comes from Mike Bugeja's collection, even though I had planned to play something from this band anyway, sooner or later. The song is Misgrace by Frenzy Mono, a retro-rock outfit playing at Rookie's in Bugibba this Friday evening.

Anyway, I just wanted to let you know about this week's (actually last week's) podcast before I get on with the next couple of days' work, which according to my appointment diary seem to be even busier than the first part of this week has already been.

What should surprise you (well, at least it has surprised me) is how different from last year's visit my time in Malta has turn out to be this time around. My next blog entry should be all about that.

The RSS feed for the podcast is available here or you can simply click here to subscribe directly with iTunes. You can also add the latest episodes to your My Yahoo! page.

Saturday, March 04, 2006


It has not been easy to find time to blog or produce my podcast during my current short visit to Malta. I really want to blog about some of the interesting people I've met here over the last few days. I've caught up with long-time friends I hadn't seen in years and I've also spent some quality time with others I had never met before, including four members from that new Maltese rock band I like so much. There's a whole podcast to come from that wonderful evening in Pembroke. I was hoping I'd have the time to produce it as this week's edition of Mużika Mod Ieħor, but that was extra-super wishful thinking.

Ironically, its the near astronomic number of such encounters that's keeping me away from going online to write about the experience. This visit is very different from last year's, mostly because it's much shorter and I've had more time to spend meeting people other than university students and fellow lecturers.

Last Monday's Poezijaplus session at the Manoel Theatre courtyard was so good I cried. Real tears! And Wednesday's launch event for Adian Grima's new book of poems, Rakkmu was also very delightful. I managed to get there in spite of the bus strike, thanks to my old buddy Mike Bugeja, who I met earlier that evening at Tony's Bar in Sliema, along with Jody Fiteni and Kevin O'Neill, both of whom I hadn't seen in eons. Mike provided some of the tracks for this week's Mużika Mod Ieħor podcast, which I'm planning to record and publish on Monday evening. Tonight I'm off to see Particle Blue perform live at Naasha's in San Gwann.

Apologies go out to the regular listeners of my podcast for the slight delay in the publication of this week's Mużika Mod Ieħor.