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Sunday, October 29, 2006


I was asked to be a judge at the Battle of the Bands in Naxxar this weekend. However, the organizers hadn't planned my travel expenses into their budget and so I had to decline the invitation. So, here's a little note for anyone in Malta planning to invite me for anything like that in the future: I live in Scarborough, which is a tiny seaside town in North Yorkshire, England. There's a 155+ minute train journey from here to Manchester Airport, which is where I usually take planes to Malta. A round trip train+air journey costs between £150 - £350, depending on the time of the year.

With that out of the way, I now turn my attention to this week's podcast. Since last week's was number 40 in the series this week's in number 41. That's just the way these things work. I like it when things happen automatically. It feels natural; probably because nature is behind automation anyway.

Three out of the four tracks on this week's podcast appear by virtue of my interaction with podcast listeners, who include bloggers, online acquaintances, and musicians. The first track comes from someone who I had never heard of before I discovered his page on MySpace. He goes by the name of Muttley, just like the dastardly dog in The Wacky Races. Apparently his single Mean Summer was played "extensively" on some radio stations in Malta a few months ago. Last July he even released a debut album entitled Paid to Fall. I know I can't be a trailblazer all the time, so I open this week's podcast with Muttley's Mean Summer.

I think Muttley's music deserves to be on my list of nominations for you to pick your favourite released from 2006. The same goes for a Christian Rock band called Salt. I'm sure they have lots of fans from the religious services at Gattard House in Blata l-Bajda. Salt's music reminds me that contemporary Christian Rock can be quite good. As Rachel Jordan explains in one episode of The Simpsons, it's just like regular rock if you replace the word "Jesus" for "baby" in the lyrics. Salt's song is called Q&A and I'm glad Kenneth got me in touch with this band via email. I hope to hear more from them in the coming months and years.

I've taken requests for songs on my podcast several times, but I've never really used the show to wish anyone a happy birthday. Well, there's a first time for everything. Victoria (or Lady VAM, I should say) celebrated her birthday a couple of days ago. She mentioned how much she likes The Characters, particularly their song Down By The Water from the 1995 album The Truth. And so, more as a birthday present of sorts than anything else, it appears on this week's podcast.

I really enjoy getting emails from Maltese musicians. Someone who writes to me from time to time is Ray "il-Baħri" Schembri. A few days ago he wrote to tell me that his band Subculture is now a trio and Simone is no longer the singer. Their second album, A Lifetime of Disappointment, was released just a few weeks ago and it's on the list of nominations for the top releases in 2006, of course. One of my favourite tracks on this album is Anybody. This is the gentler (read: more interesting) side of subculture. Anyone who attended their gig with Riotous Future at Naasha this weekend knows what Subculture sounds like as a trio. Something tells me we'll be getting a new recording from them in 2007.

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, October 28, 2006

O Death

Besides my weekly podcast, this weekend I'm also toiling away at a little newspaper article for the Desert Island Books series in The Times (of Malta). One of the books on my list is Timothy Leary's Design for Dying. That is the one of the best books I've ever read about death.

It being Halloween and all that, I don't think I'm indulging too much by bringing up this subject. After all isn't it one of those very few thing we all have in common?

This is not meant to be a long entry. It's just a sign of life.

It's also an excuse to save and share a link to an unusual little website I just discovered called Death Clock. My date of death is estimated as follows on this website:

Optimistic = Friday, January 8, 2066
Pessimistic = Wednesday, October 12, 2016
Normal= Wednesday, December 11, 2041

There are other sites on the web where you can play with this sort of thing. Day4Death is one, Death Meter and The Amazing Death Predictor are a couple of others.

At least only one of these sites told me, "At age 46 you will have a heart attack while eating a deep-fried peanut butter and banana sandwich, Elvis style." Highly unlikely, right?

I'm off to record my podcast now, so I'll be blogging about that by tomorrow morning. Good thing we fall away from daylight savings time tonight.

Sunday, October 22, 2006


Why do you blog? Who listens to your podcast? These are two questions I'm faced with at least once or twice every week. The reason for the frequency of these questions is undoubtedly tied to my regularity on both my blog and my podcast, of course. The questions usually come from people who still don't understand how social networking on the internet works. I also believe that in most cases they fail to appreciate the advantages of operating outside the constrains of the mainstream media.

Blogs keep me in touch with other bloggers, even though not all my blog readers are bloggers themselves too, of course. Podcasts are how I remain on the forefront of new media developments. It's how I get most of my news about most of the things that interest me beyond radio, television and whatnot. Anyway, this post is meant to outline my most recent podcast, so I'll get off my little soapbox and save my ranting for another entry, possibly due next week as a prepare my first lectures about social networking and podcasting for my students.

This week's podcast is the 40th in the series Mużika Mod Ieħor. The relative longevity of this series and the unparalleled podcasting output in the Maltese language are probably why I wrote what I wrote in the first couple of paragraphs above. Anyway, as we approach the first full year of the Mużika Mod Ieħor series, podcast number 40 is a joyous occasion in its own right.

Last week I played the title track from Limestone, the recent album from Joe Camilleri and Nicky Bomba, released in Australia by Transmitter Records. I thought it was appropriate to open this week's podcast with the music of Nicky Bomba along with his band Bomba, which features another musician of Maltese descent. Michael Caruana is Bomba's keyboardist and occasionally sings and plays percussion too. On the podcast you can hear Bomba's Going Solo from their third album, Learn to Breathe.

There's an Australian connection on the second act featured on this week's podcast too. Ozzylino was born in Malta but raised in Australia. Lino Busuttil returned to Malta again some years ago and started a singing career under the name Ozzylino. He recently appeared on MySpace with his own page, which, so far, does not feature any of his music. You can hear Ozzylino's She's My Kinda Woman on this edition of Mużika Mod Ieħor.

Among other things, this series has made me aware of the impressive number of Malta-related music activity overseas. Some of it would not be thought of as Maltese music or music from Malta by most people. What I have in mind is any body who is somehow, even remotely, connected to Malta through blood or residence. One such act appeared very recently under the name Shockleader. This London-based band features Ryan Abela on drums along with Scottish musicians Willie Scott and Mick Renwick. Ryan is known in the Maltese alternative music scene for his work with Pupi tal-Logħob. I believe he was even one of the founding members of The I-Skandal. Shockleader sound refreshingly fresh in the raw demos they released on MySpace towards the end of last month. One of their songs is called Afraid of the Dark and that's the one I picked to play on my podcast.

This series has also introduced me to the depths of the hardcore metal scene in Malta. Metal has been popular with underground Maltese bands since the 1970s. In the 1980s it was almost a default style for most budding bands. Nothing quite says "rock" like an overdriven guitar power-chord, does it? Over the past twenty odd years a rich plethora of Metal sub-genres have surfaced within the local rock scene, as they have within the worldwide Metal universe, no doubt. I've commented about this before and although I'm not a huge hardcore fan I must admit that I enjoy playing the music of bands with growling singers every now and then. This time I bring you the music of Knockturn Alley (what a great name for a nocturnal band!) who have just released a 3-track EP entitled The Dream is Dead. The Apocalypse Conspiracy is one of the songs on this debut EP and the final track on this week's podcast.

Knockturn Alley's The Dream is Dead joins all the other releases from 2006 on my list of nominations, which will be released for you to vote on in the coming weeks. If you haven't already browsed through that list please have a look and let me know if you think there are any other titles I should consider adding before the voting begins.

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, October 14, 2006

Like a Star

I never thought I'd say this, but I love the weekend. It's come to mean a time when I can really relax. Not just because I know I have two consecutive days when I don't need to get up early for meetings or stay up late to prepare for lectures (or other work-related things) the following day. Most of all I've come to really like my weekends because I get to do my podcast. In a way it sounds a bit silly...but such are the little pleasures in life.

This week's edition of Mużika Mod Ieħor continues in the spirit of the others that came before it. It opens with a song by Maltese-American singer-songwriter Benna, who I originally featured on my podcast last December. I came across her page on MySpace a few days ago, so I thought it was high time I play another track from her album What's Meant to Be. This time I've picked a song called Stay in Luv.

I'm always thrilled to discover musicians outside Malta who have Maltese blood running through their veins. I've been wanting to play something by Joe Camilleri from Australia for quite some time. I've finally not only found the perfect opportunity to do so but also discovered another Australian musician of Maltese descent: Nicky Bomba. I'll be playing Bomba's music in a future episode of my podcast. This week I bring you the title track from a Camilleri/Bomba collaboration album called Limestone, released in Australia by Transmitter Records. I must thank my MySpace buddy Charlene for pointing me in the direction of this new material.

It's quite thrilling to hear new voices from Malta. When they're particularly good I gladly play them on my podcast. One such voice goes by the name Baresine. The song you can hear on this week's podcast is called Liar, which features an excellent R&B interpretation from this young singer. I have a feeling we'll be hearing more from her in the coming years, or at least I hope so.

Another singer whose voice you may have heard for the first time on my podcast is Nikki Vukovic. NV has just released a new single, her third, called If I Could. You can hear it as the final track on this week's podcast giving me the opportunity to remind you about the list of nominations for the top 2006 Maltese music releases. The list is not finalized yet, but it will be released for your voting pleasure very soon. Until then, please let me know if you think there's any recording released in 2006 that should be considered for that list.

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.

Sunday, October 08, 2006

If You Don't Know Me By Now

It's been another busy week but at least I had enough time to blog a couple of times since my last podcast. As we get closer to the one year anniversary since the Mużika Mod Ieħor series started, I'm pushing towards having a nice list of music releases from Maltese singers and musicians from 2006 for you, my gentle readers and listeners, to vote on.

This week's podcast features four acts who appear on the list because they have new releases. In some cases they are new to the scene, or at least I had never heard of them before now, which is all the same anyway.

One such artist is Carrie. A young singer who recently captured my attention through a small number of remarkable demos on her MySpace page. I was surprised and impressed when she replied that she has to consult her management team when I asked her to tell me more about her upcoming debut album. I chose to play her song That Star as the first track on this week's podcast. I am looking forward to more from her. Her voice and style are quite unusual for a Maltese singer.

Another wonderful new singer on the scene is Melissa Portelli, who sings with Chasing Pandora. She writes most of her songs with Keith Anthony and I played a demo for their song Divine a few weeks ago. Now that they've released their debut EP, featuring their radio-friendly "single" Feel the Rain, I'm playing the released version of Divine - this makes it the first song I've ever played twice on my Mużika Mod Ieħor series. Yes, I like Chasing Pandora. If I were in Malta towards the end of this month I would most certainly attend one of their two intimate gigs at the St James' Cavalier Music Room.

As the old saying goes, when it rains it pours. A new band called Rising Sunset will be releasing their debut EP Rhema very soon. The word Rhema is derived from the Greek term for the part of a sentence that expresses an idea. I received an advance copy of it a few days ago so I'm playing you one of the four tracks on this CD, Journey Into the Woods. This band has wonderful potential and I'm sure that fans of Melodic Metal will welcome them to the local music scene with open arms.

The Maltese metal scene has flourished into various shades and sub-genres over the last couple of decades. At one far end of the metal spectrum are hardcore bands like Slit, who have just released their second album. Of Serpents is a strong track from Ode to Silence, recently issued by Anticulture Records, which is also behind the upcoming Eternal Anger Tour bringing Slit for a series of gigs in the UK in mid-October. Details of that tour can be found on the band's MySpace page, of course, among other places.

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.

Friday, October 06, 2006

Limbo Rock

I was reading the BBC online news this morning and I learned that the Vatican may review the state of limbo. I've always thought that limbo was a cruel place to send babies who died before baptism.

Now, I should remind my blog readers that I'm not a even an armchair theologist, so my comments about limbo are nothing more than the personal thoughts of someone who thinks about life and death on a daily basis. Perhaps I wouldn't even have written this blog entry if I wasn't in the process of watching the entire Dekalog by Kieslowski this week. In any case, there's not much I really have to say about limbo. It's just that it strikes me as a formidable thing to bring up in a time when grey areas are shunned by the likes of "you're either with us or against us" or small print contracts designed to avoid equivocation.

While I'd like to think of myself as a tolerant person, I also feel that any review of the state of limbo as too little too late from the Roman Catholic church. I seriously doubt that a review of this apparently unofficial Church teaching will draw back the sheep that have strayed away from the flock.

The BBC correspondent says that "some have suggested that the possible change is an attempt by the Vatican to prevent people in developing countries with high infant mortality rates turning to Islam - Muslims believe the souls of stillborn babies go straight to paradise." The report goes on to say that is has already been denied by Catholic theologians, but it does make you wonder how anyone who believes in heaven could think that the soul of an unbaptized infant child who dies before they can walk, talk or lift anything heavier than a few grams can go anywhere but straight to heaven.

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

No more DRaMa

Today is the 3rd of October, the International Day Against DRM. This the first global day for people to rise up and say no to anti-copying technology that treats you like a criminal.

Digital Rights Management technology does not stop media piracy. You get DRM by buying your movies, music, games and books through authorized channels. Most of the stuff you download from P2P networks or buy at open market in Valletta has already had the DRM cracked off of it.

To celebrate No DRM Day I recommend the following (partly borrowed from Boing-Boing):

DefectiveByDesign's list of anti-DRM actions
200 suggestions for activities you can participate in today and all year round to fight DRM.
a search-engine for DRM-free music for sale on the Internet, a single index of dozens of sites that sell or give away music without crippleware.
a site aimed at explaining DRM to the uninitiated -- what DRM is, why you should care, and what you can do about it. Tell your friends!

Who Killed TiVoToGo?
a murder-mystery from the Electronic Frontier Foundation that explains how even restricted services that let you get more out of your property are being axed by regulators and the entertainment industry (here's how to fight back).

Kembrew McLeod's guest-edited issue of the journal Cultural Studies
contains uproarious scholarly works on the copyfight.

Anti-DRM banners for your site from Militant Geek.

Click here for a little reminder about my own work on DRM awareness.

I'll leave you with 10 things you can really do to help eliminate DRM (from the 200 things on DefectiveByDesign list mentioned above):