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Sunday, April 30, 2006

Space Truckin'

This past week I've been exploring MySpace. It's a great social networking site, which offers user profiles, groups, photos and an internal communication system. It seems to be designed mostly for bands to promote themselves. In any case, it's clearly an excellent example of the way Web 2.0 works.

MySpace is also an excellent resource for finding tracks to play during my weekly Mużika Mod Ieħor podcast. All the music on this week's podcast comes from MySpace. I thought I'd do this after I mentioned it during last week's show when I featured the music of Gozitan band Tears of Revenge.

Since there are plenty of fairly established acts on MySpace along with new and relatively unknown musicians, I thought I'd start by playing something by Corkskrew. I've been meaning to include them on my podcast for quite some time but for some reason I never got around to it. So it seems appropriate that rather than play yet another track by one of the other bands I've already had on Mużika Mod Ieħor, I should finally get around to giving one of Corkskrew's songs a whirl. I chose Her Noir, which is one of the tracks you'll hear if you visit them on MySpace.

It's really amazing what you can find on MySpace. Something tells me I've only just scratched the surface. One interesting band I came across yesterday goes by the name of Aquilina. I was immediately struck by the name for the obvious Maltese connections. The band gets its name from Joseph Aquilina who's a Londoner from Brixton, but I'm quite sure that he's of Maltese descent. There's nothing explicit about his Maltese connections on MySpace or on the band's website, so I stand to be corrected. The song you can hear on my podcast is called More To Ask and opens with what to me sounds like a very Mediterranean chant. It's a really great acoustic combo and I'd love to see the band live sometime in the not too distant future. If you've never heard this band before, I highly recommend it...regardless of your musical taste. This is simply good music!

There are both pros and cons to not living in Malta, of course. Some things combine the advantages and disadvantages in an odd way. One such experience is the discovery of an act called Astrometry on MySpace. Apparently, Astrometry has been very active since 1993, the last full year I lived in Malta, but I had never heard the music from Astrometry before I discovered it on MySpace. Astrometry is promoted by Awaken Events and more music is also available at, so there's plenty of it around. I must have been living under a rock instead of looking for new music from Malta in the last several years.

This weekend was a great one for music lovers in Malta. Friday's free show by Explicit at Naasha's served as an excellent prelude to The Rifffs reunion gig at Tattingers, and Sunday night's double bill at the Poxx Bar with French duo John et Jehn and the Beangrowers is an excellent warm up for tomorrow's Graffiti's May Day concert at the Msida subway with Particle Blue, Vince Fabri, Walter Micallef and a bunch of others. John et Jehn are very active on MySpace so I thought I would be appropriate to close this week's podcast with one of their songs. I chose Lovin' Dead, which they've also made available as a download on their MySpace page. John and Jehn are actually Nicolas Conge and Camille Berthomier, who play an interesting blend of punk and beautifully crafted minimalistic ballads tinged with highbrow arrangements the likes of which should go down really well with alternative music lovers in Malta.

My MySpace odyssey will undoutedly go on in the coming weeks and months. I'm really looking forward to adding more MySpace friends to my network and discovering all sorts of music from Malta and beyond. Meanwhile, my podcasting may turn a little irregular and different from what I've been doing in recent months because I'm getting ready for a visit to Greece in mid-May. I'll be there for the Eurovision Song Contest but if you know me you know that not only will I be there for more than that but I'll also bring and take a non-mainstream view to this most mainstream of events. More about all this next week.

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 add the latest episodes to your My Yahoo! page.

Wednesday, April 26, 2006

Get Your Filthy Hands Off My Desert

Have you been following the news about net neutrality in the USA? Some representatives in Congress are pushing the Communications Opportunity, Promotion and Enhancement Act, or COPE Act. This new law could abandon a principle called "network neutrality" that prevents the major telecommunication companies (like AT&T, Verizon, Time Warner Cable, and Comcast) from deciding which websites work best for you, based on what site pays them the most. This means that while we currently enjoy equal access to any site on the web, we could be seeing major corporations and commercial interests sidestepping everybody else in delivering their wares. The scariest part is that the bill has the support of members from both sides of the house, even if there are many Democrats against it. CNET's has an excellent blow-by-blow account.

There are a couple of interesting websites dedicated directly to the issue. One is from a US-based coalition of Internet users "united together in the belief that the Net's phenomenal growth over the past decade stems from the ability of entrepreneurs to expand consumer choices and opportunities without worrying about government regulation." The other is from the Coalition, which is a group of grassroots organizations, bloggers and concerned citizens banding together to protect Internet freedom. explains that "net neutrality allows everyone to compete on a level playing field and is the reason that the Internet is a force for economic innovation, civic participation and free speech. If the public doesn't speak up now, Congress will cave to a multi-million dollar lobbying campaign by telephone and cable companies that want to decide what you do, where you go, and what you watch online."

I'm sure there are others websites and movements against this. These two came across my desktop during the last 24 hours. Feel free to comment about this issue right here on my blog, especially if there are other related web links you think I should look at. If this law passes in America, it may eventually be adopted elsewhere too, possibly through a UN treaty like the one proposed via WIPO, which seems to be expanding relatively freely in the wake of the DMCA. Coupled with DRM, the end of net neutrality could result in more restrictions on creativity and innovation over the coming years.

In case you're wondering why I'm all hot and bothered by all this, I should mention that in my PhD dissertation (which I wrote about three years ago) pointed out the threats to net neurality in the arts, especially non-mainstream arts. We need to spread awareness within art schools and other art environments on these issues.

Alex Curtis over at Public Knowledge has created a great two-minute video summarizing Net Neutrality. The video explains why discrimination on the Internet is a problem and will continue to be as long as net neutrality rules are not protected and enforced. Just click on the play icon below to watch it.

Sunday, April 23, 2006

Pump It

Toni Sant's Blog is officially two years old this week. I wasn't going to bring this up because it's not really a significant milestone -- other than for the fact that it's one of the few Maltese blogs still going non-stop since 2004 -- but all the hullabaloo about Queen Elizabeth's 80th birthday put me in the (in)appropriate frame of mind.

I think that keeping a blog going for two years or longer is not a great feat. What's harder is keeping a weekly podcast going regularly for that long. I thought long and hard about the longevity of my podcasting series this week as I prepared for the 20th episode. I didn't want to do anything special to mark this other insignificant milestone, but I'd be unfair to myself if I didn't step back and point out that the true measure of things is not how long they are or how long they go for but what they do and what they're about.

The 20th Mużika Mod Ieħor podcast opens with a track entitled Bleed from a new Gozitan band called Tears of Revenge. Unless I'm mistaken, this is the first time that I've played music from Gozo in this series. I like the first part of the song as it captures teenage angst in a very classic way. The band has a presence on MySpace and this is where I discovered Bleed. Other Maltese bands use MySpace. Beangrowers and Dripht come to mind immediately but I'm sure there are others I'll discover soon. The best way to explore MySpace is to participate in this ever-expanding online community. Apparently it can do wonders for undiscovered bands. Just ask the Arctic Monkeys.

To keep things in perspective I frequently finger through my CD collection and swell with delight over some disk from the pre-web era. One such CD has tracks from a relatively popular Maltese band from the early 1990s called No Strings Attached. You can hear their song Seize the Day from 1992 on this week's podcast. You can also hear a track called In the Grey from the next band NSA guitarist Mark Agius Cesario played in. The band was called Different Light. They released a CD album in 1996 by the name of All About Yourself. Trevor Tabone was the singer and main songwriter in Different Light and I plan to play something from his solo cassette album released a few years earlier. I need to find it and do a digital dub first, of course.

It's so much easier to play tracks from digital sources on my weekly podcast. Nothing was easier than include a recent recording by Glen Cachia, one of the founding members of The Rifffs, who quit the band before they became well known and recorded the perennial Dance Music for the 80s Depression. Since The Rifffs reunion is slated for next weekend (without Glen, of course) I thought it was appropriate to play his song Happy, which comes courtesy of Mike Bugeja who has done an excellent interview with him for the Malta Independent.

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, April 16, 2006


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.

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, April 12, 2006

Personal Jesus

It's spring cleaning time for me. It's not that I do this every spring but it happens to be spring this time that I'm doing it. So why not call it a spring clean? Most of this involves catching up with unread news stories and unopened emails. So today's blog entry features a couple of items discovered during said cleaning.

The first involves the sad news of Allan Kaprow's passing. Kaprow was a giant of 20th century art. He coined the term "happenings" for his early experiments in installation and performance art. He was not the only one doing happenings close to 50 years ago and that makes the term he coined even more significant. How many people get the opportunity to play Adam and name things and animals? See Genesis 2:19-20 if you have no idea what I'm talking about.

Kaprow was working with aspects of human communication as a performative component of his work way back in 1958. He explored network technologies in the context of performance in 1964, including satellites a couple of years later, and 2-way broadcasting before the end of the sixties. Again, he wasn't the only one doing this sort of thing but just the fact that he was doing it shows what an amazing visionary he was.

Embodying and fusing the main ideas in the work of Jackson Pollock and John Cage, Kaprow turned the idea of the event as art into something too many of us now take for granted. I believe this is exactly what he aspired to do. The fact that he called himself an "un-artist" shows that he saw the need to demystify the idea of the artist as the lone inspired genius.

I introduced my students to Kaprow's ideas last year during a performance workshop here in Scarborough. With his passing I realize that he needs to be on the curriculum for many other students in years to come. And not just art students, but all sort of students who want/need to understand how and why things like reality TV are possible now more than ever before.

Another unrelated item I found in my email inbox deals with the Da Vinci Code. I haven't read the book, nor do I plan to. I simply don't have time for fiction, especially the sensational type. However, I'm fascinated by the goings-on around this book and the forthcoming film based on it.

I am particularly intrigued by the information I found in a mass email sent out by my friend Fr Karm Debattista, the singing priest. Here's the text from that email:

For the first time in a long time, the Catholic Church is ahead of the power curve on a major media issue. The US Catholic bishops are producing a TV documentary, a website, a booklet, and other materials in advance of the release of the film The Da Vinci Code. Church folks are also participating in public forums and panels about this subject. I'm really proud that the Church is acting instead of reacting to public events and issues...and showing some media savvy, too. Check out this link. The Truth Be Told section is particularly useful. In the months ahead, you will be hearing and reading plenty about the film and the public discussion surrounding it. Even the Archdiocese of Detroit is on the ball. This link appears on the archdiocese's website. Here's a link to the home page.

I don't think we wrote this email. I have a feeling he's just forwarding something he himself received in a mass mail shot. Still, it's very interesting that this sort of thing in going on. So I thought I'd share it with my blog readers just in time for holy week and Easter.

Sunday, April 09, 2006

Cirrus Minor

Now that I've produced eighteen podcasts in my series Mużika Mod Ieħor the process has almost become second nature. My Saturday late afternoons are routinely spent in the production of this weekly podcast. I can't imagine what I used to do on Saturday afternoons before this. Probably watch TV or surf the web. I spend enough time on both those activities on most other days, so I'm glad that I've found a more productive way to spend my time on the weekend.

This week's production flowed like a stream of consciousness. The podcast opens with Scream Daisy's Can You Feel It? from 2004. They reappeared with a new release a few days ago, so I figured it was high time I play some of their music on my podcast. Their music seems tailor-made for radio airplay. Apparently it works, but I wouldn't really know since I hardly ever listen to the radio in Malta these days.

I don't dislike Scream Daisy's music, but I look forward to including material that's not played on the radio for this show. Paletti is certainly one such act. His real name is Charles Muscat, but he is better known as Charlie Paletti. He's been quite active for the last twenty odd years. I have an original copy of a cassette he released around 1990 (it doesn't have a date on it) called Styles. I'll play a track from that some other time. This time I chose to play something more recent from Paletti's music on SoundClick.

I commented about SoundClick in a previous podcast and I still think it's a great resource. Paletti has 5 tracks on SoundClick gathered under the album title Aħjar Ġibna Tnejn Biex Jgħannu, which roughly translates to it would have been better if we brought a couple of [traditional] singers. The song I've selected is the title-track and it is one of the best things I've ever heard from Paletti. I really love the way he blends his virtuoso rock guitar playing with a Maltese rap/għana vocal mash. Il-Hooligan has a lot to learn from Paletti.

An even rarer cassette in my collection is one given to me personally by guitarist/producer Robert Longo. The tape features just one track on it. The number is called Codebreaker and it's an amazing rock guitar odyssey in stereo by one of Malta's most creative recording studio mavericks. If you know Longo's work you'll love this track. If you've never heard Longo before, listen to Codebreaker and keep in mind that it was recorded about sixteen years ago on what was (and can still be) called very basic recording equipment. Still, this recording is one of the most brilliant performances by/of a Maltese rock musician you'll ever hear.

By contrast, this week's closing track comes from Toby whose work sounds as fresh now as the day it was made. I've always like the sophisticated clubbing element in his music since the first time I heard it more than five years ago. Greedy for Life is the song you can hear towards the end of this 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.

Friday, April 07, 2006

Suffer Well

One of my favourite German words is zeitgeist. I like it as a word but I also like what it means. The spirit of the time; the taste and outlook characteristic of a period or generation. I first heard about it as an undergraduate student when I tried to wrap my brain around Hegel's philosophy of history.

Sampling the zeitgeist from this time last year I see that it's saturated with the death of Pope John Paul II, the wedding of Charlie and Millie, and the best documented Maltese online prank at

This morning I woke up thinking about the zeitgeist of now: early April 2006. I know, I should have better things to do (and I do) but I guess these things happen often when you live in an inspirational and/or stimulating environment. The zeitgeist of now seems forgettable, very forgettable. Bird-flu hits the UK. Protests in France for a seemingly unjust new employment law. The Da Vinci Code copyright case. The gospel of Judas revealed in time for holy week and Easter. The appearance of Windows on Apple machines is perhaps the exception.

I believe that this is like a lull before a storm. I don't necessarily mean that I think some major bad thing is about to happen, even though I don't exclude that. Sadly, these things do happen every few years.

To distract myself I focus on my own personal zeitgeist. Bringing my second academic year in Scarborough to a logical end. Starting major work on the manuscript of my Franklin Furnace book. Planning the next round of MMON improvements. Things that mean a lot to me but don't necessarily mean much to anyone else until they actually amount to something.

Other people have their own private zeitgeists. I sometimes wonder what they are, especially when the collective and dominant zeitgeist is dormant.

If you don't get the zeitgeist you can entertain yourself with this.

Sunday, April 02, 2006

I Saw Her Standing There

I'm quite impressed by the number of Maltese bands with good connections in the UK and elsewhere. The Beangrowers are currently in the middle of a week-long UK tour, which includes a gig in Brighton featuring Ronnie & the Refugees. Particle Blue were here too last year. And yesterday UK Indie Ska and Punk label No Way Out Records released a new compilation CD called NDAB 3 featuring Dripht's Guy on TV, from their EP Global Warning.

Yes, I know I've already played Dripht on previous editions of Mużika Mod Ieħor. I've even featured music from bands that have musicians from Dripht in them. Since this is the 17th podcast in this series, it's quite natural that some acts have already appeared before. What I'm definitely trying to avoid is playing the same tracks over and over as they do on the radio. So far I've managed to stick to this unwritten rule.

There are some artists whose work I go out of my way to play again and again. One such musician is Tony Grimaud, who recently reappeared on the Maltese music scene. Grimaud was one of Malta's foremost alternative singer-songwriters in the mid-1980s. I'm really privileged to own a recording of his Easter Rock Mass, which provided the one track I've already played in this series. Earlier this week, Mike Bugeja sent me an MP3 of one of his most recent recordings. After all those years in the wilderness, Grimaud is finally recording his first studio album. The song you can hear in this week's podcast is called You've Been On My Mind.

The internet has radically changed how we listen to music and what music we listen to. This ranges from all the file sharing networks to individual email exchanges of MP3s and what not. A few days ago I received an email out of the blue from one Jerry McMillen asking me whether the title of my blog entry from last June You Can't Erase a Mirror bears any relationship to a 1968 rock recording by Children of the Mushroom. I replied explaining that most of my blog entries get their titles from songs I like; sometimes the selections are only related in my head. As it turns out Jerry is the singer and guitarist on that record from 1968, which I first discovered while listening to sixties' psychedelic web radio Technicolor Web of Sound. Long story short, thanks to Jerry I've included the original recording of You Can't Erase a Mirror on this week's podcast. You Can't Erase a Mirror is the B-side of their one and only groovy 45 rpm single; the song on side A is called August Mademoiselle. Interestingly, the band is about to play a reunion gig in Thousand Oaks, California, in the coming weeks.

Comebacks and reunions are nothing new, of course, but for some reason it feels like they're de rigueur this season. One Maltese band I'm expecting to reappear soon closes my podcast for this week. I refer to 1980s classic metalheads Acid who appeared on the original Mill-Garaxx TV series and later recorded a small number of almost unreleased tracks at Robert Longo's Padded Cell Studio in 1990. I have those unreleased tracks on a cassette tape, but they also released a couple of them on a compilation CD produced by Radio 101, back when radio stations in Malta were still interested in being more than political tools or mediocre money makers. The name of the Acid song you can hear on this week's podcast is Rock City Limits.

Back to the blog entry title selection, you may recognize today's selection as the same as an early Beatles song. To my rhizomic mind, it's the best title for this post about the 17th Mużika Mod Ieħor podcast, but feel free to recommend a different one if it does nothing for you and you have a better suggestion.

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.