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Monday, July 31, 2006

I'll Find My Way Home

click here for details

Wednesday, July 26, 2006


Sunday, July 23, 2006

Sunday Bloody Sunday

The news today is just as bad as it has been over the last few days.

To lighten up the mood just a little bit, I'm reproducing something rather silly that appeared in today's The Malta Independent on Sunday. Ħeqq, xi trid tagħmel?

60-Second Interview - Toni Sant
Last May UK-based Toni Sant gained national notoriety for correctly predicting that Finland would win the Eurovision Song Contest. Dr Sant is also (lesser) known as a lecturer in Performance & Creative Technologies at the University of Hull’s Scarborough Campus as well as founder and creative director of the MaltaMedia Online Network.

This week he returns briefly to Malta to evoke the ghosts of dead conceptual artists and rattle some more cultural skeletons, just for the fun of it. Toni Sant is presenting a collaborative research project entitled “Objects Found or Lost?”, on Saturday 5 and Sunday 6 August at the MITP Theatre at 9pm. This is being held in conjunction with SUPA 2006 and is part of the Malta Arts Festival – Summer 2006 organised by the Malta Council for Culture and the Arts. See for details. However, he is most looking forward to seeing Xtruppaw’s next live gig at Naasha’s in San Gwann on 29 July.

His blog and weekly podcasts can be found at

* * *

How old are you? Star sign and date of birth?

Age is relative. I don’t do star signs. If I did, I’d be a Sagittarius… just because it’s the hardest one to spell.

What would you like to be doing in 10 years’ time?


What is your idea of perfect happiness?


What is your favourite occupation?


What is your greatest fear?


What is it that you most value in your friends?


How would you like to die?

Not living.

What is your greatest extravagance?


What is your greatest regret?

Saying yes to this interview.

What is your most treasured possession?


Which talent would you most like to have apart from the ones you already have?


What do you regard as the lowest depth of misery?


Where would you like to live?

At home with my monkey and my dog.

What is your most marked characteristic?

I link therefore I am.

Who are your heroes/heroines in real life?

No more heroes, please!

Andrea: Unhappy the country that has no heroes.
Galileo: No, unhappy the country that needs heroes.
From Bertolt Brecht's play Life of Galileo.

What is it that you most dislike?

Interviews like this, of course.

What is your motto?


Saturday, July 22, 2006

The Lebanon

Now that my Mużika Mod Ieħor podcast is on a temporary break (until mid-August) postings on this blog will appear in a somewhat different pattern. My plan is to blog as frequently as possible and in a slightly less systematic way than what I've been doing over the past few months.

Anyway, this morning I felt that I needed to write something about the latest crisis in the Middle East. Anyone who cares about relatively hidden links on my blog knows that I haven't by Mazen Kerbajcompletely ignored the situation. Nevertheless, it's one of those things where what I think and say doesn't matter at all. What can I do or say to make that situation better or worse? I'm so sick of it.

So I move on to an alternative way of witnessing this mess. I'm not alone in this, of course. I know that some of my blog readers are of the same mind as I am on all this. Others are not...and that's why there's a comments facility on this blog.

One of the most moving experiences for me (other than seeing the carnage on both sides along with the callous political/industrial war complex in full action) comes through Mazen Kerbaj in Beirut. His blog has become a must-read for me.

If I were producing another podcast in the Mużika Mod Ieħor series today I'd most definitely feature his music. Here it is:

(excerpt) 6.31 min

A minimalistic improvisation.

Mazen Kerbaj: trumpet
Israeli Air Force: bombs

Recorded by Mazen Kerbaj on the balcony of his apartment in Beirut, on the night of the 15th into the 16th of July 2006.

You can also access this MP3 from other sources.

Thursday, July 20, 2006

The Politics of Dancing

This morning someone asked me "what political persuasion are you?" Here's what I found out about myself. No surprise, really.

You Are a "Don't Tread On Me" Libertarian

You distrust the government, are fiercely independent, and don't belong in either party.

Religion and politics should never mix, in your opinion... and you feel opressed by both.

You don't want the government to cramp your self made style. Or anyone else's for that matter.

You're proud to say that you're pro-choice on absolutely everything!

Saturday, July 15, 2006

Here Comes the Summer

The news this week brought details of some unsettling events all around. However, Syd Barrett's demise brought everything into a different perspective for me, even if (or maybe because) we had already lost him decades ago.

I will not bother to comment on the reappointment of the MaltaSong board that achieved Malta's worst ever result at the Eurovision. I'm sure there will be plenty of opportunity at a later date. That's what happens when great visionaries like Barrett die. The insignificant becomes irrelevant.

Mourning and nostalgia make strange bedfellows. So for this week's podcast I wanted to go with the new and/or (relatively) unknown as much as possible. MySpace provided the spark for the first three tracks. The fourth is a gift, to me, which I gladly share with my listeners.

What's Wrong with the World? is a song by Mike Spiteri. Not the Mike Spiteri who told me he had enough of the Eurovision as we left Greece last May (and yet accepted a position on the MaltaSong board again) but a younger guy. This Mike Spiteri is based in the UK and records under the name of Skin Trade. I like the subtle 80s groove on this song, it's too not overt that you'd call him a retro act. I will be watching his MySpace page for new songs in the near future.

Ray Buttigieg is another Maltese musician who has lived abroad for many years, mostly in the USA. He is a pioneer of electronic music not only in terms of his Maltese heritage (he is originally from Gozo) but also on the international circuit. I'm amazed at how relatively underground he has remained over the years. His vast output never ceases to amaze me. He has more than one website and there are three or four MySpace pages featuring his music. If you've never heard (of) Ray Buttigieg, you should really make an effort to give his music a good listen. You will not be disappointed.

It was not my intention to feature only Maltese musicians who live outside Malta in this week's podcast. The third track on this week's show comes from a duo of remixers who live in Brighton. Keith Camilleri and Robert Chetcuti are now working as a duo by the name of South Central. Among many remixes and original pieces I found a collaboration with Metronomy quite interesting; Metronomy is a certain Joseph Mount who now also works from Brighton. Metronomy vs South Central is the kind of song that should soar majestically in clubs and outdoor dance parties throughout this summer. I'm sure it will do just that at some parties, but meanwhile you can also hear it on the Mużika Mod Ieħor podcast.

The gift I mentioned earlier came from Rayvin Portelli, one of the founding members of The Rifffs who reunited earlier this year to record their first album. It arrived in my email inbox just a few weeks ago. The gift is a song, of course. It's called Hey Little Girl and I play it as this week's final track before the series stops for a few weeks as I head out to Malta soon. More about that trip in the coming days, of course.

I almost can't believe we've made it to podcast number 30 already! This will be the last Mużika Mod Ieħor podcast for now. If all goes well, podcast number 31 will be recorded and published in the weekend of the August 19. Knowing me, there may be a little surprise in the interim, so stay subscribed to the RSS feed just in case.

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.

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

Shine On You Crazy Diamond

Syd Barrett 1946-2006

Rest in Peace

Remember when you were young, you shone like the sun.
Shine on you crazy diamond.
Now there's a look in your eyes, like black holes in the sky.
Shine on you crazy diamond.
You were caught on the crossfire of childhood and stardom,
blown on the steel breeze.
Come on you target for faraway laughter,
come on you stranger, you legend, you martyr, and shine!
You reached for the secret too soon, you cried for the moon.
Shine on you crazy diamond.
Threatened by shadows at night, and exposed in the light.
Shine on you crazy diamond.
Well you wore out your welcome with random precision,
rode on the steel breeze.
Come on you raver, you seer of visions,
come on you painter, you piper, you prisoner, and shine!

Saturday, July 08, 2006

All the Young Dudes

I've have a fairly large number of tracks lined up to play on my Mużika Mod Ieħor series. Some of them are bumped around on a list of possibles from week to week until they eventually make it onto a podcast. The first three tracks on this week's selection have been on the list of possibles for several weeks.

Andre Camilleri's Cats and Dogs is one of various songs this musician has recorded in his folksy country style. He is not well known in Malta, partly because in recent years he has lived in Australia. I must say that I quite like his voice and I find his songs ideal for a late night or early morning listen, along with Leonard Cohen and Rufus Wainwright.

To compliment this mellow mood I chose to play a song by Adolf Formosa next. Adolf has already appeared twice on Mużika Mod Ieħor; once with Hunters Palace and another with Treeears. He has the ability to blend and enhance even his own sounds on Is This The End? -- a solo recording that gives a good hint as to why other musicians have sought to collaborate with him.

MySpace continues to be a veritable source of new Maltese music for me and many others. I find myself roaming the network for at least a few minutes every day. Oliboy was one of my first "friends" on MySpace. He is one Oliver Saliba (I believe) from Victoria, Gozo. Oli is a teenage rapper who has recorded at least one track in Maltese. The song is called Ħajti and you can hear it on this week's podcast, even though he has replaced it with new recordings on his MySpace page. The white rapper phenomenon hit Malta about 5 years ago with the rise to fame of Eminem. Now Oliboy joins Hooligan and Buggly B as one of the more prolific rappers from Malta who use the Maltese language quite comfortably in their rhymes. Even if rap and hip-hop are not your cup of tea, I'm sure you'll find this stuff interesting if you're as interested in Maltese pop culture as I am.

I do know that some listeners of my podcast tend to only like one style of music (and similar genres) so it's understandable that some people will never like, nevermind appreciate, rap, folk, or dance music if they prefer hard rock, punk and metal. Thankfully, few are so narrowminded in their tastes. In my opinion, they are the ones usually grow older thinking that "today's music is crap" and that "they no longer make them like they used to". I'll stop this little rant now because it's not really called for, even if it is based on an old stone in my shoe.

Some people will forever remember this weekend for two things: Dripht's London gigs and the 2006 World Cup finals. This week's podcast marks both these events. You can hear a song by one of the British bands also playing with Dripht in London, Mr Happy Chainsaw. You can find more from them on MySpace.

As for the World Cup, it's not easy to find Maltese music associated with this major event. Fredu Abela l-Bamboċċu as a young man in the late 1960sThis is understandable when Malta's national team has never made it to the FIFA tournament presented ever four years. Playing the Beangrower's Maradona when the games started was something of a stretch on my part but Antoine Cassar, who put together a special blog to follow the games from a Maltese perspective, reminded me of World Cup by Fredu Abela l-Bamboċċu and his brother Renald from 1970. This makjetta is a true gem of Maltese pop folk music, which rides on the coattail of the classic song Taxi Mary. I haven't the slightest doubt that a young Bamboċċu from the 1960s would have rapped his heart out in Maltese if the genre had been in vogue at the time. The photo on the left shows him as he appeared before the huge success he enjoyed in the early 1970s.

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, July 05, 2006

Eyes Without a Face

Please join me in welcoming Martin Attard to the MaltaMedia Online Network. Starting today he will be contributing a weekly cartoon to the MMON. The new series is called Faceless.
Blogger users may notice that we're using Blogger as the content management system to bring you this new cartoon series. It's an easy interface to use and quite secure. So we're sticking to it. It also gives readers easy access to post comments about the cartoons.

MMON's first cartoon series, Gattaldo's Brave Cissies, appeared online in January 2003. MagnumT's Whatever followed up on the success of that series until earlier this year. Brave Cissies lasted until September 2003.

Meanwhile, enjoy Faceless by Martin Attard and feel free to visit the Brave Cissies and Whatever archives.

Sunday, July 02, 2006

Do That To Me One More Time

Kolja has arrived. England and Brazil are out of the World Cup. The July newsletter is done and dusted. Ruth Davies is now a full-time staff member with the MaltaMedia Online Network. Xtruppaw played another gig last night...and I wasn't there, again. It's really time for another visit to Malta, isn't it? Well, soon enough I'll be heading off to Malta for a little project I'll tell you more about within the next couple of weeks. If you're the curious sort you can sneak a peek at the website but be warned that a major update is due very soon.

This is the backdrop for this week's Mużika Mod Ieħor podcast. Number 28 in the series brings back the established format following last week's special edition marking the passing of Frans il-Budaj. The first song is Scar's new single Unmake You, which is being released as a radio single this week. A major objective beind Mużika Mod Ieħor is to present music that's not played on the radio often enough or not at all. Scar's song will no doubt get a fair amount of airplay but I want to commend Konrad Pule' for making use of the Internet to spread the word since it really is a more immediate medium than radio. Besides that, David Cassar Torregiani's seasoned rock guitar sounds great to my old ears too on a busy weekend.

MySpace has become a major point of reference for my weekly podcast. Last month I came across a Maltese musician I hadn't seen or heard in about twenty years. His real name is Aldo Lombardi but he's now known by the spiffy name of Kemic-Al. He has an impressive repertoire and recently released his second CD album on his own Butterfly Records, which is distrubted internationally on the dance circuit. The Dark Journal is a concept album, something quite rare for the genre. Then again Kemic-Al's style is rather unusual in itself in that it is closer to a film soundtrack than it is to what you'd expect to hear at an all-nite club. Welcome to My Home is the opening track from the 14-chapter story of Vlad the Impaler spread out over 80-minutes of non-stop music. This is an extraordinary piece of work. It's even more remarkable coming from the Maltese music scene. It surely doesn't disappoint anyone who can appreciate music that is produced through an artistic vision rather than a simple entertainment jab.

Speaking of concept albums, I'm thrilled to bits by Is-CD tal-iXtruppaw, which was released exactly one month ago today. They will continue to promote the album through a series of gigs this summer...and I will finally get to catch them playing at Naasha's in San Gwann during the last weekend in July. Meanwhile, if you still don't have your own copy of Xtuppaw's debut CD, I wholeheartedly encourage you to listen to the track I've selected to play on this week's podcast and make sure you catch them at one of their upcoming gigs this summer. With Xtruppaw you can bet that details are always available on their official website.

The summer gigs are in full swing all across Malta. A couple of days ago, hardcare Metal fans had a feast at Liquid called Art of Death featuring Arachnid, Abysmal Torment, and Erythuria. Abysmal Torment are off to the USA for a month-long tour of the mid-west that takes them from Urbana and Chicago up north in Illinois all the way down to Albuquerque in New Mexico. Quite impressive. To my knowledge, no other Maltese band has ever embarked on such an extensive American tour...and it makes a lot of sense (to me) that they're not going anywhere near the coasts with this genre of music. If you're into this type of Heavy Grindcore Death Metal you'll most certainly enjoy Abysmal Torment's Incised Wound Suicide, which is the closing track on this week's Mużika Mod Ieħor

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.

Saturday, July 01, 2006

Fallen from Graceland

New York Times
July 1, 2006

In Memphis, Two Heads of Government Visit the Home of Rock 'n' Roll Royalty

Matthew Cavanaugh/European Pressphoto Agency

Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi did an Elvis Presley impression during a tour of Graceland today.

MEMPHIS, June 30 — Plenty of awestruck Elvis impersonators have passed through the wrought-iron gates of Graceland. Until Friday, none had the president of the United States in tow.

"It's like a dream," Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi of Japan said to President Bush in the Jungle Room of the Presley home here. Amid the faux leopard print chairs and green shag carpet covering both floor and ceiling, the prime minister then serenaded the president.

"Loooovve mee tenderrrrr," Mr. Koizumi crooned, as Priscilla Presley, Elvis's former wife, and Lisa Marie, his daughter, looked on.

When Priscilla Presley pointed out the oversize gold-rimmed sunglasses once worn by the King of Rock 'n' Roll, the prime minister eagerly donned them, thrusting his hips and arms forward in imitation of a classic Elvis move.

"I knew he loved Elvis," Mr. Bush said afterward. "I didn't realize how much he loved Elvis."

If the visit, the first time a sitting president has toured Graceland, resembled an Elvis lovefest, it was a Bush-Koizumi lovefest as well, orchestrated by the White House to spotlight the close relationship between Japan and the United States. Mr. Koizumi, who will step down in September, is among Mr. Bush's closest friends on the world stage; the trip was both a farewell gift and a thank you for Japan's support on the war on terror.

In the annals of international diplomacy, it was not exactly Yalta. But it did bring a little bit of shake, rattle and roll to American foreign relations — perhaps too much for Mr. Bush, who resisted being caught in any poses even remotely Elvislike.

Not so Mr. Koizumi.

The prime minister's obsession with Elvis is well known; he shares a birthday, Jan. 8, and a hairstyle with Elvis, and worked in the 1980's to erect a bronze statue of the singer in Tokyo. At one point Friday, Mr. Koizumi happily remarked to Lisa Marie Presley that she looked like her father. He later threw his arm around her, belting out some Elvis lyrics, "Hold me close, hold me tight."

Mr. Bush, though, eventually cut off the performance, clapping the prime minister on the shoulder and firmly shaking his hand in a none-too-subtle message that the curtain was about to fall.

The sight of the ordinarily strait-laced Mr. Bush, with his vigorous exercise regimen and disdain for alcohol, wandering about the home where a bloated, drug-abusing Elvis died in the bathroom might have seemed incongruous to some. Indeed, the White House press secretary, Tony Snow, on Thursday refused to answer a delicate question: Did Mr. Bush prefer a fat Elvis or a skinny Elvis?

"Uuuuhh, yes," Mr. Snow replied diplomatically.

The prime minister was later treated to lunch at the Rendezvous, the downtown barbecue restaurant, which changed the labels on its spicy barbecue sauce to read, "One President, One Prime Minister, One King." The drummer for the Dempseys, a rockabilly band invited to perform over lunch, rescheduled the birth of his first child (the labor was induced).

With Memphis reeling from a recent spate of drive-by shootings that have killed several teenagers, the White House took pains to make sure Mr. Bush's trip was not all frivolity. The president made an unannounced stop at the National Civil Rights Museum, next door to the Lorraine Motel, where the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was killed.

There, the civil rights leader Benjamin L. Hooks showed the prime minister, Mr. Bush and Laura Bush to Room 306, where Dr. King died. The visit was so last-minute that Mr. Hooks was at a dental appointment Friday morning when he received a phone call from the White House, asking him to serve as guide.

The trip attracted onlookers far more diverse than the already polyglot hordes that normally come to Elvis Presley Boulevard. The street was lined with people, as were barricades set up at the visitor center, across the street from Graceland. They included the curious and those just waiting for their turn to take the tour; protesters of the Iraq war and supporters of the troops; a woman dressed as Lady Liberty; and a man who said he had a letter stating that if the Boston Red Sox went to the World Series again he would throw out the first pitch, and that he would be going by Graceland later to see his old friend Lisa Marie.

But there were also those who used the surroundings for inspiration, at risk of copyright infringement and personal dignity. And not all their messages were for Mr. Bush.

Along the barricades, two Japanese doctors from the St. Jude Children's Research Hospital in Memphis stood behind a large sign. "I want you, I need you, I love you," it read. "Darling, I wish to build a children's cancer hospital in Japan together."

Gregory Wetstone, the tweed-suited director of United States operations for the International Fund for Animal Welfare, was accompanied by four Elvis impersonators in white jumpsuits. "We're delivering a message," Mr. Wetstone said. "Which is, don't be cruel — to whales."

At one end of the famous Graceland wall, inscribed by decades of tourists, stood a cluster of onlookers from the nearby predominantly black neighborhood, Whitehaven, that surrounds Graceland. One, a former state representative named Bret Thompson, said he had come because of a recent crime wave in Memphis that has caused consternation among the city's leaders.

"We had, I guess, the most violent week in Memphis history," Mr. Thompson said. "We had a killing every day." He gestured at the flashing lights and barricades closing off the street to protect the president. "This is the safest place in the world right now, isn't it?"

But mostly, Friday was a day to celebrate a peculiar slice of Americana, gold lamé suits and all.

The White House left no detail unattended for what Mr. Bush described as "this most unusual experience." The breakfast fare on Air Force One was peanut butter and banana sandwiches, a recipe straight from Elvis's kitchen. Elvis movies — "Love Me Tender" and "Viva Las Vegas"— were available for viewing.

And Elvis music played loudly over the speakers, until Mr. Bush asked that it be turned down.

The Graceland tour capped a two-day visit by Mr. Koizumi to the United States; on Thursday, the two leaders met at the White House, where the threat of a long-range-missile launching by North Korea was high on the agenda. The visit here was Mr. Bush's idea, said Michael Green, a former White House foreign policy aide.

"Frankly," Mr. Green said, "I think the bureaucrats on both sides were a little bit perplexed, if not aghast."

The house is virtually as Elvis left it, a homage to 1970's hotel décor. The white couch in the living room is 15 feet long. The kitchen is paneled in wood. The TV room has three television sets, a mirrored ceiling and a bar upholstered in yellow Naugahyde. Elvis's famed pink Cadillac was parked outside; it ordinarily sits in a car museum across the street but was moved to make way for the traveling press.

The tour was the same as ordinary tourists receive, with one big exception: there were no ropes to prevent the two leaders from sitting where Elvis sat, walking where Elvis walked or touching what Elvis touched. When Mr. Koizumi picked up the gold sunglasses, Graceland's curator, who had carefully carried the glasses into the room with gloved hands, looked as if she were about to faint.

One part of the house the Bushes and Mr. Koizumi missed was the upstairs, Elvis's living quarters. Elvis insisted they be kept private, said David Beckwith, a spokesman for Graceland.

"Nobody goes upstairs," Mr. Beckwith said.

Not even Japan's best-known Elvis impersonator and the president of the United States.